When I was in high school, I had a particularly proud English teacher. She was a tough one, stingy with her praise.
We once had an assignment that a few of us got back with that coveted ‘A’ at the top of the page.
After passing out our papers and listening to the sighs of relief, she stood at the front of the class and proceeded to deflate our budding teenage egos.
“The challenge” she said, her chin tilted up just enough so she could look down at us
“is not in getting the ‘A’. The challenge is in keeping the ‘A'”
I never forgot that.
Because she was right.
We go for the ‘A’ in a lot of things.
In our jobs, in our relationships, in learning new activites and in our goals.
When you’re going for the ‘A’, you’re focused and trying hard to put out your best work. Nothing else is on your mind.
Keeping that momentum can be a challenge because other priorities eventually creep in.
It’s not unlike when your weight starts to move down the scale.
When you’re first trying to make the scale move, you’re dedicated, focused, and calculating every step you take.
But once the scale starts to move, it’s tempting to take that effort and put it on autopilot.
I’ve done it a million times.
My thoughts are usually something like:
‘I’m losing weight – it won’t hurt to have a little more’
‘I’m working out really hard – I need a bit more food’
‘I can skip that workout – it won’t hurt’
‘…It’s not a big deal’
‘…It won’t affect me in the long run’
‘…I’ll make it up later’
And when I start to think like that, I feel a bit unsure, unclear and not so strong in my direction anymore.
That’s when the next paper slips to a B+.
The scale doesn’t move as fast.
That moment where you need to keep the ‘A’ is the tipping point.
It’s the moment where the difference between losing weight with willpower vs. losing weight with natural momentum really matters.
When you use willpower to make yourself eat healthy and lose weight, it’s a persistent, deliberate effort.
You’re constantly in ‘power mode’. Using all that energy on willpower gets harder as other priorities come up and your energy and focus is needed elsewhere.
You energy will get diverted to focusing on work after getting only 4 hours of sleep. It’s energy you will need when you’re running a ton or errands quickly before you have to get in the carpool line. This energy will be needed if you have a tough day at work, or with your partner.
And you won’t have access to your required willpower when you need to make yourself eat a salad when the drive thru is rolling out the welcome mat.
You simply can’t keep that ‘A’ when you rely on willpower.
When you use natural momentum in your weight loss, willpower is not in play.
Your focus is on curiosity and awareness instead of forcing yourself to act from a place of “this sucks! I don’t wanna have to do that!”
Becoming super aware of what you’re thinking means you’re constantly checking in with yourself with questions like:
‘What emotions am I feeling right now?’
‘Why am I eating this?’
‘Is this physical hunger I’m feeling?’
And that practice is much easier to sustain when other priorities take center stage. Because you’re not pushing yourself to power through anything, you’re just being aware and asking questions.
Questions that will help you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.
And that awareness is worth so much more than brute force.
That awareness is how you keep your ‘A’.
So I sincerely thank my English teacher, Mrs. Whatshername. There’s not much else I remember about that class, including my final grade (although something tells me I didn’t get an ‘A’).
But that one lesson was worth it all.
Because I’m just as focused on how to keep my ‘A’ as I am on getting there in the first place.
And, as shocking as it would be to my teenage self, I agree with her that it’s keeping the ‘A’ that means everything.