Opportunity Cost... or Opportunity Lost?

Opportunity Cost  

Opportunity cost is defined as the value of something that is lost because you choose an alternative course of action.
The opportunity cost of going to college is the value of the lost years of income which you would have earned if you had not quit your job and gone to college.

"opportunity-cost." YourDictionary, n.d. Web. 20 August 2016.

Opportunity Lost

Opportunity lost is defined as having the available time and resources at hand, but failing to utilize them.
The opportunity lost of not attending practice is not being selected to perform with the group.  
            ~David Grumblis

It is inevitable. 

Any time I choose to squander an opportunity for exercise or sport, something beyond my control will happen to prohibit my participation the next time out (or three). A last minute project at work, an unexpected health issue, a family emergency, etc..., it never fails. Not only am I disappointed for missing workouts, I am doubly upset at myself for passing up each perfectly good day to be active.

In short, the future regret of 'skipping the gym' always outweighs the immediate gratification. 

Let us ponder the aforementioned terms in this post and their application to our outlook on exercise. We choose to participate in an activity because we value the benefits of that activity over all other possible alternatives. The positive mental and physical benefits of exercise, and in the case of team sports and group activities, the camaraderie, outweighs the benefits of all other endeavors. This is 'Opportunity Cost'. 

'Opportunity Lost' is flat-out failing to seize the moments where we can be active. 

So, the next time you feel like driving by the gym or skipping that yoga class, weigh the Opportunity Cost and ask yourself if this will be an Opportunity Lost.      

Millions of Small Decisions Over Time....

"The future is just a bunch of what you do right now strung together."
                            ~ Coach Hand (Kurt Russell) from the film 'Touchback'

"If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves. You gain more control over your life by paying closer attention to the little things"
    ~ Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886

Every single one of us make millions of small, seemingly insignificant decisions each day.

From our morning and bedtime routine, what and how we eat, and the routes we take to our favorite places, we rely on the packaging and reuse of decisions formed throughout the years to efficiently maximize our use of our time and energy. Aside from the occasional 'milestone' event, such as purchasing a home, capitalizing on job opportunities, or navigating medical emergencies, do we realize that we're even making decisions. 

Left to these rare, but major situations, it leaves us a relatively small sample size of decisions from which to reflect on our overall being. It is also what propagates the misconception that only a few key decisions make the most impact on our future, good or bad.

Nice. How does this relate to my fitness goals?

Consider this:

  • Not one person has ever woken to find themselves 50 pounds overweight simply by ditching the gym one evening to meet some friends out for dinner. 
  • On the same token, not one person has ever become an elite athlete simply by deciding hit the gym that one day to bench a few reps. 

The fact of the matter is, no single independent decision has the power to completely reshape our lives in an instant. It is in the repetition of our decisions that led us to where we are now, and that will pave our way to the future.

With millions of small, seemingly insignificant decisions each day, we have almost endless opportunities for improvement. 

Focus your efforts to:

  • Recognize the number of decisions over which we really have control.
  • Try to win one decision at a time.

You have more control than you think. 

Meal Prep...Preparing to Succeed

The key to successfully maintaining a nutrition plan is preparation.

You see? If you wait until you're hungry to think of nutrition, the cards are already stacked against you. It's inevitable that you're not going to have the time, availability of ingredients, or proper quantities or measures.

The fix? You guessed it. Preparation.

  1. Plan your meals out on paper for the upcoming week. Know what you are going to eat, when, and what nutritional needs are being met.
  2. Use this plan to purchase all of the ingredients when you do your grocery shopping. 
  3. Spend some time over the weekend preparing your meals for the upcoming week, and package them in the correct quantities for each day. (Refrigerate when applicable)
  4. Buy a food scale to make measuring easy. A basic food scale will cost $10-$20. 
  5. Save your plan and and recipes for future use. You will find that your prep time will get shorter and shorter, while your meals will become elaborate and diversified as you go. Just like anything, practice makes perfect.
  6. Make meal preparation part of your routine. 

