don’t boil the ocean

Back when I worked for the technology behemoth I learned a ton of valuable lessons; those of the business variety and also those that can be applied to life in general. One area of “learning” I never expected to pull from however is the arsenal of buzz words and cliché adages that were regularly bandied about. I thought those were filed away forever in the part of my brain that also stores the Pythagorean theorem. i.e. the part I never, ever use. Like ever.

Well colour me surprised to hear myself using one of these catch-phrases over and over again during several health & lifestyle discussions I have had over the past few days.

The phrase in question:

Don’t boil the ocean.

I remember how much I detested the phrase when it was being thrown around at least once during every meeting for several months. I would literally wince each time someone said it. Then I’d wish there was a line-up of tequila-filled shot glasses so that I could pound one back each time someone uttered the phrase in question.

Sadly, tequila during business meetings was generally frowned upon.


So why would I keep bringing this phrase up in my personal life? Because it fits.

It’s completely apropos in terms of how I describe my own journey towards better health and wellness, and is a great way for me to provide coaching, guidance and advice to others who are looking to kick off a healthier lifestyle.

What does it mean?

Well, to me, it’s about taking small, realistic, sustainable steps towards the bigger goal. Simple as that.

When I decided to workout every single day of 2013, yes, that was a pretty big goal — but, it was one thing. Just one. Only one thing for me to remember to do, and prioritize on, every day.

I didn’t say, “I’m going to workout every day. And I’m going to eat clean. And I’m going to sleep 8 hours every night. And I’m going to drink 100 oz of water each day. And…And…And…”

That’s too much. My brain would start to fry in the way that your cell phone does when you drop it in a glass of water. Or the toilet. [Trust me, don’t do it.]

Instead of trying to do a million (albeit, great) things to improve my health and facilitate weight-loss, I chose to do one thing. Once that one thing became ingrained as a habit, I then started to incorporate other things, like making smarter food choices, drinking more water, etc.

Choose your one thing, and make that a no-brainer: the one thing you are committed to doing every day. Maybe it will be a decision to cut out one of your sugary sodas per day. Maybe it will be a decision to walk for an hour after dinner each night. Maybe it will be a commitment to eat breakfast each and every day. Whatever it is, start with that one life change. Make it a habit. Then build off that.

I spoke to a friend yesterday who told me that he and his wife (another dear friend) had been inspired by My Year of Sweat – and they just hit their 8th consecutive day of sweat! Awesome! I love it! He told me he also just embarked on a pretty tough diet. We talked about boiling the ocean. We also talked about the sense of deprivation that a strict diet can cause.

I firmly believe that when you push your body to its limits with tough daily workouts, you need to also reward it with healthy (but good, tasty and filling) food. Imagine your poor body givin’er every day at the gym, and then being slapped with a big bunch of kale as a reward. Don’t get me wrong; kale is wonderful — but woman cannot live on kale alone. At least this woman cannot. Not without causing bodily harm to others.

He acknowledged my concerns, but told me that he was just looking at a short-term “kick-start” to get things going. Okay, I can get behind that! You all know about my massive kick-start last November during my one-week stay at the Biggest Loser Resort. Working out 6+ hours a day for a week was definitely not sustainable (nor desirable), but it did give me a good jumping off point for a new approach to healthier living.

My advice:

  1. Put a start and end date on your kick-start — and make sure that even in the short-term it’s not so tough as to de-motivate you and throw you off your long-term goal.
  2. Pick that one thing you will commit to making part of your daily lifestyle. One thing that you will not veer from. Something that will become as second nature to you as breathing. And just do it. Every day.
  3. Add incremental lifestyle changes, one at a time, until they become second-nature/habits. Remember, studies show that it takes 66 days, on average, to form a habit. Be patient. Honour the process.

And finally, please, please, please remember the sage advice from the boardroom:

Don’t boil the ocean.

Get moving!

xoxo nancy

7 thoughts on “don’t boil the ocean

  1. Great advice! I usually take on 3-4 changes and then end up dropping some. As long as I can stick with ONE, I’m good 🙂

  2. I will not boil the ocean. 🙂 My kick start will begin next Monday. My life has been chaos for the past 3 months and I’m looking forward to get into a routine. I’ll be coming here for tips and inspiration (and sometimes maybe a stern talking to) going forward.

    • I just gave myself a kick in the ass last week with a kick-start of heavy lifting at the gym. It’s SO easy to fall into a rut and just be comfortable with the same old. I realized that outside of some killer hikes, I really haven’t been pushing myself for some time now. Speaking of which, I should hit the gym in a few.

      If you’re interested, I’m doing the StrongLifts 5×5 program. Google it – some good stuff there, including an app for the iPhone that takes the guesswork out of what weight to lift, etc.

      good luck with your reboot! feel free to come to me for some discipline when you need it.

  3. Pingback: 2014 in review, wordpress style | my year[s] of sweat!

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