Well-Directed Effort: Accurate Arrows and Washing Dishes
Think back to your favourite movie battle scene situated in a previous era, one which included archers. Picture the two opposing armies taking their respective battle lines and starting a full frontal assault. Now imagine one archer amidst the line of archers with a helmet two sizes too big. When the command is given for the archers to open fire, the poor combatant’s
helmet drops over his eyes and blocks his vision. Nevertheless, he takes arrows from his quiver repeatedly and launches them one after another, but fires them blindly off to the side instead of at the opposing army. His efforts and skill are completely misdirected, and for that reason, are made virtually useless in achieving his desired outcome of winning the battle. Sweat may drip from his forehead, but he is no better off for all the work he put in, simply because he worked with such vigor in a misdirected way.
Ironically, I recently wrote two blog posts on the value of hard work, insisting on its merit as well as the rewards associated with it. However, I felt the need to devote this post to addressing the fact that misdirected work can result in wasted effort. Washing dishes can be done by hand and one can do them with a lot of hard work, but placing them in the dishwasher saves effort, time, and wrinkled fingers. Probably because of my education and experience is in this field, I have seen more wasted effort in the fitness industry than anywhere else. A step into most gyms often reveals a proverbial situation where there are very few clean dishes but a large number of wrinkled fingertips. Crunches and situps galore in the pursuit of the elusive six-pack, hours of low intensity exercise on bikes, elliptical trainers, and treadmills in the hopes of dropping fat, and days of bicep curls and tricep extensions to become a stronger athlete. At this point, I have to make a quick disclaimer that spending time on such activities does create a better outcome in most cases than slouching on the couch with some Doritos and the remote in hand. But, that is why I liken these activities to washing dishes, by hand… with an already dirty cloth… and not enough soap. Sure, the dishes are getting somewhat cleaner, but why not use a dishwasher.This is where I make my plea. I want you to work hard, nay, I yearn for you to work hard, because I feel that a good work ethic is a character trait that fewer and fewer people foster in today’s society. But please, aim that effort in a direction that is actually useful. If you want to get a six-pack, then stop doing crunches and lose some fat; if you want to lose fat, then change your nutrition and learn more effective ways to drop your waistline than long and boring elliptical sessions; and if you want to get stronger, evaluate what you’re doing to see if it is helping you reach that goal. In upcoming posts I will help to dispel some of these ineffective means of reaching these types of goals and help give more accuracy to your effort. Finally, please be honest with yourself. If you are not progressing towards your goal, perhaps the answer for you is not to just work harder, go to the gym an extra time, or jog an extra mile; flinging more arrows in the wrong direction. Instead, find out where to aim that arrow of yours and fire away.