The ‘Lazy’ Approach That Keeps Me Motivated to Hit the Gym

“All or Nothing”, “Go Hard or Go Home”, “Don’t Stop When You’re Tired, Stop When You’re Done”. These are the kinds of quotes that I often see pop up on my Instagram feed in gritty typography against a backdrop of an oiled-up muscular bodybuilder, flexing intensely in a dark room dimly lit by downlights.

These quotes sound nice. If I’m already at the gym, reading something like this might get me to increase the incline on the treadmill, load up some extra weights on my bar or keep going past my set number of reps until failure. After all, nothing worth having comes easy, and feeling sore today means being strong tomorrow, right? (Why are there so many of these fitness adages stored in my brain??).

The ‘all or nothing’ approach isn’t just found in fitness discourse, I also see quotes like “hustle and grind 24/7, 365” and “give 110% all the time” thrown around in other contexts like business, career progression and even in relationships.

Again, it all sounds really nice. Who wouldn’t want to hire someone who is self-motivated enough to work 24/7, 365? Who wouldn’t love being in a relationship with someone who puts 110% effort in every single day, not just on Valentine’s Day and anniversaries?

The problem that I have with the ‘all-or-nothing’ approach is that, for me at least, it isn’t sustainable. There might be some people out there who really can show up to the gym every single day, complete their set workout and stick to a certain diet plan perfectly. I am not one of those people.

I’ve had a gym membership for over 5 years now and the longest I’ve ever been able to stick to my ‘ideal’ diet and exercise goals perfectly has been about 2 weeks.

Max.

I used to think that maybe if I set myself really ambitious goals, like hitting the gym 7 times a week for at least an hour, then at least if I missed a few days, I’d still be going quite a lot… right? I think the saying goes “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you’ll land among the stars.”

In practice though, if I missed one day of hitting the gym for whatever reason, my ‘all or nothing’ mindset would kick in and I’d think that there was no point in continuing since I had already failed. “I might as well eat pizza and brownies while watching Netflix shows for now and start again next week…” Or, if I only had 30 mins spare to exercise, rather than a full hour, I thought to myself, “what’s the point? I won’t even work up a sweat or have a chance to get my heart rate up.”

It’s the perfectionist’s fatal flaw- holding oneself to impossibly high standards, inevitably followed by failure, guilt, demotivation (and sometimes a whole tray of Tim-Tams in bed).

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Tim Tam Goals

Something Is Better Than Nothing

What I’ve found helpful in getting myself out of the “all-or-nothing” mindset, without giving up on my goals altogether, is a “something-is-better-than-nothing” mindset. Small, consistent actions towards fitness, career, business or relationship goals are much more effective than short-lived but intense spikes of activity followed by long periods of doing nothing.

By giving myself permission to go off track a little bit and not allowing myself to use it as an excuse to completely disregard my plans, I feel like I’ve been able to achieve more, increase confidence in myself and get more out of the journey as a whole. After all, hitting the gym 3 times per week for 45 minutes might not be as good as going every day, but it’s better than skipping out altogether (and feeling super guilty about it!)

Finally, in the spirit of including lots of tacky motivational quotes, I find it helpful to remember:

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

4 Lessons I Learned As An Intern

Internships, placement, work experience, slave labour. Whatever you call it, there’s no doubt that having real-life, often unpaid, industry experience under your belt before landing a paid position is the modern norm in most fields of work.

I’ve undertaken two internships at two very different companies. I jumped into the first internship with a fairly small company out of sheer curiosity- I felt that my university courses were not only heavy on theory but also that the content was simply outdated. I needed to learn about current practices, not so much about Gutenberg’s Press (although this is a topic which holds a very special place in my heart). After realising I could make internships count for credit, I took up the opportunity to do another internship with a slightly larger organisation which gave me experience in many different departments. 

Putting aside the legal and ethical concerns regarding unpaid internships in Australia, especially for those from regional and low SES contexts (see here and here), my own personal experience with internships is that they have been well worth the time and effort that I have been so lucky to have been able to invest.

