One of the longest home runs I ever hit occurred when my team did not need me to hit a home run.
Ahead by two runs in the later innings of an important Legion playoff baseball game with runners on second and third and possessing pitchers not nearly as accomplished as our hitters, my team just needed me to make contact, hit the ball past the drawn-in infield, and tack on at least one insurance run. I thought I was right on a first-pitch fastball, but fouled it off. On the second pitch, I got fooled by a curve.
"Just put the fat part of the bat on the ball and get the ball past the infield," I told myself. After offering me two more curves out of the strike zone (I was known as a dead fastball hitter), I knew I'd get a strike to hit, but unlike most Legion pitchers, this one could throw just about any pitch for a strike. Back in junior high, for instance, this pitcher struck me out on a 3-2 knuckleball yes, a 3-2 knuckleball from a ninth-grade pitcher.
So I didn't look for a fastball. I simply looked for the baseball and tried to hit it. And did I ever hit it. The field didn't have a fence, so I had to run out the home run, but the play wasn't close. The second baseman who had run 100 feet or so into the outfield for the relay still had the ball in hand when I jogged across the plate.
My coach asked, "How did you know to look for a change-up?"
I said, "Did I hit a change-up?"
So why regurgitate such a long-gone glory? It's what came to mind as soon as I settled on the topic for today's column: the often overlooked reason for success in matters of health and fitness and in all facets of life, really.
So often we create success when we focus less on creating success and more on following a process.
I decided to write about process after thinking about the dozens upon dozens of times people have asked for advice. While my dietary advice, for example, often will include elements unique to the individual, it always includes instructions on how to manipulate what's called the insulin/glucagon axis. The degree to which you secrete these hormones determines whether potential energy is stored as body fat or body fat is used for energy. If you eat in a way that minimizes insulin secretion and maximizes glucagon secretion, you lose body fat.
So why do some dietary advice seekers meet with startling success, yet others encounter the opposite when the key component to all the advice I offer is always the same?
More often than not, those who successfully lose weight meaning take it off and keep it off learn to find pleasure in the process.
We generally do not think about dieting as a pleasurable process and for good reason. It's a restriction of one of the great joys in life: eating.
But there are other ways to get great joy from life. Oliver Wendell Holmes, for instance, believes that "the greatest thing in the world is not so much where we are, but the direction in which we are moving." So if you do this restriction of food intelligently, and see results after a week or so, your new "right" direction and should provide pleasure.
Another pleasurable element to focusing on the process instead of the end result is accumulation of knowledge that leads to another true pleasure: control.
Think about how you relinquish control when you mindlessly follow a fad diet. Although it works immediately because it reduces your caloric consumption dramatically sometimes by two-thirds and at least by a half you can't exist on half of what you're accustomed to eating forever. And when you go back to eating your normal amount of food, you actually gain additional fat because some of the weight loss from the fad diet resulted from your body catabolizing muscle mass for energy.
Now you're heavier and even more frustrated than before because you feel as if you have no control over your body weight. But if you get fully engaged in the process, read about the factors that create weight loss and weight gain, and then apply that knowledge, you become focused on that as much as the desired outcome.
To some degree the pressure lessens. To some degree, your knowledge increases. And you definitely feel a greater sense of control.
If all this occurs, success ensues simply as a by-product.
So if you've been having trouble meeting with success in any element of health and fitness or in any area of life for that matter it may be time to reassess. Your single-minded pursuit of success may be blinding you from recognizing that most success is merely a by-product of gaining knowledge and joy from a process.