Incremental Change: Using the 2.5 lb plates. REPOST by Emily Corso

Here's a great post written by Bold and Badass owner Emily Corso. ENJOY!


When facing a struggle, people commonly drag out the aphorism that “Rome wasn't built in a day.” 

It's frustrating to imagine taking on a giant project all at once. Many people fail even to get out of the gate because the race seems just too long. 

So we often take this expression to mean that we should curb our expectations, let ourselves off the hook when our projects don’t spring to life fully-formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus. But don’t fail to catch the subtle up-swing here: Rome may not have been completed in a day, but each day for hundreds of years new buildings and roads sprang up. 

I want to share a simple idea today for how to tackle goals so HUGE that they seem almost impossible.

Along the way, I’ll give a handful of examples of how this concept can be implemented. Once you've decided to start a project, the rest boils down to just this:

Break your monumental ambition down into small, manageable parts. When possible, group parts by their likeness so that you can move through them faster. If you get stuck, chop it up into even smaller increments until you get your second wind for the project. 

Let’s break that down, shall we?

Part One: Parcel your goal into manageable chunks.

I gnawed my nails to the quick for nearly 25 years. They were stubby and unprofessional. My cuticles bled. Friends, classmates, and co-workers would note I was always nibbling at my fingers.

It was gross. It was painful. It was embarrassing. Worst of all, I felt like I couldn't stop.

Oh, I tried. I tried in the way that every one of us has tried to do something like correct our posture: I stopped nipping at them very easily for about 5 minutes every time someone would point it out. I resisted the urge to bite right up until I stopped concentrating on resisting, then fell immediately back into my bad habit.

Then, a few months ago, I managed to stop altogether with this little trick: I “protected” just one nail and allowed myself to continue guiltily biting the others. Then I gave one more nail this “protected status” every few days to a week until I no longer had the urge to bite any of them. Once they were grown a bit, they got stronger! I still have to keep them fairly short for training, but at least now they look semi-professional. Success.

Ceasing to bite my nails altogether? Very difficult. Ceasing to harass just one nail at a time? Much more manageable.

Part Two: Make strategic divisions

Consider this: would it be faster to clean out your email inbox by going through and deleting one email at a time, or to go and delete or archive large chunks sorted by some relevant detail? 

Certainly it would be faster to rid yourself of obsolete emails if you consider them by date (those older than a few months to a few years), subject (updates from the previous presidential campaign, unnecessary airfare deals, Facebook notifications), or sender (nonprofits soliciting money, a former employer, or your ex-spouse, perhaps).

Another arena in which it pays dividends to be strategic is in paying off debt. If like me, you have multiple large loans (thanks, liberal arts college!) you could choose to make the minimum payments on each and when you have a little extra money, make slightly larger payments on all.

But, if you consider putting all of that extra cash into paying down your highest interest debt first, you will save money in the long run—even if the highest interest loans represent a larger piece of your overall debt than the smaller, lower-interest loans. Because a significant portion of each payment on these goes to interest, when you pay them off and see how much farther your money goes with the others, you will get your second wind.

As we’ve seen, “strategy” can take a number of forms, so feel free to be creative in your groupings, as long as the categories are coherent enough to allow you to legitimately address multiple elements at once and keep moving forward.

Part Three: Break through roadblocks by using even smaller increments, rather than giving up.

Let’s talk about the weight room now. It used to be that when I was putting weight plates on a barbell to set up for a lift, I rarely gave a second look to that stack of 2.5lb plates. I had relegated them to the land of tiny pink dumbbells and elliptical machines… I thought they were below me.

When trying to find the max amount of weight I could lift in a given movement, I’d start with the bar and a few plates and go up in increments of 10lbs per side, and then as it got harder 7.5lbs, and then finally 5lbs. No, I wouldn’t touch those 2.5lb plates, I thought to myself, I was going to muscle through it. 

And I did. The problem is that I often cheated myself by doing things this way. 

One day I was having a mini-competition with a friend. After a few warm-ups, both my friend and I were both able to power clean/push press up to 105lbs and my friend did the same. I tried adding those last two 5lb plates and failed to put some air between the steel bar and myself. 

I had to go to the 2.5s or stop altogether.

This wasn’t about anything physical. I had to break a much heavier mental barrier to keep myself from stalling out and short-changing the experience.

When you’re coming up on something that seems insurmountable, step back and give yourself permission to just take on one tiny increment at a time; maybe even a slightly smaller piece than seems useful. Just as long as you keep going, you will get to a point where you can tackle larger chunks again, I promise. You will get going again.

One final piece of advice: You can’t only use the 2.5lb plates.

If you push yourself to persevere through the harder moments, I guarantee that eventually, those “2.5lb plates” in your life will start to feel pretty light.

Rome started as a hilltop claimed by two lost boys and a wolf pack and then grew until it gained momentum and expanded out over trade routes into what seemed to be a limitless empire stretching into Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. 

Get through the hard part and when your forces have regrouped, like Rome, you’ll be unstoppable.