It’s easy and common to feel bad about falling short. Walking during a run, leaving the gym early, only reading a few sentences of a book you wanted to finish, or even getting off TikTok earlier than normal but still after an hour of use. There are so many times in life where things don’t go exactly as planned. Maybe we feel like we have fallen short. But, it’s important to realize that some is better than none.
Full credit for this idea comes form Nobel prize winning economist, Daniel Kahneman. He talks about it in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow (Amazon referral link). I’ve read this book about a month and a half ago. It inspired me to make the changes seen below in my mentality.
A New Mindset
Going for morning runs, eating healthy, and reading more are three of my key personal goals for the time being. But an important part of maintaining and developing these habits requires me to constantly remember: some is better than none.
When I first started running at 6 AM, I made it a goal just to get outside. Seriously, the entire goal was to put on my running shoes and walk out of my apartment to the sidewalk. That, to me, was better than staying in bed. I had no opportunity to improve my health by laying in bed. But, by stepping out of the door in running shoes, I was putting myself in a situation where I could succeed. I could walk back into bed, rejecting the opportunity to run, or I could take a step further.
Once I started taking a few steps further and further from my apartment, I began to run. I wanted to be fast, fit, healthy–desires I assume most people have. I knew that some is better than none, so if I walked the rest of the trip or turned around early, it was better than what my original lifestyle was–even though I didn’t meet my own expectations.
Each improvement is a huge win. No matter what you are working on, each time you take a small step in the right direction it is a fantastic thing. You have to take that tiny step to reach your destination. There’s no way to become a marathon runner without walking first. You can’t become an Amazon software engineer without struggling with how to use a FOR loop for the first time. Hundreds of moments where we do something instead of nothing are helping our lives become better.
Shin Splints – Dealing With A Substitute
After a few weeks of running 6x/week, I unfortunately started to develop shin pain. It was painful and unexpected. Plus, I knew that going for further runs without finding a way around this would result in more problems. Was my running habit going to the habit graveyard?
I’m planning to write another post about substitutes–alternatives for when things go unplanned, but this morning I biked instead of running.
It was very different. I had grown accustomed to my morning routine. While my goal was to run, I knew that going out and doing some sort of morning exercise would be fantastic for my wellbeing (and pretty close to my original goal).
I hopped on my bike and went eastwards to the Berkeley Marina.
It was mostly downhill. I biked vigorously for short bursts, but most of it was spent enjoying the view and letting gravity pull me to my destination.
I knew, however, that the challenging uphill ride back would be where most of my muscle gains happen. I was ready for it, excited for the workout, and then I saw the bus waiting for me right at the end of the Berkeley Marina.
Dealing With Self-Defeat
I looked at the bus, waiting patiently for the last rider to board. I knew that I either had a 4-5 mile bike ride up-hill, or a nice warm free (included in UC Berkeley tuition) bus ride back to my apartment. So, I hopped on the bus and immediately felt guilty.
Drats!! I had been planning to bike the way back to my apartment! Wasn’t the whole point of getting up early in the morning to be a strong healthy person? Taking this bus clearly is NOT helping me meet that goal!! Argh!!!
Self Defeat: An Assassin of Greatness
Self-defeat. We all know of it. Nobody in the world would ever say that to me, except maybe some online haters. I had just biked for roughly 30 minutes, all before 7 AM. That is a huge victory compared to where I was 6 months ago, sleeping until 10 AM and regularly using Instagram/YouTube/Reddit until 2 AM, like millions of other Americans my age.
And plus, some is better than none. I got up early, I went for a bike ride, it’s ok to take the bus. It’s not that big of a deal, as the only person upset was myself at my own expectations. That’s why it’s called self-defeat, because we do it to ourselves.
As silly as this story might sound, it’s relevant to billions of people around the world. How often do we skip out on eating a slice of chocolate cake only to have a little ice cream later? Don’t feel guilty about it! Instead, be proud and satisfied that you were able to avoid the chocolate cake because that built a little bit of willpower. If you ate less ice cream than chocolate cake, then you have succeeded because some is better than none (in this case, some healthy choices are better than none at all).
Don’t Let “Falling Short” Stop You
It’s so easy to set some large goal and then not do it due to fear of failure.
- Planning to run every morning and then giving up because you missed a week
- Planning to brush teeth at night and giving up because you missed a few days
- Planning to diet and then giving up because you took a bite of pizza and “may as well finish it”
- Planning to use the internet less but giving up because “I only cut out 10 minutes”
- Planning to go to the gym, but giving up because “working out is too hard”
- Planning to spend less money, but giving up because “I wasn’t saving enough”
All of these are failures to realize that some is better than none. Running every morning and then missing a week does NOT make you a failure! Walking instead of running also is still beneficial. Brushing your teeth once a week is better than once every other, even though it is well short of 2x/day. Taking a bite of pizza when on a diet is better than eating the whole pizza. Cutting out 10 minutes of internet usage, if done daily for a year, would save 3.8 days per year† (including 8 hour sleep). That’s way better than none! Going to the gym and then going home is better than not going to the gym at all. Spending a dollar less, when trying to save, is better than not saving anything. That’s the miracle of compounding in action.
Some Is Better Than None
The only thing worse than doing something is doing nothing. The only thing that can convince you otherwise is self-defeat. Whenever you find yourself making an excuse for something, try to remember that some is better than none. Also, watch out for comparison, it’s another road block to your success. Taken together, you will soon find yourself doing more than you ever thought was possible!
†10 minutes per day is 3650 minutes per year (10 * 365 days). Divide by 60 minutes per hour, 3650 minutes per year becomes 60.83 hours per year. With 16 waking hours per day (24 hours a day minus 8 hours a day for sleep), you can divide 60.83 hours per year by 16 hours per day to get 3.8 days per year. It really does add up!
I just went out for lunch to celebrate my last day of an internship. I’ve been struggling with leftovers, constantly over-eating whenever there is food in front of me–particularly at restaurants. So, there I was eating a mountain of pad see-ew, feeling full. I knew that I would just get more full and feel worse if I kept eating, but there wasn’t much left. Not enough for a reasonably-sized leftover. But, some is better than none! So I boxed up my little remaining portion and felt better about myself, and felt better in my stomach.