*Please consult with a certified/ licensed nutritionist or your doctor before beginning any nutrition plan. 

Where you spend your time in the supermarket...

Where you spend your time in the supermarket selecting food is a good indication of where you are with your nutrition. 

Let me explain.

A former version of myself spent time in the following areas selecting food:

  • 50% at the deli counter
  • 20% in the frozen foods section
  • 20% in the snack aisle
  • 10% in the butcher section

In short, despite a very active lifestyle split between soccer and tae kwon do, my main fuel was:

  • Sandwiches (bread, processed meats, and cheese)
  • Potato or Corn Chips
  • Frozen Pizza
  • Chicken/ Beef/ Pork (with some kind of marinade slathered on for flavor)
  • Microwaveable Mashed Potatoes
  • Microwaveable Vegetables
  • Cookies
  • Soda or Sports Drinks

And when it was my turn to 'cook', it was generally take out. 

No wonder I couldn't lose the size and weight despite a cardio-intensive lifestyle. 

Compare the above with where most of my time is spent now:

  • 70% in the fruits and vegetables section
  • 20% in the butcher section
  • 10% in the frozen food section

After a couple years of gradual change, substituting bad for better, and general experimentation, my meals consist of:

  • Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
  • Some Microwave Vegetables (no added ingredients or sauces)
  • Fresh, Lean Meats for Protein 
  • Rice or Potatoes for Starch/ Carbs
  • Seeds for Good Fats

The most important thing I've learned along the way is that one can make dishes at home that are healthier and taste better than most restaurants, and certainly better than snack foods, in about the same time. Plus, nothing is more satisfying than putting a healthy dish together yourself. It is literally art that you can taste!

More on how to be comfortable in your own kitchen later. Until then, think about how to switch out one bad snack item, like a pastry, for a better one...perhaps a Honeycrisp Apple. 

Just Starting Out...

There is an earnest feeling of freedom in being a beginner.

With nobody to impress, no expectations, and no obligation to demonstrate skill, beginnings are a time when each experience offers up a universe of possibilities to explore. "Staring Out" is a wondrous time, indeed. 

However, something happens when we begin to assimilate knowledge and put it into practice; our egos become engaged. Fulfillment is no longer derived from learning, but in receiving recognition for our accomplishments. 

Here's the rub. When our ego dominates our actions, we are literally just reliving the past! Questions become filtered to hide ignorance, we overlook opportunities to improve, and progress stagnates.  

Keeping a beginner's mindset allows us to remain in a constant state of learning and growth. Each day, each exercise, each set, and each rep exist independently of one another. Therefore, each action affords us the ability to affirm that we are "just starting out".  

Remember, the next time you feel self-conscious trying something or that you aren't as accomplished as those around you (basically, anytime you feel at risk of looking foolish), that is your ego speaking.

Remind yourself that you are "Just Starting Out" and experience the freedom of the beginner.  

My Own Failed New Year's Resolution

January 1995.

This was going to be the year! It had been six years since I had last played soccer and I was yearning to get back into the game. 

I remembered back to my high school days how preparation for athletics meant conditioning first. "Conditioning" was the month before the season where, every weekday, we'd run ourselves back into shape having taken almost a whole year off from our respective sport. This is how we did it in the 1980's before year-round strength and conditioning became the norm. 

So there's me facing a blustery, cold morning on January 1st, wearing old-school sweats and a pair of black Mitre indoor soccer shoes that were flat and wide. Although it was late morning, the steel gray clouds made it seem like dusk. After a few quick stretches, I left the comfort of my nice warm apartment to jog through a parking lot covered with ice and snow.  

The total distance was probably a half-mile, but after six years of a sedentary lifestyle fueled by a steady diet of fast food and soda, it seemed like a marathon. My pace was terrible; one foot after the other.... for 25 minutes! 

I still remember barely making it back to my apartment winded, sore, and frozen. It was miserable. But in my mind, it was necessary.  

My plan was to quicken my pace a little the next day, a little more the day after that, and so on until this run became easy. By spring, I figured my gains would translate into the strength and endurance I needed to get in a few minutes here and there with a rec-league team. 

