If you want to set yourself up for success, you need to know your limits – both upper and lower limits. You need to know how good you can be at your best, but you also need to know how bad you can be at your worst. In my opinion, the latter is more important.
People ask me all the time how I can be so relaxed all the time, especially when it comes to lifting heavy stuff. It’s simple. I know exactly how bad I can be. I know what I can do on my worst day. Best days are fickle. We’ve all had days where it feels like the stars are aligned and you’re capable of things you didn’t think were even possibilities. Then, the next day you wake up and it’s back to the grind. I don’t see any point in basing you progress and success on those mountain top moments that come out of the blue and then may elude you for quite some time.
Bad days happen all the time. You don’t have to worry about whether one of them will find you in the coming weeks or months. It will. You can bet on it. And that’s what makes it a perfect baseline. And you know what? When your worst-case-scenario numbers are moving up, you’re getting better. Lots of weightlifters refer to this as a daily minimum, and it was crucial for me when I was on a Bulgarian-inspired program. Not every day will be a PR day, but when you’re grinding away for months at a time, show up and the gym and your legs feel dead, your hips hurt, the bar feels like it’s cutting into you more than normal, and you walk away grinding out a weight that’s 50 pound under your best, only to realize that it was your PR a matter of months ago… that’s what builds confidence. That’s what tells you you can bring it no matter what. You don’t have to wait for a mountain top moment to attack the bar, to attack life. You can do it right now, because you know the worst case scenario, and it’s not that bad. It’s not your best, but it’s enough.
This tip isn’t just for lifting. It’s for everything you do in life. Why would you be apprehensive about something unless you were afraid it would go poorly? Before making decisions and taking action, always be cognizant of the realistic worst case scenario. If it’s not too bad, you can take action confidently. If it’s an unacceptable risk, don’t take it. Then, no matter what you do and what situations you’re in, you can act with confidence because you know nothing unrealistically bad can come of it.
This also helps you plan for a rainy day. By knowing what you can still do when you’re at your worst, you can become much more productive. For example, when I have everything together and my thoughts are clear, I write the programs for my programming clients, I write article I plan to submit to other websites, or I tackle an in-depth blog post I’ve been putting off for a good day – basically I address the things I need to be at the top of my game for. On a so-so day, I usually tackle homework, my reading list (at any given point in time, I’ll have at least a half dozen articles pulled up I plan on reading, at at least 2 books I’m working my way through), and other stuff that I need to focus on, but that don’t necessarily require intense higher-order thinking. On my worst days, I can still knock out training posts, make lists of articles I want to write, videos I need to make, and work on general networking. There’s always something I can do. I don’t need to bang my head against a wall on a bad day working on something I put a lot of detail and attention into like writing article-quality stuff or personalizing programs. I know how I am at my worst, and I know I can still press forward in a positive direction.
This concept is also similar to my preference for hitting PRs on days you don’t feel great. They mean more because you know you’re probably capable of replicating the effort the next time you’re in the gym, instead of putting up a number you may not approach again for a matter of weeks or months on your best day.
Anyways, I’ll wrap this up. It’s been much more ramble-y than I intended, but I hope the concept has made it through. When you plan based on your best, you’re always nervous because you’re afraid you may not perform at the highest level you’re capable, and when things don’t go your way, it throws you off. When you’re always aware of your worst and the realistic worst case scenario, you can attack life with confidence because you know that any losses will be small and success is likely even with a huge margin for error.