Follow the Recipe: Are You Being Patient Enough to See Results?

My buddy Drew is an excellent weightlifter. He has finished as high as 4th at the national championships, has worked directly with Olympians, and routinely delivers Olympic weightlifting seminars through his work at Columbus Weightlifting.

One day, Drew and I were in the gym when he told me about a group of athletes he was training.

The athletes wanted to get stronger and Drew designed a program to help them do that. When he checked back a few weeks later, however, Drew found out that very few of them had stuck to the program. Instead, most of them had returned to endurance training.

Now the athletes were frustrated because they still weren’t getting stronger.

Drew finished telling me the story by saying…

I looked at them and said, “When you want to cook something, do you follow the recipe?”

Of course you do.

If you want to bake a cake, then bake the damn cake. Don’t cook a chicken and yell at it for not being a fish.

You say you want to get stronger. Are you following a recipe that will get you there?

You say you want to lose weight. Are you following a recipe that will get you there?

You say you want to build a business or write a book or travel somewhere new. Are you following a recipe that will get you there?

Finish Something

Now, I’m not a fan of doing the same thing over and over again when it doesn’t work. (If it’s a bad recipe, why cook it twice?) But there is a big difference between a bad recipe and an unfinished recipe. The truth is, like the athletes in the story above, you and I often change course halfway through the recipe and never give ourselves the chance to see results.

Examples include…

  • Working out for a month and then trying something new because “this isn’t working for me.”
  • Jumping from project to project, half-finishing all of them, and completing none of them.
  • Mapping out a business idea, working on it for a week or two, and then putting it on the shelf because “things got busy.”

Switching your workout program after three weeks because you’re “not seeing results” is like mixing flour and eggs and then quitting because it doesn’t look like a cookie yet.

You have to be patient enough to finish the recipe if you want to see the results. Give your success time to cook. Follow the recipe and finish something.

38 Comments

  1. Pavel says:

    Again, Another superb post. James, I have got amazing results in my life from your blogs.

    Keep Going. Thanks a lot for such an nice post about achieving the goal by following recipes for success.

    • I agree, awesome post.

      So many of us give up on our goals way too easy … we know what is required to get us there however 2 days later we decide we don’t have time. One month later we’re frustrated but still have the same goal.

      It would probably help to write out the recipe for our goals and post it somewhere visible.

      Thanks James!

    • Alex says:

      Awesome recipe by James Clear!

  2. Jim Henson says:

    James, sometimes the results aren’t the results you’re looking for. Case in point: I’ve been on a 45 day juice fast. I’ve lost 35 pounds. Not too bad. I wanted to go for a lot longer, but my body said enough. I also had to remember that I’m 54, so my weight loss isn’t going to be as dramatic as someone in their 30′s. I wanted to lose 50. Sometimes the results need to be realistic and so I’ll be throwing another recipe for success in the mix.

    Like Pavel, you say the right things at the right time. I’m glad you’re here.

  3. El says:

    Fantastic post.

  4. Kasia says:

    Just what I needed on a day that I didn’t feel like working out. Thank you. :)

  5. Great article James! Using the recipe (formula or system) to get it completed is the perfect analogy for people in business, especially within the network marketing biz model. Your posts are always enlightening!

  6. Scott Perry says:

    James, I thoroughly enjoy your posts and have been taking them to heart. I’m a blogger, and have gotten back to blogging everyday and still love it, mostly because I like to share with my friends. I’m a notorious weightlifter for a month…and then dropping out when I get a little frustrated. Time to head back to the gym and lose the 50 lbs I started to lose 10 times before. Keep up the good blogging.

  7. Miroslav says:

    Why keep cooking when everything is already well-cooked?

    But I understand. Without cooking, life would be so boring. :-D

    James, you have beautiful blog. Keep cooking.

  8. Patrick says:

    It’s easy to follow a recipe when the results are as immediate as baking a cake or cooking supper.

    The recipe to a better body/life is actually not too difficult; just so damn long to accomplish that one can get lost very easily along the way.

    I’ve been receiving your posts for only a short time and I’d like to say thanks! They are inspiring and refreshing to read. I also keep forwarding them to my wife and friends!

  9. Michael Stapley says:

    Perfect timing with the post, James. Feeling highly unmotivated with the diet today and read this post, which reinvigorated me to follow the recipe. Thanks as always.

  10. Pam Scott says:

    “If you want to bake a cake, then bake the damn cake. Don’t cook a chicken and yell at it for not being a fish.”

    …PRICELESS!!!!

  11. Donna says:

    So applicable. I find myself not just abandoning the recipe but running to the fast food joint for instant gratification.

  12. Sarah says:

    I like the cooking metaphor. It seems my key problem, with cooking as with projects, is that I really don’t like waiting. Anything that has a longer waiting period in between drives me crazy and instead of doing something different in the meanwhile I sit in my metaphorical kitchen and stare at the oven, hoping my cookies will kindly speed up their baking process. Of course they don’t.

  13. Karl Nilsson says:

    The recipe is a great analogy. Patience and incremental gains are the keys to success in so many areas of life. Too bad so many people prefer gambling to saving, quick diets to lifestyle changes, pump and burn to incremental strength gains, etc.

  14. JRJ says:

    Good job. :)

    Thank you very much for these tips. It makes me stronger and courages me to concentrate and work more on my projects.

    Good luck.

  15. Tyler says:

    So taking steroids is like using the microwave…?

    As you explain in your book, each step of the recipe represents a ‘small win’. You have to first develop the identity of someone that works out consistently before you will see results. A cook, not a microwave user.