Easier said than done!

With a 24 hours to recover, I set off again. Only this time, in addition to the elements and my lack of conditioning, I had to deal with muscles that were sore and stiff. Shortly after I began, the words, "this sucks", started to repeat in my brain and pretty soon I was forced to walk, jogging periodically only when I caught my breath. 

Utterly discouraged, thus ended what I now call, "The Resolution of 1995". 

Inspiration in the Wake of Setbacks

Fight on my men, Sir Andrew says,
A little I'm hurt, but yet not slain;
I'll but lie down and bleed awhile,
And then I'll rise and fight again.
--Excerpt from Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton (Author Unknown)

Setbacks are a part of life. 

Things seem to be going well when sometimes the wheels just come off the wagon.

A major step backwards is sometimes exactly what we need to take 5 giant leaps forward. It isn't fun to fail, because the taste is so bitter. We're inevitably left feeling that the time and effort we've spent has been somehow meaningless and wasted. In the shadow of failure, our goal seems further away than ever. Giving up is always the easier route.

Instead, accept failure as a gift to meditate on your methods and to seek alternatives. It's okay to stop and rest when feeling overwhelmed, but use that time for reflection and refocusing. Saying goodbye to old methods is difficult, but the power of change is exciting. 

In the light of day, are the changes that bad? That major? 

Detach yourself from the methods and philosophies that are holding you back and have trust that your alternatives will guide you to a better place.   

Rather than starting over, you'll be changing direction!

My Method for Prioritization

"Which method would I choose?", you may ask.

I find a lot of truth in the old saying, "Take care of the small things and the big things will take care of themselves." 

That said, I prefer knocking out the easier, less time consuming goals first, i.e., the "Low Hanging Fruit". As stated previously, this will give us some quick wins, give us a sense of accomplishment, and promote an environment of achievement. Furthermore, we can begin developing good habits that can be applied to more ambitious projects later. 

Developing the habit of accomplishment is more important than any individual resolution or goal, because it is a transferable skill.

Which to Choose?

When looking at your list of goals, categorize them once in terms complexity or duration, and once more in terms of satisfaction. These can be arbitraty numbers for now, say 1, 2, 3, etc... 

Next, order the first list with by complexity/ duration from least complex to most. Then, order the second by satisfaction level from highest to least.  

Here is an example:

Complexity/ DurationSatisfaction
1Volunteer at Food Bank (easiest)9Write a Novel (highest)
2Clean Basement8Earn Master's Degree
3Paint Front Porch7Exercise/ Lose Weight
4Live in the Moment6Travel to China
5Travel to China5Save more Money
6Exercise/ Lose Weight4Volunteer at Food Bank
7Save more Money3Live in the Moment
8Earn Master's Degree2Paint Front Porch
9Write a Novel (hardest)1Clean Basement (lowest)

As you see in this example, there is somewhat of an inverse relationship between the two. I would expect to see something like this from most people. If your number one goal is the same on both lists, then you are lucky; by all means, this is what you probably should get started on right now! 

However, if your lists are ranked similarly to those above, then there are three general strategies on which route to take: 

1. "Low Hanging Fruit", or in other words, tackle the easiest items first. The advantages with this method are that they will promote the habit of being productive, provide immediate results, and instill a sense of accomplishment. This strategy will de-clutter the your list and build momentum, putting you in a great position to take on bigger challenges later.

The drawback? Time-sensitive goals that score high in satisfaction would be at risk. For instance, someone who is turning 60 may not have the luxury to wait to get off the couch and begin training for that first triathlon.

2. Focus on the one item that would bring you the most satisfaction. Dive into writing that novel or get started on that degree. To quote Confucius, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." Success in these areas may reward you the freedom or opportunities that will fulfill your lesser goals. 

The drawback? Results and accomplishments aren't as pronounced, nor as frequent. We're putting in for the long-haul and we need to be mindful that the journey does not turn into a death-march. Going down this path may take a lot more planning and discipline in order to realize success.  

