I wanted to smash my racquet against the court until it was a mangled piece of fiberglass.
It was late in the second set of a tennis match and nothing was going right. It wasn’t that the other team was great—if they’re great and they win, it’s totally fine with me. The problem with today’s match was a laundry list of unforced errors.
This wasn’t the first match where things weren’t clicking. It happens from time to time. It’s aggravating, but for some reason I still play.
The same thing happens to me in other areas. Photography, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, writing, coaching, and living a healthy lifestyle all seem to result in these experiences. Some days don’t go well no matter how focused I am or how great my intentions are.
Because these things are a Practice.
Practice (noun): repeated exercise-in or performance-of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.
To succeed at important, long-term initiatives, we have to be in a practice-mindset. When it comes to health and fitness, it’s common to get stuck in a project-mindset.
If you see your body as a project, and treat it as such, it pigeonholes you. Projects have deadlines and demand accountability to goal outcomes. When your project is over-budget, deadlines aren’t met, and expectations aren’t lived up to, failure happens.
Projects that fail in these ways are finished. Axed. Done for.
If you see nutrition, movement, and healthy lifestyle habits as a practice, you’re better able to weather the storms.
A practice-mindset is powerful because instead of being accountable to goal outcomes you are accountable to goal behaviors. And it’s these behaviors that create eventual success.
Van Gogh’s Starry Night was the result of treating art as a practice and not a project. Roger Federer’s tennis record is the result of treating tennis as a practice and not a project. Henry Ford, who failed five times and went bankrupt twice before starting Ford Motor Company, succeeded because entrepreneurship was a practice to him and not a project.
Unlike projects, practices never end so they keep getting better and better. They also don’t get derailed by failure the way projects do. In practice, you expect failure and understand it as the path forward. In projects, failure is avoided at all costs and expensive when it occurs.
Having a practice-mindset is not enough by itself, though. There are two more Ps that make success probable…
The next is Passion.
Passion is the intrinsic motivation that drives the practice. When you have passion you don’t have to rely on extrinsic motivators to keep you going. It’s a fire burning inside you.
Having an intrinsic desire for self-care and self-love drives you toward healthy behavior. It’s the most powerful form of motivation.
You may not feel that intrinsic desire right now. You may be struggling with self-care and self-love. If that’s you, it’s exactly why this needs to be a practice.
You may think intrinsic motivation is something you either have or don’t have. That’s not the case. You can cultivate it through a process. The fire can be re-ignited. You just have to choose yourself and commit to the practice-mindset.
That brings us to the last P–Perseverance.
Perseverance (noun): steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success:
Even when you do things you’re passionate about, you’ll sometimes experience an absence of motivation. You’ll encounter challenges. Plans will fail.
Seth Godin describes this as “The Dip.” Low points are a natural part of the ebb and flow of any meaningful pursuit. When you have a practice as important as nourishing and taking care of your body, you must push forward. Perseverance is what powers you through The Dip.
Perseverance, by the way, it’s not persistence. Perseverance is the drive to find success no matter the course of action. Persistence is a commitment to the course of action, period. That’s why this third P is so important.
Persistence could lead you to using the same failed dieting strategies for the rest of your life. Perseverance allows you to disengage from failed strategies and tactics without disengaging from the practice.
Persistence could lead you to continue trying to perfect this…
When perseverance drives you to create this instead…
Same goal, but the tactics and strategies required a complete overhaul.
The people who end up with a body and life they love are often people who are willing to disengage from failed strategies and adopt new ones, even if that requires a significant mental, emotional, and financial investment.
Perseverance, not persistence.
This also returns us to the concept of projects versus practices. When flight is a project, we can all go home after a great afternoon at Kitty Hawk. When flight is a practice, we end up with jets that take us from New York to Los Angeles in a few hours.
Practice, Passion, Perseverance.
What are you going to do now?