Linear Progression Isn’t a Thing

One of the things we seem to have bought into it the idea of linear progression; if I can write 100 words today, I’ll write 120 tomorrow, and add just a few words every day until I’m cranking out a novel a month. We think the same way when we try to learn other habits or change things about ourselves whether it’s a diet, a new skill, or anything else.

If you study weightlifting much, one of the first things you’ll be told is that you’re going to plateau. The initial gains and increases in strength and speed will level off after a few months as your body adapts. From there on improvement will be slow, often invisible, and will manifest itself only on rare occasions.

Ladies and gentlemen, you are not going to see yourself get better every day, no matter if you are the most disciplined person in the world with the perfect program and nothing standing in your way. Discipline is valuable because it keeps us working toward our goals even when we’re tired and depressed and don’t see the improvement we want.

We need to understand that improvement is different from the results of improvement. When you set a new personal record and lift 10lbs more on your squat, did you get stronger at that moment? No, of course not. You got stronger over the previous days of training, and in the moment of doing that lift you saw the results of your improvement.

So often, the things that make us better don’t seem to be. Grinding out a writing session when you don’t feel like it, pushing through another set of squats even though it’s well below your target weight, going to bed on time even though there’s more you wanted to do that day; these are the kinds of things that actually improve us.  Then, days or weeks down the line, we see that improvement in easier writing, bigger lifts, more energy through our day.

So don’t get bogged down and distracted by slow days. Stay disciplined, build the habit, and keep a long view. Instead of looking for the big blocks, the quick gains, the fast improvements, focus on the little things. A week of good work is better and more sustainable than a single day of amazing work that leaves you feeling exhausted and burned out.

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