Just Do It! And Stop Psyching Yourself Out

Just Do It! And Stop Psyching Yourself Out

Have you ever psyched yourself out? By that I mean, have you ever thought about how to do something so much that you literally became stifled and could not do what needed to be done because you were thinking about it too much? I know that I have. And I was reminded about it once again this past weekend when I received a long e-mail from a man who was overly concerned about whether or not he was doing his “Atlas Push-Ups” exactly right, as presented in my book Pushing Yourself to Power. These were just some of his questions: “John, how far apart should the chairs be for maximum benefit? Should my shoulders be right over my hands? How many repetitions should I do in each set? How many sets should I do? How long should I wait between sets? How many days each week should I be doing them?” and on…and on…it went. The poor guy was psyching himself out so much that he wasn’t even doing the exercise.

In fact, as I read it, I thought back to something I remembered reading more than 32 years ago by Professor Laurence E. Morehouse in his book Maximum Performance (one of my favorites from 1977). I grabbed from my bookshelf and turned to the highlighted pages, where I read the following:

“Years ago when I was a fledgling professor at the University of Iowa, I taught a beginning swimming class that was part of the physical education program. One of the skills I thought each swimmer should have was the ability to swim to the center of the pool, turn around and swim back to the starting point. There is a certain technique to turning in the water when no solid construction, such as the edge of a pool, is involved; you scull the water with your hands in a specific way in order to rotate your body. Each semester I would run my students through the movements on dry land. Then they would enter the pool and attempt the maneuver in the water. The failure rate was astonishing. We would devote two full class periods to this effort—far more time than seemed necessary. Finally I decided to take a radical approach. When the time for this lesson arrived the following semester, I said, ‘I want you to swim to the center of the pool, turn around and swim back.’ To a man, they swam to the center of the pool, turned around and swam back.
“That episode permeated my pedagogical approach. I recognized immediately that the less you tell a student at the onset about specific motions of a physical movement, the better he’ll be able to execute it.”

Morehouse then went on to say,

“As a nation, we are almost invariably overcoached. We take lessons by the millions annually. Our teachers want us to feel that we have gotten our money’s worth. So they explain more than we need to know, and thereby cripple our performance.
“The next time you’re on a stairway, try descending the stairs while thinking consciously of how one foot is coming down after the other. But be sure to hold on to the banister. You may fall over if you don’t.
“That simple experiment illustrates one of the great impediments to maximum performance. As an anonymous poet once put it:

The centipede was happy, quite
Until the frog in fun
Said, pray, which leg comes after which?
This set his mind in such a pitch
He lay distracted in a ditch
Figuring how to run.”

The point is that sometimes you really need to “Just do it,” as the old Nike commercials used to say. By doing, you will learn. It gives you a starting point, and from there you can always make specific refinements that will be of greater benefit to you personally. But it all starts with “Just do it” and quit psyching yourself out.

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