I’ll admit it, I have a soft spot in my heart for Justin Timberlake (even if it isn’t the genre of music I typically identify with). Maybe it’s because he’s one of the few child celebrities who grew up without becoming a complete headcase. Or maybe it’s his sweet dance moves. Who knows?
In any case, I have massive respect for someone bold enough to claim to bring sexy back, since I can’t recall a time when sexy ever went out of style (except maybe a brief period from 1993-95). JT must have incredibly high standards. And I respect that.
At the end of the day though, getting people excited about what’s sexy is pretty damn easy. Tesla cars and gold iPhones can’t be made fast enough to meet demand. Even at insanely high price points in a struggling economy, sexy still sells.
Not that this is a bad thing. Sexy plays a fun and important role in our lives and I’m the last one who’d wish it to go away.
The hard part is remembering that in certain situations (specifically, long-term goals) sexy isn’t usually the best option. But BOY is it tempting.
For 15 years I was pulled in by the siren song of every new diet. The crazier and more dramatic the plan, the more I was sure that this one was special––that it was so crazy it had to work.
Had I still been on the dieting wagon when those 5am bootcamps in the park became popular, I would have been all over that action. Surely an early morning butt kicking was EXACTLY what I needed to lose those last 10 pounds.
Bootcamps, juice fasts and P90X are seductive because they promise, and occasionally even deliver, dramatic results in a short period of time. The problem is that because these sexy diets are discipline-based and not habit-based, the results do not last.
Working on building habits instead of juicing 8 magical superfoods is profoundly unsexy, but it works. The results may not be rapid and dramatic, but over time they are life-changing.
Why is it that small, consistent steps in the right direction are so much less appealing than a giant leap in the wrong direction? Why would we rather try to climb an unscalable mountain than spend a few months walking back the way we came then just going around it?
I once spoke to a friend who was trying to get into shape for her wedding and wanted to start running three times a week, but hadn’t been able to do it. Her coach asked her to try running once a week, but my friend was resistant because she didn’t think one run a week was significant enough––even though it was 100% more than she was currently running.
It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that habits build upon themselves. Small steps are OK, so long as they are consistent and continue to grow. In the end, the results are even more dramatic than the quick fix, since they can last a lifetime. They just sneak up on you so gradually that you hardly notice. And this is a good thing.
The little, unsexy things that seem insignificant like eating breakfast, walking 10K steps per day, and cooking healthy meals at home aren’t nearly as alluring as the dramatic acts of suffering that promise crazy results, like bootcamp or fasting. But the unsexy road to health is far less painful, and this is one of the main reasons it actually works.
By far the hardest part of getting healthy is getting started. To build healthy habits you first need to rid yourself of the illusion that small, unsexy actions are meaningless and that only dramatic actions bring dramatic results. In fact, the opposite is true. It was slow, incremental steps that got you out of shape in the first place. And it will only be slow, incremental steps that put you back on track.
Starting small isn’t just acceptable, it’s necessary. Habits only grow from things you can actually do consistently, not things you force yourself to do occasionally. Similarly, doing something small is infinitely more meaningful than doing nothing at all.
Have you ever accomplished something tremendous by starting with small, unsexy baby steps? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.
Originally published Nov 6, 2013.