Skateboarding has evolved a ton over the years.
From crazy kids in 1950s California strapping rollerblades to a board, to the 1970s where they skated drained swimming pools, to now in 2020, where it was set to appear in the Olympics for the first time.
That screams the maxim we have at Improve: “Evolve or die”.
I feel the minimal chest hair I have sprouting.
It’s a stark choice you face in life too: either push your boundaries and evolve from Reader to Reader 2.0, or fall into a continuous loop of trying, failing, giving up and reverting back to your status quo.
The good news is if you’re brave enough to choose the evolutionary route, there’s a systematic journey to follow, and that’s what we’re discussing today.
Once you’ve finished reading and nodding your head reminiscing about all of your painful journeys, you’ll be able to attack your next challenge safely in the knowledge that not only do you know what the journey looks like, but you also have the confidence and belief in yourself to succeed.
The smart scientists and brainy behavioural change folks refer to the aforementioned systematic journey as The Change Curve, which you can see in the marvellous diagram below.
However, I think you’ll agree that ‘The Change Curve’ is simply not catchy enough and since I started rambling about skateboarding – we’ll nickname the journey The Evolution Halfpipe™.
(Oh, and in case you’re not cool enough for my skateboard school, a halfpipe is two ramps with a flat bottom between them.)
The Evolution Halfpipe™ has four stages:
1. The Drop:
You start the change journey with high hopes but you soon experience shock and denial as you descend quickly down the steep drop.
2. The Flop:
Once you start, it’s downhill fast. You will feel fear and feel totally out of your depth. A lot of people unsurprisingly give up here and jump for safety.
3. The Way Up:
You begin to accept your new reality and can create and implement a plan for moving upwards with the momentum you’ve gained.
4. The Top:
You make it up the other side and now you’re committed to your new reality and the new doors that will open.
You’re probably nodding your head already, and you’d also be correct in thinking I gave them the nicknames.
Let’s dive into what happens at each stage, the feelings that are usually associated and my guidance for what you can do to keep moving forward. The result will make the next halfpipe you tackle more like the orange one below, not the big blue bad boy.
So grab a pen, paper and your favourite skateboard and get ready to ‘drop in’, as the board-wielding youths with baggy t-shirts, long unkempt hair and a care-free attitude say.
The example we’ll use is joining a new gym.
I’ve helped hundreds upon hundreds of people through this journey (and it’s one of the few things I’m qualified to talk about).
However, any goal works, so whatever you want to achieve – write that down.
Stage 1: The Drop (Status Quo)
It takes courage to get out of your status quo and take action.
At first, it can be exciting, but it’s normal to feel overwhelmed.
The overwhelm usually kicks in, not only with the grandiose goal but with the additional adjustments to routine: waking up earlier or getting home later; childcare; extra driving to the gym, etc.
These are ‘hidden’ costs that we don’t usually think about when we join a gym, so get a head start and take a second to have a think and write these down.
Something that’s super important to know is that it’s normal to feel unsure of what you are doing and to compare yourself to other people.
Even Tony Hawk (y’know, the most famous skateboarder of all time) was once a newbie.
Therefore, in my experience, doing some research and/or finding someone who can help you on your journey will encourage you to stick around for longer.
Some research could also land you in a community of like-minded people who hold similar values to you. That’s a sure thing to help you to keep going back.
On the comparison point, and I hope you’re paying attention, Jordan Peterson succinctly writes:
“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today”.
Just walking through the door of the gym might be a personal best for you and that’s what matters.
So look for people whose values are aligned with yours and never compare yourself to them again.
How to master Stage 1:
The fundamental thing to know is that the feelings you are experiencing are normal and it takes time to adjust to your new environment.
The best thing I can recommend as a coach is for you to create a plan that focuses on the process of how you’ll achieve your goal, as opposed to solely on the goal itself.
(Having a goal is important too, check out Ross’ fantastic post if you’re stuck here.)
Make sure that it’s something you can stick to, at least for the short term, as adherence is the key to success.
When you first join the gym, your process could be as simple as:
- Group class: Monday & Friday at 7am, Wednesday at 5pm.
- Food: Create a food menu for Monday-Friday and stick to it.
- Booze: 1 bottle of wine per week.
This creates a checklist that gets you one step closer to your goal and will act as a reference point during Stage 2, which is nicknamed ‘the danger zone’, and no, it’s not a Top Gun reference.