3. Use the two lists to find a nice comprise. In the example above, "Travel to China" appears to provide a moderate level of satisfaction, and seems relatively straight forward to achieve, all things being considered. 

The drawback? Not being the easiest nor the most satisfying goal on our list, we run the risk of giving up on this one all too easily.  

As you see, it really is up to you. 

Bear in mind, one look online and you can find a myraid of prioritization models that can help you statistically score your choice, but I wouldn't overthink this. When you see your list, generally the top ideas jump right off the page. 

How would you choose, David? 

Strategic Goal for a Singular Purpose (part 2)

Why choose just one strategic goal?

If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.

Attempting to manage too many changes at once, on top of an already cluttered schedule, is just not practical, nor productive. Bouncing around from one task to the next without sense of purpose is a futile proposition. Any gains will be too small to stay motivated. Before you know it, we're right back doing what we've always done, wondering why nothing ever seems to work. Typical of resolutions that are dead by February.

When we have one clear objective, it is easier to stay focused and direct our efforts. Noticeable and measurable results will come quicker and will are more likely to stay motivated. This motivation will breed consistency, and through consistency, we develop new habits.

"But I still have so much I'd like to do! Which should I choose?"

Strategic Goal for a Singular Purpose

To begin, we need a strategic goal; a primary sense of purpose to which you will become dedicated. This is a thematic statement about what you would like to achieve in the most generalized terms.

Here are some examples:

  • Exercise/ Lose Weight
  • Save more Money
  • Live in the Moment
  • Travel to China

You may come up with quite a few. Once you get thinking, it may be hard to stop coming up with ideas! After all, at this point, time, cost, location, etc... doesn't matter. We're dreaming with a purpose right now.  

If you came up with a list, now I want you to focus on trimming that list down to the topic about which you are most passionate. Given one wish, on which one goal would you spend it?

"But I have so much I'd like to do! Why just one? How do I choose?"

More Later...

Happy New Year! Resolution Time...

Happy New Year!  

A time for beginnings and fresh starts. Relationships, Finances, Health, Career, you name it; we all make promises we intend to keep. What better time to do this than the start new year, right? After all, from Halloween through New Year's Day, we've had the license to splurge, with the promise that we would make good on our goals once the holidays were over. Never mind the fact that we've never once seen any of our resolutions make it through February.  

But here we are! It's now January and time to make good on those hasty promises. 

Happy fun time is officially over. 

Time to dig in, buckle down, and get to work.

And this is why most resolutions die so quickly on the vine.

No more fun?

Buckling down?

Getting to work?

There's nothing enjoyable about this whole setup. Enjoyment must be the underlying motivation of anything worth doing consistently. Consistency is what breeds habits. 

Consider this. 

As humans, it is in our DNA to take the path of least resistance and to seek pleasure over pain. No sense in making things harder or more time consuming when they don't have to be. Therefore, our habits are the routine choices we make to maximize our quality of life with our allocation of time and resources. We rely on these habits because they give us a feeling of control over life. Even when the habit is bad or becomes obsolete, we cling to what we know because it makes us feel normal, and normal is safe. 

Then we wake up one day and realize that our habits aren't meeting all of our needs. Some habits may even be leading us down a very bad path. This usually comes in the form of an empty wallet or not being able to see one's own feet when standing up. Sometimes it is more severe, like walking out of a doctor's office with news that your bad cholesterol is the highest your doc has ever seen and you have high blood pressure to boot! So, we eventually come to grips that a change is overdue. 

Now we're talking talking swapping out bad habits that provide us with perceived efficiencies and feelings of safety for a new method of living that only hints at a long term benefit. Sounds overwhelming, doesn't it? 

Putting that way, it is

One just doesn't completely jettison a way of living for something completely new, overnight, and expect to maintain it for long. 

It's even more difficult to overlay a new set of rules onto existing habits, because there are only so many hours in a day. 

So, how does one flip that switch and commit to a major lifestyle change?

More to come....