A simple rule on how to challenge yourself

written by Philip Stefanov  |  MAY 25, 2021

One of the biggest reasons why habits fail is because we challenge ourselves too much before we are ready. As humans, we all love a good challenge, but only if it falls within a manageable zone of difficulty.

In the case of lifting, someone new to the gym would thrive on just the right amount of difficulty. Not more and not less.

If I took up a new client and tried to teach them a dozen complex exercises in our first session, they would most likely call me crazy and never come back to me. In contrast, if I only showed them how to do a dumbbell bicep curl for 50 minutes straight, they would be yawning out of boredom after ten minutes or so.

But, if I took the person in and showed them just a few exercises, spending the right amount of time on each, they would feel appropriately challenged and would be way more invested and motivated.

The Goldilocks rule suggests that we humans enjoy working on tasks that are just challenging enough for our current abilities. Tasks that are too easy quickly bore us. Conversely, tasks that are too difficult quickly overwhelm us. I’m sure you have experienced this phenomenon in your own life:

Perhaps you tried something that was too difficult or too easy and you quickly gave up. Or maybe you tried to make radical changes in your behaviors or habits too quickly and found yourself burned out.

If you want to develop new habits and engage in fulfilling work, you must keep the Goldilocks rule in mind. In the case of training, each session should be challenging enough, but not too much for your current capacity. Stimulate, don’t annihilate.

Similarly, if you currently hit the gym zero times per week, nothing good will come out of dedicating yourself to training six days per week. Start with just enough to challenge yourself and slowly build upon that as the months pass.

The long-distance runner who bangs out 5 miles every day probably started with a tenth of that. The writer who consistently puts out thousands of words probably started with a hundred per day. The jacked bodybuilder who lifts six days per week was probably a skinny guy once and only hit the gym two to three times a week.

Strive to challenge yourself and grow, but do so in a smart way and always keep the Goldilocks rule in mind.

Thank you for reading! Until next week,



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