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Andrew’s Challenge: 20 Pounds in 31 Days

Self-motivation examples

A runner (not Andrew, obviously) in a lava field

Andrew, a reader of this site, is setting out on a daring project: he wants to lose 20 pounds of body fat, healthily, in 31 days.

If someone had described this plan to me a couple of months ago, I would have said it couldn’t be done. However, there’s a crazy but possibly brilliant guy named Tim Ferriss who’s written a book called The Four Hour Body, and in it he outlines his findings over the course of years and years of energetic research and extreme self-experimentation. Ferriss presents evidence that, assuming it’s accurate (and I have no reason to think it isn’t) would mean that Andrew’s project is entirely doable. I won’t go into Ferriss’s ideas in detail right now because I’m testing some of them out myself and want to speak from personal experience (and in addition I have concerns about some of Ferriss’ basic philosophies), but Andrew is going all-out. He’s going to do everything in his power to lose 20 pounds of bodyfat in 31 days, and he wants everyone to know about it. Accordingly, I asked him if I could post about it here. Andrew said “Let’s do it.”

I’ll be checking in with Andrew each week and posting his responses here. If he succeeds with even a large fraction of his goal, I’d call that a roaring success.

Andrew, what’s your motivation for such a radical change? And what do you think your biggest obstacles will be?

Andrew replied:

Complex: I want to feel my physical best so that I can fully participate in the outdoor and athletic life like I used to 10 years ago (I am 34 right now).  Carrying the extra weight around is probably killing my heart, knees, back and other organs, not to mentioned my mental and psychological states each day.  I suppose some of this is pure vanity as well as most people want to look good.  I could give a rip about looking like this person or that person, but humans have a healthy look to them and an unhealthy look to them and let’s be honest, I must fall into the latter category.  Although I must say I “carry the extra pounds pretty well”, I am not a picture of health right now and that really disturbs me.  I am also married and have a 3 year old boy so I honestly believe married couples owe it to each other to look good for as long as they can and my wife is hot so I need to bring more to the proverbial table!  When she and I met, I was in the midst of running up and down volcanoes, playing in monster ocean waves, eating well and living a very active lifestyle in her country of El Salvador.  As for my son, it’s critical to me that he pay testimony to a healthy life and not just lip service that we pay him at the dinner table each night.  Clearly, my goal is to personally push him in the athletic realm of the world as well as the intellectual dimension and me doing this while 20 lbs is hypocritical as I have no reason to be out of shape (just excuses).  I do have some personal fitness goals that revolved around distance running (I used to be a runner), cycling (I think I rode out of my mother), swimming (I am a newcomer to the sport) and to being a body weight exercise animal.  Lean and mean is the goal.

Simple: I want to feel amazing each day.

Obstacles: I suppose I am the obstacle.  If any laziness or regimen violations occur it will be because of me, plain and simple.  Barring injury, sickness or some other kind of life emergency, nothing should get in my way, period.

I have purchased the supplies needed i.e. vitamins and food and I have taken the body measurements outlined in his book, except for that I added my neck as well.

In the spirit of Ferriss’s Princeton student challenge i.e. reaching someone you think is unreachable and seeking advice etc., I am going after the man himself, Tim Ferriss and I will provide him my daily regimen and ask him if it’s spot on or if he has added anything since the revision of the most recent book.  I will tell him I am being watch by at least 1500 eyes each week, along with my own social sphere, so the test is on!

Photo by dneberto

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My “Use ’em If You Got ’em” Challenge

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In yesterday’s article (Motivated, Wise, Productive) I mentioned a willpower challenge I’m starting, and it deals with bringing together a lot of skills from this site. If I succeed with this experiment, it should provide some useful findings–and if I fall on my butt, that should at least provide a little amusement.

You’ve probably noticed that this site offers a lot of tools for developing and using willpower, like emotional antidotes, flow, idea repair, feedback loops, and so on. But there are at least two major barriers between being familiar with those tools and using them all the time in everyday life: one is that knowing is not the same thing as doing, and the other is that it’s very problematic to try to pursue more than one goal at a time. Sure, I know a lot of great willpower tricks (like 24 Ways to Stop Feeling Hungry), but it still takes time, attention, and resignation to use those tricks.

And yet … every time I miss an opportunity to use my self-motivation skills, it’s disappointing. My primary goal right now is using organization and time management to get more writing work done, and that’s been very useful and important to me. But that means my other goals–like having a more orderly home and improving on my fitness–have had to wait on the sidelines for quite a while, and of course I’m impatient. So I theorized that if I could get into a habit of using my immediate willpower skills every time a willpower issue came up, even if it wasn’t in the course of pursuing my main goal, then I might make a lot of progress on those secondary goals and in fact on any goal I had clearly outlined and understood well without having to take on more than one goal at once per se.

The problem, of course, is forming the habit of using all those skills. Forming habits means repeating a behavior on purpose, and it’s necessary to do that daily for months before the habit typically sets in. So my challenge is this: every time a difficult willpower situation comes up, I’ll try using one of the techniques I know to deal with it. If I succeed, great. If I succeed in a surprising, interesting, or unusually powerful way, I’ll make a note about it in a special journal. If I fail, I’ll make a note about it that same journal and figure out what tool I could have used so that I’ll be prepared last time.

There are pitfalls here: this discipline might take too much focus away from my main goal, which wouldn’t be acceptable. Or it might just be that preparation (meditation, planning, etc.) is so important that in-the-moment techniques won’t get me where I need to go. Regardless, I’m planning to find out. Off I go on my adventure: wish me luck!

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