The night was filled with an air of uncertainty.
Bodies were all over the place. Some were curled up on the ground sleeping. Others were on their respective corners panhandling. A select few wandered the pavement aimlessly, yelling obscenities into the night or at whomever was brave enough to get too close.
It was a scene that I was all too familiar with. I had several ways to respond.
A) Give some money (not an option with only credit cards).
B) Fake the funk and act like I’m talking on the phone.
C) Temporarily lose any sense of hearing and peripheral vision, becoming Robot Rog and walking right by without a word.
Ahead of me I hear one of the homeless men ask someone for money. He brushes him off, saying that he wishes he could help him, which prompts the homeless man to yell the wildest, most insightful response I’ve heard to anything in the history of the world.
“Fuck a wish!”
I stayed up that night laughing with my friends at what he said, mainly because of how shocking and raw it was, but a week later I still couldn’t shake the statement, and here’s why.
Why Wishing Sucks & What To Do Instead
It’s natural to wish, to want, to desire. We all do this to some extent.
Some men and women see someone with a well-developed physique walk down the street and wish they could be like them.
Many aspiring authors read an amazing piece of writing and wish they could create something similar.
Every time I watch Bill Burr, Patrice O’Neal, Louis C.K.,or any other amazing stand-up comedian perform, I wish that I could do what they did.
Wishing, however, is a dangerous trap that we can catch ourselves in that does more harm than good.
We’re problem solvers by nature. When we wish something, our brain goes to work, searching through our mental Google database to find a way to turn that wish into a reality.
It wants us to take action.
What happens when we don’t, though?
It confuses our mind and body. It causes friction and conflict, dissonance between our desires and our behaviors. It’s like the student who knows the answer to the teacher’s question yet doesn’t get called on, despite raising their hand and waving it in the air like a psychopath.
Wishes can also serve as a false release valve, a “press in case of emergency” button. We can want something so badly that the act of wishing releases the pressure, taking it from something that could happen and turning it into an impossible task that’s outside of ourselves and our capabilities. At this point we may as well wait for a genie or Christina Aguilera to come out of a bottle, because that’s the only way what we wish is going to happen.
We can become addicted to wishing, conditioning ourselves to believe that wanting alone is just as good, if not better than, striving towards and attaining.
So, what to do instead?
Ask Better Questions
This alone leads to more productive answers, increasing the likelihood of taking better action. When you find yourself wishing, chances are you’re on the right track. Instead of letting the thread end there, take yourself deeper down the rabbit hole.
Ask yourself what are some steps that you can take to bring yourself closer to where you want to be. Don’t just keep them in your head. Write them down, big and small ideas alike. Put them in the notepad app on your phone, or tattoo them on your body like in Momento if that you’re feeling extra sassy.
As an example, for the last few months every time I saw someone with a Bane-esque looking back, I found myself wishing that I too could increase the jacktitude of my back muscles. I took my own advice and made the following list of things that I could act on.
- Do more heavy rows
- Get better at pull ups
- Do more back exercises in the higher rep ranges
- Train my upper back more frequently
- Eat more food and gain a bit more body fat while chasing muscle gains
This list got my mind going and gave me something to go off of. After using this is as a rough outline, I got out of my own head, sat down and put together a training program based on the above musings and I’m loving it more than this dog loves his owner.
Be as general or specific as you want to be, as long as you feed the wish instead of letting it float around in the realm of fantasy.
Don’t expect to jump right to the end goal the first time you’re attempting something. That’s similar to trying to face and defeat the final boss of a video game within 5 minutes of picking up the controller. It sounds good in theory, but in reality you’ll get smashed like a warm cookie you forgot was in your back pocket before sitting down, making you less likely to try again in the future.
Start as small as possible. Make the barrier for winning so low that you can’t help but crush it. As you rack up those wins, improve and become more confident, push yourself further away from your comfort zone in doses that you can handle. If you’re still a bit scared then that’s good –you’re right where you need to be
This isn’t meant to dampen your enthusiasm or a kind way of saying that you’re not capable, but a pre-preemptive strike to make sure that you only push forward when your experience have prepared you for it.
Embrace The Suck
You know that sinking feeling you get in the depths of your stomach when you’re trying something new, different and out of your norm? I won’t promise that it will go away, but I will promise that you’ll get better at handling it the more you take action.
Expect to be weaker than you want to be on certain exercises.
Expect for your writing to be a bit lame when compared to the ideal in your head.
Expect to have a few less than spectacular days as far as eating goes as you begin to get your diet together.
It might not be the absolute worst feeling in the world, but no matter what your goals are, there’s no way around this step. You have to be willing to go to that dark and sometimes terrifying place where the gap between the current you and where you want to be is larger than Godzilla’s pants (if he wore them).
This is the same place Frodo goes when he puts on the One Ring, the place of doubt any hero goes as he sets off on his quest – and that’s ok.
You will stumble, you will feel like you messed up and you will want to call it quits at some point.
Do not let this stop you. Be kind and forgiving of yourself as you move forward, always remembering this: where you are is just that, a starting point, not where you’re destined to end up.
Feedback is your homie
Aim for progress in ways that are measurable, apply specifically to your situation, and get you excited to continue moving forward. Keeping it as fun as possible along the way (here are training and dietary ways to funify your life) helps, too.
Let both your experience and results guide you. If you need to stay at a certain level while you figure out your next move, then so be it. Don’t limit yourself to what you’ve always done – be open trying new techniques, tactics and experimenting with different ways of thinking as you move forward.
Speaking of thinking differently, my friend and fellow trainer David Dellanave has based his entire business on helping people break out of the typical strength training mold. To find out more, check out his free book detailing how he does just that while getting you to trust yourself more in the process.
All of this is useless without action. We’re either going to wish, dream and hope that the things we want will magically appear in our lives, or we’re going to decide to work for them.
Below is one of my online training clients after he decided to stop wishing and start taking tangible steps towards his goal.
After all the planning, plotting and pontificating is done, action is the only thing that can save you. Always has been and always will be.
As my friend and mentor Alan Aragon so eloquently put it, a life spent chasing dreams that never come true is better than a life spent running away from dreams that could have.