What if I told you the least you could do was also the most effective?

February 25, 2014 by Joshua
in Fitness, Tips

People are looking to pick up activities to improve their lives all the time. Nearly everyone recognizes they could do something to improve it. Maybe they want to get more fit, make more money, be more creative, have more fun, feel more excitement, or whatever.

Some do. I’ve done a bunch and I’m glad I did. The more I do, the easier the next one becomes. But many don’t. I think one of the biggest hurdles is that many activities seem hard or involved. The more I do new things, the more I find doing the most basic, core part of the activity is not only the easiest part, it also gives the most value.

Take yoga, for example. Most people who do yoga these days do a lot that’s irrelevant to yoga. They buy clothes, belong to gyms, travel to remote places, and learn all these words in other languages. Those things do a lot to create community and make you feel like you belong, but most of it is extraneous to actually doing yoga. If you just do yoga every day, you’ll get the greatest value of all the things you could do. If you enjoy it and those other things have value, you’ll end up doing those things, but you don’t have to start with them.

Some people who do yoga will tell you there’s a whole philosophy to it. Oddly, people with different philosophies were still able to do it. In any case, I suggest that the best way to learn the philosophy, if necessary, is to start the practice and create the demand for it. Then you’ll pick it up faster and with more motivation.

Same with lifting weights. The activity has clothes, gym memberships, foods, and all this other stuff that has nothing to do with lifting heavy objects. I suggest that the best way to get into lifting weights is to lift weights however you can, daily. Just make sure you are lifting something heavy every day. If how you start doesn’t help that much but you keep up the practice, you’ll find yourself unable to find ways to improve your practice. If the clothes, gym membership, and so on help, you’ll pick them up, but you’ll pick them up more purposefully if you do it to support a practice instead of in anticipation of starting a practice you haven’t started yet. This way all you need are some bricks or milk containers and you’re on your way to weight lifting.

Why practice helps most

If your activity requires other things the practice itself will reveal the need better than a book or other person. When you feel the need you’ll understand the purpose of what fills the need. If yoga needs some way of thinking, you’ll realize it by doing the poses.

Think of any way you want to improve your life. To achieve it, think of an activity that will create the improvement you want. Now strip away everything inessential. What you’re left with, do that. Keep it up. Make it your SIDCHA. Question everything inessential and consider it an impediment. If you questioned too much and got rid of something essential, you’ll value it that much more when your practice shows you you need it.

Want to do yoga? Find some poses and do them every day. You don’t need yoga clothes, to speak Sanskrit, to use a mat, or anything else. If those things help, they’ll come. You don’t need a philosophy. Your philosophy will emerge from your practice.

Want to lift weights? Lift things however you want. Don’t do anything to injure yourself. You don’t need equipment, protein powder, or anything else. If you have arms you can do push-ups. If other things help they’ll come and you’ll value them more when you realize their value.

Want to meditate? Sit still every day. You don’t need special mats, phrases to say in your mind, philosophy, or religion. You don’t even need quiet. Just sit in a chair if that’s the best you can do, but do it every day. The philosophy will emerge and it will be your philosophy. If learning more helps, the practice will reveal it.

Want to become a photographer? Get the cheapest camera you can find and take pictures. I can’t think of anything less you can do, nor can I think of what would help more. Everything else is inessential and holds you back from starting. If more equipment would help more, your practice will reveal it. Just take pictures every day. The more you do it, the more you’ll end up doing everything else, like showing your work or making more elaborate or deliberate pictures.

Want to become a writer? Write every day. The hardest parts of writing seem to be getting published, finding agents, and things like that. Taking classes costs money. You know what’s easiest? Getting a piece of paper and pen and writing. You already have access to a computer if you prefer typing. What could be simpler or more effective in making you a writer than writing? Just write every day and you’ll either find you don’t like writing or you’ll fill in everything else.

Want to become an actor? Find a script and read it to friends.

Want to become a cyclist? Get the cheapest bike you can find that fits and ride it daily. I just went to Craig’s List and saw a great bike for $200 in under thirty seconds of searching. As long as you ride it a little before buying it you won’t accidentally get something that doesn’t fit. If it mostly fits, riding it will teach you what to get better. You don’t need fancy equipment to ride a bike. If you end up liking fancy equipment, you’ll know what to get better by outgrowing a bike you’re riding daily than by guessing beforehand. You only need to ride.

Want to do or become anything? You’re probably getting the idea by now. Do the associated activity daily with as little of anything else as possible. Success and enjoyment comes from doing—by physical activity. Thinking and accoutrements will follow if they help or not if they don’t.

This is the value of SIDCHAs. They get you doing the activity. You don’t need a goal or purpose. It will come from the activity. In my experience with my daily habits—mainly burpees, cold showers, oatmeal breakfasts, and writing—their value emerged from doing. They make a lot more sense and contribute to everything else from doing them, which I find the easiest and most effective parts.

Learn to make Meaningful Connections

with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.

Including

  • Step by step instructions
  • Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
  • An excerpt from my book

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2 responses on “What if I told you the least you could do was also the most effective?

  1. This is a great post. It reminds me of your earlier one about having less things could improve your life. Having more things to do an activity could distract you from why you’re doing the activity in the first place.

    • Exactly!

      The more I learn about people, the more important the body and behavior become relative to the mind and thinking. And simplicity over complexity.

      (And thank you)

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