Never Live Like You’re Behind

6544322857_95e94e7d74_z

“Coach K.” of Duke University (Photo by SportsAngle)

Is there an area in which you feel like you’re “behind” where you should be?

Do you feel behind in friends, money, respect, free time, happiness, productivity, fitness, health, organization, relationships, or success in general? If an area comes to mind, think about it as you read through this post.

Duke Was Behind, and Then This Happened

Duke University’s basketball team was losing by 22 points in their Final Four basketball game against Maryland in 2001. During a timeout, coach Mike Krzyzewski told them, “You’re losing by so much, you can’t play any worse. So what are you worried about, losing by 40?”

Duke came back and won the game by 11 points.

If we assume their comeback was successfully prompted by their coach’s comments, what would the lesson be?

Don’t play as if you’re behind. 

Coach K. likely saw that his team started playing differently when they fell behind, and his comments changed that. But why would anyone—a basketball player or someone in regular life—act differently when they fall behind? The answer to that question betrays the problem with “playing from behind.”

Most people think falling behind is a special circumstance that requires a different-than-usual response. They’re wrong.

In basketball and in life, the fundamentals of success don’t change when you fall behind.

This isn’t to say we should deny the reality of our situations, it’s to suggest that we strategically choose our reaction when we are behind. Being behind and acting as if you’re behind are two different things. Duke likely won that game because they started playing as if the game were tied. This allowed them to relax, stop panicking, and play basketball the way they typically did (the way which typically won them games).

When you feel like you’re behind, “regular work” won’t seem to suffice, but don’t be deceived, because it is the key to your turnaround! The fundamentals always work, and “special plans” to “catch up” often fail. Here are some examples of how playing (or living) from behind can put us further in the hole.

Examples of “Living From Behind”

Weight loss attempts. Many people think that to lose weight, they must go above and beyond what everyone else does, so they adopt extreme diets and restrictions that nobody else has. Big mistake. There are actually biological problems with this approach that I cover in Mini Habits for Weight Loss, and that’s on top of the psychological issues that come from “playing from behind.” With these factors in mind, it’s not surprising that dieting is one of the best ways to gain weight long term.

Working on a project. I’ve been writing Mini Habits for Weight Loss for more than a year and it still isn’t finished (currently targeting Nov 2016 release). In this time, my least productive days came when I felt like I was behind. I’d feel behind when thinking about the research I needed to do, the topics I needed to cover, or the impossibility of meeting my rosy-eyed target release date. This didn’t change the fundamentals of productivity that have allowed me to write books and blog posts in the past, it only removed my focus from them. The techniques I used successfully before seemed like they weren’t enough because I felt so far behind, so I didn’t use them, and my productivity suffered.

Happiness. Nothing will make you sadder than always feeling like you’re behind. Some people always feel this way regardless of their circumstances, success, and progress. It sucks of the joy out of life because it makes you constantly focus on the endless list of what you still need to do. It prevents you from enjoying moments and celebrating your progress. It prevents you from being present.

Instead of Living From Behind, Do This

What if, instead of living from behind, you lived as if the score was 0-0 in every aspect of your life, and even one point would put you ahead? This idea removes all hesitation to move forward.

When you’re down by 22 points, metaphorically speaking, you may overthink your options trying to figure out how to score 22 points in one play (impossible). You’ll question yourself and your actions and wonder if they’re good enough instead of just doing them and moving ahead

Instead of living from behind, let’s live as if any and every move forward puts us ahead. This is factually true, because every move forward puts you ahead of where you just were. And the true measure of success is not how you measure up to an arbitrary goal that you or society has set, it’s how you measure up to who you were the very moment before this one. If you’re any amount smarter, wiser, faster, stronger, better or further along than you were last minute, you’re succeeding!

The fundamentals of what makes a basketball team successful don’t change just because they’re down by 20 points. In the same way, the fundamentals of successful living and progress don’t change just because you’re overweight, overwhelmed, in debt, or behind on a project. 

The fundamentals of successful living? Frequently use small steps to move forward and create momentum, be consistent in key areas to build good habits that will compound, and value forward progress in any amount. If you can focus on those regardless of the circumstances, results, peaks, and valleys in your life, you will continuously improve your life and get wins.

If you are way behind, take comfort in the fact that it doesn’t matter, because your way forward remains the same.

About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.