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Play the long game

Since it’s the beginning of the school year, I’m sure all of you noticed that the gym is packed and it’s a pain waiting for just about every machine. I’m sure you also know in about three weeks this won’t be a problem anymore.

It’s also pretty obvious why it is the case. There’s almost no work for the first couple of weeks, so everyone has extra time. Also, it’s a New Year’s Resolution. For people that didn’t exercise consistently the prior school year, they want to dedicate themselves to it this year, so they try to start off the semester strong. Then more work comes in and motivation fades, which lowers the number of people in the gym and restores the balance.

While these are the obvious reasons, there is one that goes under the radar: insufficient planning. Going from doing nothing to working out everyday is unsustainable. Instead of just going to the gym over and over as long as your motivation lasts, a better solution is to plan out a weekly schedule that is repeatable for the entire year. Know what your goals are, then determine a sustainable way to achieve them. While dedicating yourself fully to your goals sounds great on paper, easing into the process and creating a long-term path to success create better odds of success in my opinion.

The long-term approach applies to most goals you strive towards. Sustained success in areas like diet, sports or investing often requires a long-term outlook. Greg Doucette, a former bodybuilder and YouTube fitness coach, preaches choosing a diet that keeps you in shape but is also repeatable. This means eating foods you like that still get the job done. As a world record powerlifter and bodybuilder, diet literally makes or breaks his ability to perform well in his profession. Even then, besides the necessary cuts right before a competition, Doucette would not attempt crazy diet changes in-season or during the offseason. Instead, he would eat a similar volume with foods he liked with slower progressions to the heights he was working towards. This also allowed him to avoid the typical cycles of eating for bodybuilders with uncomfortably large amounts of food or so little food that it becomes difficult to get out of bed. 

Sports like football and cross country have perfect examples of how taking a longer outlook is the best way to have consistent results over the years. Tom Brady has used pliability to stay at the top of the NFL up until 45. Despite being the least athletic player on the field in every game he has ever played, his commitment to staying flexible and eating the right foods has allowed him to achieve unmatched longevity.

In cross country, longevity is more about performance during a race rather than the individual’s health. At the beginning of races, a few kids would come out with a jolt of adrenaline and sprint to take a huge lead. Those kids would never win. They were running at a pace they could not sustain and the runners behind them would take the lead with more left in the tank for the final stretch.

In investing, it works the same way. Going after meme stocks may yield a big gain out of luck, but picking an index with solid returns and low risk over time will give you the best chance at making money over time. Famous investors like Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger apply this approach to their work and life for sustained success and happiness.

While shooting for the fastest path to goals may seem like a high level of dedication, it often leaves people tired of the process and short of their intended goal over and over again. Motivation comes and goes, so creating a process with reasonable expectations that still leads to success over time is the safest way to accomplish goals. With that said, for school, health, fitness or whatever you are doing, I suggest you try a long-term approach and watch yourself progress slowly over time.

Mikey Colgan is a sophomore from Boston, Mass. majoring in Finance and ACMS. He can be reached at mcolgan2@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Mikey Colgan

Contact Mikey at mcolgan2@nd.edu

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