The most valuable lessons I’ve learned apply across almost any industry from Media, to Finance to Engineering to Health. Here are my top 4:

  1. No One is Ever Really Done Learning

For those of us who are so over being The Student and can’t wait to finally graduate to being The Master, it may come as a little surprise that even the people who actually get paid to do what they do, don’t always have all the answers. While I was interning, I often felt like I was jumping into someone else’s learning journey. Sure, they’ve been in the game for years and years, but they too are constantly adapting and changing to suit the evolution of the industry.

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Always learning. via giphy.

In fact, it became clear over the course of my internships, that the individuals who invested more time and effort into learning and training, inside and outside of the scope of the workplace, were the ones that continually excelled and innovated. Understanding that gives me hope as a rookie in the workplace, because although skills and experience are super important, an open mind to learn new things is just as critical to professional success.

  1. (Most) People Want to Help You

Just like in almost any context, if you enter a workplace as an intern or a newbie, be warned that you may encounter some not-so-nice people. I’ve met people who had an inflated sense of ego and made me feel like I was wasting their precious time. People who used the fact that I was “just an intern” to get me to do their grunt work, or pay me less respect than they would anyone else. In my experience though, those people are few and far between, and their attitude was definitely more a reflection of them than it was of me.

Nasty people aside, I was truly amazed and humbled by how many people were so willing to take time out of their schedules to sit with me, explain to me what they do and how they do it, show me examples of past work and give me some truly valuable advice. That’s what interning is all about. What’s more, I felt like these industry experts became invested in my success, were generous with constructive criticism and feedback and super encouraging all-around. I think that many industry veterans could remember being in my shoes- a university student who has no idea about what they want to pursue after graduation and were happy for the opportunity to give something back.

  1. Students Do Have Something to Contribute

For the average “entry-level” role, job ads often have an impossibly long list of expectations outside of a tertiary qualification. Reading through the lists of skills and experience that I was expected to have before I even graduated made me feel like I was already so far behind. I thought I didn’t have anything useful to contribute to a business and I just simply wasn’t worth hiring. I used to shudder at sheer number of talented students in my cohort, not to mention all the other graduates from other universities, who surely had way more experience and achieved much better marks than I did.

Through interning, I slowly began to realise that, although they needed some work and development, I actually did already have useful and valuable skills to contribute. Just because I didn’t have the job title and the salary, that didn’t mean that my work was bad or that I was dumb. In fact, my unique “young, hip millennial” perspective and ability to use Google/YouTube to quickly learn new things served me in good stead over the course of my internships. Building that confidence in my abilities was a really invaluable lesson that interning taught me.

  1. Girls Really Do Run The (Corporate) World

I’ve had plenty of positive female role models growing up; my mum, my female relatives, teachers and family friends. Women who just roll up their sleeves and get things done. Women who put in the extra time needed to do things properly. Women who take the initiative and command respect in their own fields. The main difference was, my experience of women was usually in a personal context, not a professional one. Before interning, my work experience, from hospitality, to retail, to private tutoring, told me that leaders and bosses are generally men. Even though I knew that women were bosses too, I hadn’t really had too many chances to see it in practice.

During the course of both of my internships, I had the opportunity to meet, and work closely with, so many certified Boss Women. I’m talking Department Heads, Managing Directors, Senior Management and Chief Executives who brought to the table years of experience, insights, visions, strategies and skills. They could command respect and speak with authority. They had their own side hustles outside of work and were killing it. I learned that women in charge aren’t scary and they don’t have to be aggressive, competitive or masculine like what is so often perpetuated in political discourse. It might sound like a bit of a random lesson, but it’s one that was super important for me.

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Yaas girl. via giphy.

Now it’s your turn! Have you ever been an intern? Maybe you’ve taken one under your wing? Do you relate to any of the lessons I’ve shared above?