When you’re a novice at something—let’s take, for example, adopting a new diet and lifestyle—it’s outrageously tempting to want to be perfect. You want to get it right all at once rather than find your stride, invest in mistakes, and master the major core principles that will get you 80% there.
We call this the ‘beginner’s dilemma.’
When it comes to learning any new skill, discipline, or hobby, the Beginner’s Dilemma is a complex that lives inside of us. It’s the one thing that stops the majority of us from moving on because when we start something new we want to be perfect at it. Yet when we come to meet our own deficiencies we realize the amount of effort the new endeavor will require to master.
Trying to do everything “100%” is a deadly gamble and often a major indicator of early-stage fatigue, burnout and/or quitting. Remember, if soon after picking up a guitar you already hate yourself for not being able to solo like Hendrix then you’ll automatically toss the guitar aside, reject deep practice, and remove yourself from the process before you’ve actually learned something new. We must build a foundation and then grow from there.
At the beginning of our process, the fixed mindset inside all of us will work extra hours to protect ourselves. That’s our ego talking. The ego holds an inflated view of your abilities and doesn’t like to make new commitments if it’s not entirely sure it can succeed.
Being a novice at something is ripe for failure and mistakes. To make its case seem very convincing, the ego will do some logical trickery: it will make very logical and reasonable cases for why you shouldn’t proceed, and the rest of you will think the ego makes a good point. Failure is often transferred from an action—“I failed”—or an inaction—“I don’t know what I’m doing”—to an identity—“I am a failure”.
Whenever you try to make a positive change in your life, you’ll experience what I like to call The Resistance. It’s an internal struggle, which means self divided by self.
The Resistance is an attachment to a past bias.
Almost always, we experience past biases and the presentation of a challenge as a bodily feeling. We register it intellectually, but it’s in the body where we really experience it, which is why it’s so hard to overcome.
The Resistance is the very thing that gets the best of us, since it doesn’t respond to the other side of you—that deep awareness—that heroically latches on to your greater intentions. Over time, however, the feeling does respond to training, meaning it can be trained away. Which is exactly what we’re going to do.
The orator Demosthenes once said that virtue begins with understanding and is fulfilled by courage. When you remove ego, all you’re left with what is the real—the actual thing in front of you which you set out to do. Only when you are free of ego and its baggage can you perform to your utmost.
You will learn that though we think big, we must act and live small in order to accomplish what we seek.
Eating healthily and training mindfully to follow through with your intentions can be tedious and demanding. Much easier to press snooze on your goals and wait until next year when ‘things are less crazy.’
When you want to do something—something big and important and meaningful like lose a bunch of weight and master your diet—you will be subjected to treatment ranging from indifference to outright sabotage. Count on it. Most of this treatment will come from the inside, from the ego.
Here’s another thing. You’ll face a lot of external resistance from people around you, too.
From spouses who will put you down and tell you to ‘be realistic,’ to your kids who will tell you you’re annoying and embarrassing for ‘eating weird,’ to your friends who will call you vain for ‘caring so much about yourself.’
Some people will openly mock you, discourage you, or won’t even take the time to listen to you.
This is all external resistance.
If you let these people affect your decisions, the results can be disastrous.
Remember Your Why
People who criticize you, overlook you or belittle you for doing something that’s wildly important to you don’t actually understand your Why. They don’t understand your mission to master your diet and why it’s important to you. They don’t identify with self-improvement and growth. And that’s fine. It’s perfectly okay to live a life that others don’t understand.
It’s perfectly okay to choose yourself, to choose the path of more resistance, to choose a life less practical that doesn’t follow the herd.
The only thing that isn’t okay is rejecting your personality, repressing your preferences, or choosing to blunt your intentions because someone else shamed you into shrinking from your growth.
Your own path, this mission toward mastery and health you aspire to, will in some ways be defined by the amount of nonsense you are willing to deal with. In this phase, you must practice seeing yourself with a little distance, cultivating the ability to get out of your own head. Detachment is a sort of natural ego antidote. It quiets The Resistance. The Resistance will have little power when you keep showing up no matter how you feel.
That’s why we train so hard to build out a routine of consistency that you can rely upon no matter what.
Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.