If there’s any group of people you’d think would value cold, hard, pure results, it’s professional athletes. After all, that’s what they get paid for, right? Not to “play well” or to “have fun”, but to win.
Let’s take a look at three of the greatest athletes of all time.
He’s been the World Number One for the most consecutive weeks as well as the most total weeks of any golfer, ever. He’s been awarded PGA Player Of The Year a record 11 times. He’s also made the most money of any golfer in history.
Cold, hard, pure results.
“Winning isn’t always a barometer of getting better.” — Tiger Woods
A three time NBA Champion, a four time MVP, and the only player ever to lead an NBA Finals in all five major statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals.
“I hear that word pressure all the time. There is a lot of pressure put on me, but I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself. I feel if I play my game, it will take care of itself.” — LeBron James
Let’s start with something you won’t be surprised about: Jordan holds the record for most game-winning shots made in NBA history. Even when everybody in the building knew that Jordan would be taking the shot, he still took the shot—and, more often than not, made the shot. He delivered results, even under almost-impossible circumstances. But did you know that he holds the record for missing the most game-winning shots in NBA history?
In other words, he wasn’t afraid to fail. Even when the stakes were as high as they could be. He didn’t let that stop him. He wasn’t committed to results. He was committed to the process—the process of missing, and therefore the process of getting better. In his momentous book, The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin defines this process as “investing in loss.” He explains, “The fact of the matter is that there will be nothing learned from any challenge in which we don’t try our hardest. Growth comes at the point of resistance. We learn by pushing ourselves and finding what really lies at the outer reaches of our abilities.
He went on to write, “In my experience, successful people shoot for the stars, put their hearts on the line in every battle, and ultimately discover that the lessons learned from the pursuit of excellence mean much more than the immediate trophies and glory. In the long run, painful losses may prove much more valuable than wins.”
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” — Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan knew that the only way to get better was to invest in loss – in other words, he had to lose some games in order to win the games that really counted. LeBron James didn’t feel pressure because he never valued results as much as he valued playing his game. He focused on the process and let the results speak for themselves. Tiger Woods valued getting better over winning.
Of course, there’s a wonderful irony here. Because these superstar athletes valued the process over results, they achieved amazing results. Yes, because they valued the process over results, not despite valuing their process over their results.
When you say you want to lose 10 pounds, 20 pounds, 50 pounds, whatever, you’re doing the exact opposite of what these all-time great athletes do. You are valuing your results over the process of getting there. Imagine if, instead, you committed to the process of mastering your diet instead of the result of losing weight? What if you focused on your choices, instead of outcomes? Wouldn’t you feel less pressure? Wouldn’t you enjoy life more? Wouldn’t you stop hating your ‘diet’ while you’re in it and hating yourself when you—inevitably— slip-up?
Yes, yes, and yes.
As a high performance dietary strategist and lifestyle designer, I work with dozens of entrepreneurs, entertainers, and in-demand badass human beings who battle their health on a daily basis to achieve a nearly impossible standard of success. Focusing on results over choices is the surest way to lose touch with your greater goals.
That’s why I only discuss your relationship with food and the process toward mastering your diet, as opposed to chasing desired outcomes—i.e—losing weight, looking good, feeling good—all of which will happen.
People are complex. You are complex!
Being successful at anything is a multi-dimensional process that must take into account the entire person. The old way of learning how to diet—giving you the diet instructions and saying “Here, go lose 10 pounds!”—is fundamentally at odds with the way we’re designed to learn.
Dieting is the explicit reason you haven’t been successful with this whole diet thing.
As you continue to read my weekly column, I hope you’ll come to understand that there’s much more going on here that influences your food choices, which drives your behaviors, which motivates you to stick with the new lifestyle or move on to the next distraction. Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.