I’ve been thinking about something Tim Ferris said in The Four Hour Body, he talks about – when trying to lose weight – taking a picture of everything you eat. Which sounds like what people do anyway but he means everything. If you’re trying to lose weight and everybody knows it you’re going to feel really stupid taking a picture of a bag of M&Ms.
That kind of accountability I think works. It’s not social accountability because it’s not about others calling you out – no one’s going to say anything to you, no one’s going to shame you – but you’re going to feel it in your super ego so it works. It’s using the opinions of others to be accountable to yourself.
That’s how I feel about writing about work outs, it’s made me feel more accountable and got me more consistent because I have to put my money where my mouth is – or rather my body where my blog is.
And I really enjoy sharing the results of training but the key is actually sharing – not showing. I learned this when I got tattooed 5 years ago and it was the last time I posted a new tattoo photo. What happened was the photo went up, everybody saw it, and when I saw people in person and wanted to share the excitement they were like yeah, I saw that. It was really deflating. Sharing happens between (at least) two people. It’s a we-thing, an us-thing. It can’t be an I-thing, as in: I shared it and you later say I saw it. You want the feeling to be mutual; not experienced independently, you can’t independently share.
And sharing something is deeply rewarding. It’s different than showing off. Sharing is saying I think this is cool and I think you’ll think it’s cool too and then we’ll think it’s cool together and that’ll enhance the feeling of thinking it’s cool! Showing off is saying I think this can make you think I’m cool.
So I get a giddy little thrill flexing my bicep for people but it’s more like an excited kid showing you his new bike than an adult smugly showing you his new car. I share things one on one so I can read the mood and share my excitement if it’s okay. Posting on social media means you’re going to catch someone in the totally wrong mindset. They may be super positive when you just need to vent and they inundate you with hustleporn motivation memes til you want to slap them. Or… vice versa.
It’s important to measure progress but measure it on your own. If I were writing a song and I posted the first verse because I thought it was so good and it got a few likes I’d never end up finishing the song; I’d already cashed in for faster but lesser reward.
Instead wait til the song is done, be excited on your own that this is going to blow them away. And continuing the music metaphor: don’t be the person posting how great your song is going to be. Nothing worse than a super positive, fake-it-til-you-make-it culture, post about how this is your year and you’re going to lose all this weight and conquer all this shit because that’s a fast cash-in with no accountability. You’ll get the thumbs up and cheers but no one’s going to check in, no one’s going to even remember, all you did was add to the noise for a day.
Ultimately you gotta use your feelings-barometer and ask if something is bringing you joy. When I finished my first half-marathon I wanted to share the experience and how I felt but I was alone. Alone in a massive crowd. Everyone was there with someone, big groups laughing and hugging, and all of my friends were literally still asleep and mostly hungover. And I was glad I had my phone. I took a selfie with my medal (The first one ever on my instagram) and it soothed the feeling and logged the accomplishment in a timeless way. It didn’t bring me joy though. But later I got a text from one of my fitness buddies asking how the race went and even via text I was able to share how well it went and how excited I was and he was able to ping that excitement back to me and I felt joy. I felt that someone else was valuing the results of my effort and therefore I was free to value it too without feeling selfish.