"Sometimes you are going to absolutely suck. It is inevitable."
You can't be your best at all times. It is literally impossible. By definition, your "best" is a state of over-performance and not the norm.
Most experiences are somewhere in between our best and our worst. There are times when we operate at our best and other times we can't do anything right. Yet, most of our efforts, experiences and outcomes are painfully average. We simply can't be at our best (or worst) for too long.
To quote Mark Manson - "there are only so many fucks you can give". The law of averages states that everything comes back to the middle at some point. A .400 hitter in July usually ends somewhere much closer to .300 by the time the leaves begin to fall in October.
We definitely try to be at our best though. Our wallets and search engines reveal that much.
If you look at the self-help industry; one which Americans are spending an average of $11 billion dollars a year, then you'll see a lot of noise implying that a particular book, or lecture series, or "life-hack" is all you are missing. If you look at the industry of public speakers, the Tony Robbins and Gary V's of the world, then you'll find people telling you that you need to be on your grind and working to your best self at all times.
Sure, you shouldn't try to suck. You shouldn't go out of your way to sabotage yourself or the things you've worked for just because you are having a less-than-stellar day. You shouldn't wake up full of intent to shit the proverbial bed. You have to try to put your best foot forward, even if you have two "less" feet that morning.
But to sell an idea that we could be performing at our best all the time is completely hogwash. It is the psychological equivalent to snake oil in the Wild West - a "cure-all" that has absolutely no follow through. Salesmen in the west would make fortunes promising to cure people's cancer, rid them of affliction, and even improve their body or beauty - so long as they purchased their "secret formula". It was bullshit then and it still bullshit now. The "success" coaches of today seem to go out of their way to deny people the freedom to suck every now and again. They preach habit and routine as though no one in their right mind should want a lazy Sunday with their significant other, their puppies, or a ice cold beer. They talk about staying focused on your side hustle as though you couldn't possibly be tired from your day job and just want to call it an early night. They make sleep sound like a bad word.
It is perfectly normal to need some time off. Sometimes that will be a night and other times it'll be a full day. Hell, sometimes it'll even be a full week. And that's OK. It is perfectly normal to not be at your best all-the-time.
If you are going to do your best than you need to embrace your worst, or at the very least, the days where your best just isn't going to happen. You can't beat yourself up just because you aren't firing on all cylinders. Exhaustion isn't just physical. You could be mentally and emotionally wrecked too.
On these days it is more important to pull back and reign in your drive. Instead of trying to conquer the world just focus on making your bed. It's tough though. I know it first hand. The anxiety that you will fall behind can rage inside of you. The fear that others will surpass you eats at you.
But you have to get out of that cycle. In fact, you have to answer specific questions to help free yourself from it. Those questions will have unique answers; just as unique as you.
How do you navigate a world in which everyone's Instagram has more followers than you?
How do you become OK with not being your best all the time?
How do you feel like you are enough?
Why do you get so tired?
You must try your best to keep your head above water and not let the anxiety of being "off" eat at you. You have embrace the time away from responsibility. You have to set a plan for getting back on track, and most importantly, you have to move forward in some way.
These are the 4 tips that I try to live by, which were especially critical recently as I finished my upcoming book "Day by Day: A Personal Trainer's Blueprint to Achieving Ultimate Success".
1. Everyday move forward. Somehow, someway.
One of the mistakes that people make when things aren't going well or when they don't have the motivation is to halt all movement. We lock ourselves away and binge watch TV, go out and have drinks with our friends, or simply lie in a silent room and fall in and out of sleep. The problem isn't that we do these things...
It's that we do them while abandoning all forward momentum.
Even on your worst days do something that will help you when you are motivated again. It could be as simple as rewriting your to-do list or as complex as cleaning your house and knocking out that pile of laundry. On those days where you just don't have "it" - invest your time in doing the little things that will make your life easier when you do. Some other ideas:
Make those phone calls that you've been putting off
Shoot off all of the emails that block you from being creative when you want to write
Cook foods for your week or go shopping for your needs
Read a book instead of melting away with TV
Grab a scratch book and jot down all the crazy thoughts that could be slowing you down.
2. Let the anxiety go.
It is painfully normal to feel anxious when you don't have any drive left in the tank. Your entire body aches with nervousness as you feel compelled to work towards something. Your mind races with all of the things you have to do, the things you need to do, the things you want do.
And yet you still don't have the follow-through. Whether it is your body, your brain, or your emotions that are holding you back - you feel like shit because you aren't doing the things you should be doing.
You have to let that go. If you have real goals, the ones that burn deep in your chest, then you'll have no problem getting back on your horse and riding hard again. You can't tell yourself that everyone is going to surpass you or that your idle time will set you back days/months/years.
You have to let go of the "need" to do something with each waking minute. Again, do something that moves you forward in some manner, but don't try to overtake Rome on a day where you can barely take your ass from the bed to the kitchen. You'll never recover and return to full strength if you spend your "down" time feeling anxious about missed opportunity.
You have to let that emotion go and instead focus completely on your rest.
3. Embrace your rest so that you may accelerate again later.
This is an immediate step forward from the last tip. You literally need to enjoy your rest and do the things that relax you and(or) make you happy. Take a hike, go for a long run in nature, or challenge yourself to that ass-kicking workout you've been putting off when things get busy. Or, pop in your favorite movie, crack open a new book, or find somewhere local that serves incredible tacos.
This is especially important for us fitness professionals... People highly underestimate just how exhausting it can be to be a personal trainer full-time. In the industry, anything around thirty hours of sessions is considered to be full-time. The time on your feet, the emotional weight of your clients leaning on you, and your own workouts could be crushing you. Your rest needs to involve time OFF of your feet. Sleep, watch a movie, or read a book. Just stop moving a little.
It doesn't matter so much "what" you do. It matters that you rest as hard as you work. If you want to sleep, then sleep. If you want to hike a local peak and spend your afternoon snacking on nuts at elevation, then do that. Just like exercise, adequate rest periods allow you to go harder, longer.
4. Set a Plan. Get Back to It.
You have to have a plan in place for when the fire gets burning inside of you again. There needs to be specific steps and actions in place for getting back on your proverbial horse and riding again.
You might want to carve out that to-do-list and even go a step further; highlight the specific things you are going to do when you break out of your funk. Set a specific date for them to be done so that you have a sense of urgency and a need to get back at it.
This doesn't mean you have to put unnecessary pressure on yourself to perform right here, right now (see the point about anxiety). Instead, it means that you need to make sure you are ready when the time comes that you are back-in-action.
Once you do get your feet back under you and you feel like you are performing your best, then enjoy the rush and do your best to remain somewhat balanced. Do your best to avoid the rush of doing a million things at once that is guaranteed to be followed by a crash.
Trust me on this last tip. I'm the master of doing everything and anything and then needing two or three days alone on my couch with nothing but a remote in my hand and take-out food on the table. It isn't a healthy cycle to be so manic and depressive with your work ethic. Don't be like me...be better than me.
When all is said and done. These are the actions that separate success from failure. It isn't staying up twenty-four hours a day, joining expensive masterminds, and discovering life hacks. It's much simpler than that.
It's embracing the cycle of your own psyche that will help set you a part. Really...
When you realize that there will be days that you are at your best - run with them and crush it. Be the best you can possible be. Yet, on those days where you just don't have "it"...roll with it, get some rest, and set a plan to fight another day.
You have to believe there will be another day.