Slight Edge Theories

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. ‘Progressive’ means success is a process, not a destination. It’s something you experience gradually, over time. Failure is also just as gradual. In fact, the difference between success and failure is so subtle, you can’t even see it or recognize it during the process. And here’s how real success is built: by the time you get the feedback, the real work’s already done.” -Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

I’ve just started reading this book, and I can already apply some of his theories to my fitness goals. What Jeff Olson speaks about is absolutely incredible, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. The truth is, it’s so ordinary that most people don’t even consider it in their quest for better health, better finances, better relationships etc. I am applying the Slight Edge principles to my goals as a runner, but in reality these principles are at work in every area of our lives, every day. The Slight Edge is really simple: the book is based on the premise that there are actions you can do every day (small, seemingly insignificant actions) that compounded, over time, will create amazing results and help you achieve your goals in life. The flip side of this is that those actions are also easy NOT to do, which compounded, over time, will have the opposite effect.

Let’s apply this principle to my newfound passion for running. Let’s say I’m using the Slight Edge principles, and I start going to the gym 4 days a week and running/working out. When I first start, I’m not likely to see results. It will probably be hard for me to run a mile (it was when I first started) and I’ll probably get tired and sore. It would take a while for me to see marked improvement in my time running and in my muscles ability to handle the strength training. However, over time, perhaps by the end of 6 months to a year, I will see a marked improvement in both my stamina running, time for my mile, and my ability to lift weights. I will also be able to run 5ks easier and work my way up to a 10k. But that didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t see a gigantic improvement in my time right away.

Now let’s take the opposite path. Let’s say that I get home and I’m too tired to go to the gym. I’m too tired to work out and I just don’t feel like being active today. Is that decision going to hurt me today? Probably not. Will it hurt me tomorrow? No. How about at the end of the week? Most likely still won’t see a decline in my health. However, compounded over time, I might get out of breath easier, and my unhealthy eating habits might make me gain a few pounds- or more. It also will build up the fat in my arteries, which can eventually lead to clogged arteries and a bypass surgery, like the ones both my grandmothers had to have.

Both of these actions won’t give you immediate results. You won’t be improved right away, your health won’t decline right away either. But the decisions you make today definitely will affect your future, one way or another. “The difference between success and failure is not dramatic. In fact, the difference between success and failure is so subtle, most people miss it. They hold the philosophy that what they do really doesn’t matter…the truth is, what you do matters. What you do today matters. What you do every day matters.”

Nobody notices me going to the gym when I work out. At least, most people don’t. My family notices, because I come home sweaty and they know where I’ve been. But do they applaud me for going? No. Why? Because it doesn’t really matter to them. They know I’m training for a 5k, they know that I’m committed to my health goals. But they’ve also seen me fail at my health goals as well, so it doesn’t make a lot of difference to them whether or not I go to the gym. I’m the only one who notices my progress, I’m the only one who cares about it. However, using the Slight Edge principles, I know that I’m going to make it to a better time, and I’m going to keep improving my health.

I’m going to be honest- it’s hard to keep going. It’s hard to keep getting up and running, to keep going to the gym, to keep lifting the weights, when I don’t see the results. I’m not a patient person. Everyone who knows me will tell you that. Everyone who knows me will give you plenty of examples of where patience failed me. So this not seeing results thing is a big deal for me. It’s what led me to give up on the countless other times I’ve begun a workout program only to quit two months in. So what’s different this time? How have I beat that impatience and led myself to healthier habits? Time management. I know how I am- I know if I go home from work that I will end up sitting on the couch, immersed in a (good, but no less distracting) book or internet article on some webpage that isn’t doing a thing for me except giving me useless information. I know that in order to be successful, I have to go to the gym or for my runs straight after work. So I take my clothes with me. And I change at work or at the gym. I don’t even give myself the option of going home and relaxing. Another plan that’s been working for me is registering for races immediately. The longer I wait, the longer I’ll talk myself out of doing them. So when I see one that looks fun or interesting, I register for it. Who wants to waste money? Definitely not me. Registering for these races means that if I don’t show up, I don’t get my money’s worth nor do I get a refund. So basically, I HAVE to do these runs. If I don’t, I’d be losing out of the money I invested into doing them. And that would just be wasteful. Keeping myself registered in a run on the horizon means that I am constantly having motivation to train for another race.

If you could do something every day to make your health and fitness levels just a small percent better, would you? If you knew it was guaranteed to make a difference? Of course you would. Exercising three days a week, doing some cardio, maybe a yoga class or two. And when you wake up the next day, what does that first day look like? Do you feel better? More flexible? Noticeably different? Not really. Maybe a little, but not enough to make a difference. After a week, you may feel a little better than you did the first day…but still not a lot. So you had to inconvenience yourself three days this week. Was it worth it? I don’t really know, you say. What if you kept doing it over time? “Would you feel like a million bucks? No, you’d feel like ten million.”

These are the Slight Edge principles. When I first started reading this book, I didn’t know what I was going to get out of it. But the more I put these principles into play, the more I’m convinced that I can reach the goals I’ve set for myself, this year and in the future.

*All quotations are copyright from The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. I highly recommend you read it!*


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