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  • Adam Jones

Don't Mistake a Tree for a Forest

A few years ago, I began a fitness journey. Here's a picture of me when I started.

When I started my fitness journey, not only was I very overweight, but my mental and emotional state were very low. By learning about the science behind nutrition and exercise, I was able to follow a dietary and workout regimen that worked really well for me. In fact, in just a couple of years, I had gone from the picture above, to the one below.

And then, one day, I hit the dreaded plateau. So I did what I'd always read: "Stick with it and the plateau will break." Except, you know what?

It didn't.

The scale wouldn't budge.

It didn't go down. But, at least, I told myself, it wasn't going up either. Until 2020 hit and brought with it the dreaded quarantine fifteen!

So, in December I decided that it was time to do something new. I looked into the science again and worked out a new diet. And I started a new exercise program. After six weeks, you know how much weight I've lost? About three pounds. Theoretically, the diet I was on should have had me losing around 2 pounds a week, which would have put me at 12. According to the scale I was only at 25% of what I should be.

There's this old saying that sometimes people miss the forest for the trees. Sometimes we get so focused on one, singular aspect of our goal that we miss all the other ways in which we're making progress.

It would be easy to look at that number on the scale and view the fitness endeavor as a failure. And yet, that would be wrong. I've lost two inches off my waist. My clothes fit better. I have more energy. My mental clarity is more focused. If I allowed fitness to be relegated to a number on the scale, I would miss the beautiful complexity of being a whole, healthy individual. It's recognizing that complexity that allows me to realize that the scale will take care of itself if I continue to make progress in these other areas.

Many of our goals are complex. And often we focus on one aspect of that goal, rather than the web of factors that affect each other. We zoom in on one tree. And if that tree lags in its growth we can become discouraged and give in when we're actually experiencing success.

So, today, how can you zoom out? How can you notice and celebrate the progress you're making in areas you weren't looking at before? How can you learn to see the entire forest?

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