Stage 2: The Flop (Disruption)
A lot of people fall off here.
Often due to not seeing results fast enough.
This can lead to frustration and questioning whether the path you are on (and maybe the gym/coach you’ve invested in) is right for you. Naturally, a byproduct of this is a dip in morale and self-esteem.
You’re human and you want results yesterday, but tangible results take time and patience.
This is a transitionary period where if you stick to your plan, you can ride the steep ramp downward. That will give you the momentum to reach the heights of the other side of The Evolution Halfpipe.
It’s the ones who stay on the halfpipe, avoiding the temptation to jump off back to their status quo, that get results.
How to master Stage 2:
I’ve laid out two questions below to troubleshoot your plan.
Grab your pen, paper and skateboard again and answer them.
What can I do to stay on track?
As we mentioned above, long term adherence is your key to success. Consider these three points – could any of them be beneficial?
- Time frame: There’s a reason we have a 30-day trial at Improve – having a fixed time frame gives you a chance to see if it’s the right fit and can act as a catalyst to hard graft.
- Pivot: After a set time, it’s worth pausing and reflecting to ask if you need a journey adjustment – little harder, little easier?
- Reward: Maybe it’s just me, but the promise of treating myself to something good if I tick all the boxes on my process-orientated plan gets me fired up.
What are the problems I’m facing?
Write down the problems you’re likely going to face (financial, time, motivation, etc), lay them bare and write how you’ll tackle them.
Simple, but powerful.
It’s vital to be honest here and indulge yourself with detail. Everyone’s got problems, right?
Stage 3: The Up (Exploration)
Congratulations, you have transitioned from the downward ‘Danger Zone’ and now the upward phase of the halfpipe is upon you.
This stage holds gradual acceptance of your circumstance.
As this acceptance grows, you see a clearer and clearer way forward. There’s still a journey ahead though, so be patient.
How to master Stage 3:
As a coach, I’ve said this phrase to clients more times than I’ve eaten out of Tupperware:
“It always takes longer and will be harder than you think”.
Let’s stop sniggering now.
But just because it’s a long and hard journey doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embark on it.
This is another big reason I’m an advocate of finding a community of people who are on a similar journey to you. The camaraderie and the shared highs and lows make the journey more achievable and enjoyable for everyone.
Plus, it’s always more fun doing it with others than it is alone.
I’m warning you with the sniggering.
Stage 4: The Top (Rebuilding)
Pop the champers, forget the calories for today and let’s celebrate!
At this stage, you reap the rewards of the journey. Whatever your reason was for joining the gym, it’s now your reality.
Maybe you walk down the aisle looking like a million bucks. Maybe you win the parents fun race for the first time (and launch your kid up to your shoulders to celebrate). Or maybe you fit into the pair of jeans you’ve loved for years.
No doubt there were periods of discomfort but riding the halfpipe to the end is what gives you the momentum to reach the heights you desire.
How to master Stage 4:
Your priority is to make success a habit and one of the best ways of doing this is to celebrate your successes.
Setting a goal, creating a process to reach it then completing it deserves some celebrating and makes the next goal more appealing.
However, I’d always advise keeping your skateboard nearby as there is always another halfpipe to be tackled.
Here’s a quick summary of the actionable points for each stage.
- Create a process orientated plan
- Troubleshoot the plan
- Keep calm and stick to the plan
- Enjoy your results and find the next halfpipe.
Each stage is fundamental, but there is always overlap and no clear transitionary points.
In an ideal world, you’ll create and follow a process-orientated plan that is easy to stick to and you actually enjoy. But there’s likely to be some hardship in there too.
As the saying goes, if it was easy, everyone would do it.
In my experience, the people who join our gym and come consistently are the ones who enjoy it and wholeheartedly embrace the journey they are on.
However, I think that’s relevant to any goal. Therefore, to give yourself the best chance of success, make consistency and enjoyment a priority.
Before we wrap up, in order to get the most out of this, you have to start.
You have to do something to get moving or you’ll stand forever on the edge of the halfpipe and never drop in.
For the final time, grab that pen and paper (and skateboard) you’ve used and write what you want to achieve and your process to get there. Troubleshoot it, ask the tough questions now.
If you need some guidance on your journey, look no further.