When I was in college I was in the best shape of my life. Sure I was a skinny runt, but my conditioning at the time was crazy.

I played basketball for my small college up in Canada, and our conditioning training was intense.

Although I was in such great shape, during games I would still get winded. After 3–4 trips up and down the floor, wrestling with guys who had 65 lbs on me, and battling for rebounds I would be sucking wind and seeing stars.

Looking back, the main difference between those times when I was in great condition compared to other times in my life was how fast I could recover.

When the whistle blew for us to line up so someone could shoot a couple free throws I was sucking wind, but after 2–3 deep breaths I was all the way back, fresh, and ready to go again.

The main difference between being in great condition and not so great condition was the ability to recover quickly.

What does this have to do with the tea in China? (Is that actually a saying? I got it from my mom lol) It’ll be clear in just a minute.

When someone decides to change their life for the better by improving their fitness, losing some fat, building some strength etc, a lot of the time they will consult a coach for help (like, the reason we have this awesome little community right here).

People making these changes can usually be split up into two groups based on their initial attitude (I first got this concept from Dick Talens, one of the founders of Fitocracy, and it is a great explanation).

1) Willpowerful. This group of people believe that to make these changes to their body and life it takes unbreakable willpower. You need to will your way through difficult workouts and will your way to better nutrition.

2) Curious and humble. This group approaches these changes with curiosity and general open mindedness. This group is usually OK with making mistakes, and they are very forgiving of them.

People who attempt to make these life changes with approach #1 end up missing their goal in the long run. This is because they are fueled by willpower, and willpower is a finite resource. Once willpower runs out, they slide off tack. When this happens they feel awful, as if they failed. They also feel like they can’t do any better than that because that was all the willpower they had, and they are very unforgiving of these mistakes.

When group #1 messes up and are THIS hard on themselves, the end up sliding even further off track for an even longer period of time. Recovery is slow.

When people attempt these life changes with approach #2, they are very forgiving of these mistakes. They accept the fact that they are human, and mistakes will happen.

Also, they realize that they are still capable of making progress, and can see the progress they have made thus far. Progress over perfection is the attitude, and they realize that perfection doesn’t exist.

Both groups are just as likely to make mistakes and slide off track, but group 2 is willing to forgive themselves of these mistakes, they aren’t afraid to tell their coach when they’re off track, and they realize that even with the missteps, they are making progress and will continue to make progress in the future.

This group then doesn’t take it too hard on themselves, they can quickly get past the misstep in the plan and refocus and recover.

At the end of the day, the difference between the two groups is the speed of recovery. Both will make mistakes due to being human (which is OK, as a whole, we’re a pretty awesome bunch), but those who are open minded and forgiving of themselves will recover much faster and keep making that progress.

Having a great training and nutrition plan laid out for you is great, but it is really unimportant compared to the long term adherence of the plan.

So be gentle and forgiving with yourself. Be open minded. Understand that you are a human with emotions and human errors will happen because of this. But realize that you are making progress and that perfection doesn’t even exist.

If you are having a tough time with any of this, shoot me a message, or feel free to start a discussion in the comments below.

Originally published at

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.