While setting my goals for the next 90 days recently, I started thinking about the idea of structure and routines versus trusting your intuition/gut and going with the flow.
Let me explain…
One of my goals is to gain an extra 5kg of lean muscle. I don’t see this as a major challenge since I’ve been heavier than that before and have no desire to be any bigger than that right now. The only difference is that back then, I wasn’t living a vegan lifestyle.
And so, given the fact that I’ve experienced similar results previously, I did what all good goal-setters do and started exploring what worked in the past and what I can model again for this new goal.
When I was training at my peak and at my “fighting weight”, one of the things I did was track what I was eating, making sure I was consuming the right foods in the right quantities.
However, while I still avoid all junk (no sugar, dairy, gluten, alcohol, vegetable oil, processed foods, etc.), I’ve since stopped obsessing over getting the quantities perfect and instead focused on “intuitive eating” of good quality food.
So which one is better: Should you follow a structure or trust your intuition?
As I’ve joked about in a previous article, my wife thinks I’m a robot. My two top Gallup Strengths are discipline and consistency, two qualities that make sticking to habits, routines, and structures kinda easy for me.
And what I’ve seen again and again is that structure = freedom.
Ironically, by adding more structure to your life, you make sure that you have time for all the things that matter to you, rather than randomly wandering around and then wondering why you’re not where you want to be or don’t have enough time for everything.
However, I also realize that for a lot of people, following a routine feels a little stressful. They prefer to go with the flow.
But here’s the thing: everyone, whether they’re disciplined or not, is living according to a system.
Even someone who claims to always live in the moment or go with the flow is following some sort of system. Maybe their system includes never setting goals, never having a vision for their future, or never dedicating their life to something bigger than themselves. These are neither good nor bad qualities. They’re just part of a system.
And every system is perfect for the result it gets.
In other words, the way those people tend to do things is the reason they are where they are. And if they’re not happy with their results, it’s because they’ve designed and followed a system that creates those results. It doesn’t mean they’re wrong as people, it just means they need a new system.
So what’s the best approach?
Despite my seemingly biased arguments above, I suggest you do both.
I’m not talking about “balance is important”, “live a balanced life” or “everything in moderation”. These are just sexy things people say when they don’t want to admit they’re making excuses for not achieving their goals.
Instead, use habits, routines, and structure in the beginning to create a new system for yourself that generates the results you’re looking for.
Then, once this system has become your new normal, you can allow the power of momentum and habits to kick in and trust your intuition a little more.
You’ll still be going with the flow, but the flow will be in a new, specific direction.
As for me, I’ll be tracking my training and nutrition for the first few weeks, and once I’ve got a feel for what it all looks and feels like, I’ll switch to trusting my judgment that I’m still on the right track.
So use structure, but don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And go with the flow, but don’t let that be an excuse for not going after what you really want. Combine both and enjoy creating your new normal.
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