雨山


Focus on the Inputs

July 10, 2020

So, I’m about 40 pounds overweight right now, and I’m not happy about it. I’ve been trying to lose weight for years, but I just haven’t been able to stick with a diet or exercise regimen. I usually follow this pattern:

  1. Hate myself.
  2. Decide that I want to lose weight.
  3. Punish myself with an extreme exercise or diet program.
  4. Fail hard because the program is too intense and because I don’t immediately see the results I want.
  5. Gain even more weight instead.
  6. Repeat.

But about nine weeks ago, something miraculous happened. I started the couch-to-5k running program...and stuck with it. Now, to be clear, I haven’t lost any weight yet. And I’m only on week six (of nine, I think) because I have to keep repeating workouts because I can’t completely run them without stopping yet. But it’s still miraculous because this is probably the longest I’ve stuck with an exercise program since high school! The reason I’ve been able to stick with it so far — and hopefully writing this won’t jinx me — is because I read a blog post that changed my whole outlook. It was a post called “Focus on the Inputs”. Here’s the gist:

“Instead of becoming ever more vigilant about getting myself to achieve certain outcomes, I’m monitoring quality of the input. I’m just trying to get more good things into the hopper, and letting the system do its work.”

— David, raptitude.com

I needed to hear that. I needed to hear that I’d been too focused on the outcomes. I needed to hear that the system will take care of the results, but that I can’t even hope to have good results if I’m not providing good inputs into the system.

As I mentioned in step 4 above, one of the reasons I think I kept failing at past attempts to get fit was my obsession with seeing immediate results. I know somewhere in my brain that a person can’t lose 40 pounds overnight...but I’d nevertheless weigh in every day and see if I’d made any progress yet. And when I hadn’t, my morale would plummet. But reading David’s blog post made something click for me. I thought: Is it better to be 40 pounds overweight and to run every day, or to be 40 pounds overweight and to not run every day? Well, all things being equal, I suppose the former is better. Of course, I probably don’t intrinsically value exercise; i.e., I wouldn’t keep doing it if it never had any positive benefits. But by focusing on the inputs, I’m giving myself the leisure to worry much less about if and when the benefits will appear.

I’ve been repeating the phrase “focus on the inputs” to myself over and over and over for the past nine weeks. Now the challenge is to keep it from becoming a meaningless set of syllables, to keep the meaning alive and fresh. I suppose that that probably just takes time and intention and focus. But it’s something I’m working on. I’m also working on applying the same ideas to my diet. Honestly, though, I think that’ll be a bit harder. I don’t know if everyone’s this way, but I feel a weird kind of asymmetry about diet and exercise. Exercise feels like doing something that I don’t particularly enjoy, but diet feels like not doing something that I really do enjoy. And while those sound somewhat opposite, I find that preventing myself from doing something I enjoy is significantly more difficult than forcing myself to do something I don’t enjoy. Maybe there’s some weird kind of loss aversion bias going on there. I’m not sure.

Anyway, I just thought I’d put these thoughts up here both as a reminder to myself and as an encouragement to anyone who might need to hear them. Thanks for reading!