    Great post.

  16. Niel Malan says:

    I just want to say that sometimes it’s OK not to follow the recipe to the end. If the cost is to high, if you discover there’s an ingredient you don’t have or which you find you’re allergic to.

  17. Amanda says:

    Thanks, excellent idea. I need to stick to more projects in order to be more successful.

  18. Russ says:

    James, I’m new to your site, but I must say I look forward to what your going to write every Monday and Thursday. It has help me to stay motivated in my own workouts and the everyday battle of losing weight and staying fit. If you keep writing them, I’ll keep reading them.

  19. Peggy says:

    Did you hear my conversation with my workout buddy today?!? Your posts are so dead on target and — freakily — are typically exactly what I need.

    Thank you so much!!!

  20. Dušan says:

    Right to the point. Keep on motivating!

  21. Perfect imagery and it gets the point across so well. Great stuff as always, James!

    I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of switching lifting programs because I wasn’t seeing results after a month. This time around I’m restarting and doing StrongLifts from scratch, sticking with it for a long time. Keep it up!

  22. This is simply superb .. as usual James …

  23. Roberta says:

    Thank you James for an insightful post. Following a recipe is a wonderful analogy for the processes necessary to reach a goal. I have been guilty of having too many pots on the stove at once and not following through. You have given me food for thought.

  24. Virginia says:

    I am inclined not to finish projects because I start too many, but when it comes to my health I always follow thru. I’m now 76 and as fit as ever except for HBP, but trying a vegetarian diet for a full year to see if that change alone will do. I have only a few months left and I’ve been tempted to quit (add animal fats back into my diet) but I said I would do a full year, so I WILL. I have decided that the main problem is sexual repression and revisited an old friend last year. That made me realize I need a little more than diet, so I went online and will soon have a local man. I was delighted that my photos as Temporary Vegan inspired such response.

  25. Ramona says:

    James,

    This is my first time commenting. I have been reading your blogs for a few months now and they always seem to address an issue I am currently struggling with. I enjoy reading your blogs and they make sense to me.

    Thank you and keep up the good work!

  26. Will Yuanbo Liu says:

    I have been reading your blog for months. This is my first time posting. I just have to say great work! You’ve got insightful minds, buddy! It’s this kind of real life learning that makes people great. Keep it going!

    Will Yuanbo

  27. Nitin says:

    Great post and a beautiful real life analogy!

  28. Jolita says:

    Great blog and funny too.
    Well it has finally happened. With prayer and persistence (you are my task master) I finally have gotten a writing gig that pays! And not just one! Also, with fear and trembling I went gluten free to see if this body and mind can be wrestled into a harmonious, happy, diligence. Yes, hanging in there I cleared out all gluten and most other grains, got healthy substitutes, shed some weight and brightened my mind, mood and energy. I have been working out steadily. And, I have made some really great sales in my business.

    I really wanted to quit many times in this quest, it is hard to give up things you grow up with and old habits. It is sort of like moving to a foreign place and having very little that is familiar to eat or do. Everything changes. But I could do it all and persist through the down times by holding an image of how happy I would be once these efforts met real success, and that really worked. What’s funny is that I sort of turn around backward and look at the strategy and the path I took and I realize I also had sort of a parallel self that had been so fearful all along the way and I had to keep telling her to stop being so afraid. That worked too.

    Jolita

  29. Marcus Clinton says:

    I was teaching adults electronics. To overcome math weaknesses, I gave out a six step program on “how to solve any math problem”. They would do steps one and two, then jump to five and six. They would get the wrong answers all the time. People want results without doing the work. This is why success does not happen to everyone. What is the saying? “If it was easy, everyone would be successful.” You have to love the work. If you don’t have the patience to do the work, try meditation. It will help develop long-term focus and endurance to see yourself get through the work.

  30. SJ Scott says:

    James, like you, I absolutely loathe repeating things that do not work. A lot of my energy is focused on finding these things and eliminating them.

    This is a great reminder that although getting rid of the things that do not work it great, it is also important to make sure that the steps were followed properly.

    Half assing, or going your own way will not give you a solid indication.

  31. Dan says:

    First off big fan, I really enjoy your posts.

    This post didn’t quite do it for me. I mean not staying with something all the way through seems like a pretty straight forward concept. IMO the tough part is knowing when to stop, or knowing how to tweak your recipe. Would love to read a post that dives into those two concepts!

  32. Julia says:

    Wonderful. Just what I needed! Thank you very much for this!

  33. Nick says:

    James,

    I love this analogy and post. It got me thinking about how long it can take to find results and how quickly they can go away. If I may crudely expand on your analogy: It may take 1 hour to bake the perfect cookie, but only 5 minutes eat them all and have nothing left to show for your work. This is like following the perfect workout plan for 12 weeks and then going on a drinking and eating binge for the holidays. If this happens and you expect to make more cookies (results) appear just as quickly as they disappeared, you don’t have the right expectations and can get down on yourself easily. You have to go back through the process of following the recipe and being patient to get back to the results you want.

  34. Jim says:

    OUCH, but a very good ouch.

  35. Santosh says:

    Loved the line “If you want to bake a cake, then bake the damn cake. Don’t cook a chicken and yell at it for not being a fish.” I can relate this to my efforts to follow a trading system as I kept hopping from one to another with no results.

    Your posts are so insightful. Thanks so much.

  36. Chase says:

    I couldn’t resist commenting. Perfectly written!

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