The Wave Crash Theory
Answer this for me:
How are your new year’s resolutions coming along?
Wait, better yet, do you even remember what your resolutions are? Can you recall what goals you set for yourself?
Going into our fourth and final week of January of this new year, chances are good that you’ve already given up on many of your goals and resolutions. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a few more weeks in you before the ball drops.
It’s unfortunate, but research suggests that only about 8% of people actually achieve their goals each year. Eight. Freakin’. Percent! And while that number might surprise you, it doesn’t change the fact that we struggle to achieve the goals and aspirations we set for ourselves every single time. We start strong, we put in a few weeks of effort, and then we fall off and never get back up. Over and over again.
Today I want to outline a simple theory for why I think this happens.
It’s called The Wave Crash Theory.
The Wave Crash Theory
The wave crash theory is a simple representation of the excitement we feel as we make new goals, embark on new journeys, and attempt to make positive changes and how that level of excitement changes over time.
The theory demonstrates that when you start something new, you are initially riding what is called a wave of excitement. A tidal wave of motivation.
Your excitement is through the roof. The idea and anticipation of getting started consumes your thoughts at all times. You’re anxious. You feel like you’re full of life. You’re essentially overdosing on positive vibes.
The wave makes you feel on top of the world.
But, as we know, every wave that goes up must, at some point in time, come back down. And while the rate at which the wave falls is different from person to person, the wave crash theory states that, for many, that wave comes crashing down rather quickly and unexpectedly.The rising and crashing of the wave mimics the levels of excitement and motivation that come and go throughout our journey, often leaving us with nothing but a pile of wasted effort to brush under the carpet.
You don’t have to look very hard to see the wave theory in action. It’s all around you, destroying dreams and ambitions.
New Year’s Resolutions are a great example of the wave crash theory. The scenario always plays out the same: we spend the end of December building up the wave and when January comes along we’re riding a tidal wave of excitement. Suddenly, a week or two or three go by and the wave that once stood high and mighty suddenly starts to crash down to nothing.
It happens every year. It’s no wonder only 8% of people who set new year’s resolutions achieve them.
But let me give you a more specific (and personal) example of the wave theory in action.
Back in March of 2013, I held my first jump rope challenge.
I had over 240 participants sign up for that challenge. You didn’t have to look far to see the excitement brewing. The comment section was buzzing and my email and social media feeds were blowing up. People were excited and they couldn’t wait to get started.
So what happened?
Well, take a look at the graph below. It shows the total (group) jump rope revolutions attained every day over the course of the 30 day challenge.You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to notice the pattern.
The number of revolutions dropped by more than 50% over the course of the 30 days. And if you were to look at the detailed tracker, you’d see that it wasn’t that the group was collectively doing fewer repetitions, but instead, more and more people dropped off as the days went on.
In fact, of the 240+ participants that signed up, only two dozen or so, roughly 10% of the group, ended up completing the challenge (which is interestingly close to the 8% new year resolution mentioned earlier).
The wave crashed and it crashed hard.
Why the Wave Crashes
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why the wave crashes. It differs from person to person: it crashes more quickly for some and more slowly for others.
Here are some reasons why I think the wave crashes more quickly for some:
- Lack of purpose: some waves crash faster because they were never meant to be up in the first place. Every goal and aspiration you set should be done so for the right reasons. There needs to be a deep-rooted purpose driving you towards your goal because without it your wave has no chance of getting back up when the seas get calm;
- Setting the wrong goals: this ties in to having a lack of purpose, but setting unrealistic or over-ambitious goals can leave you with premature overwhelm which can prevent the wave from ever rising;
- No support group: as I’ve discovered more deeply with every challenge I’ve held, there’s nothing more motivating than having a strong support group – people to keep you accountable – to guide you on your journey. It’s like having dozens of other waves crashing into you to hold you up.
A Unique Strategy to Mitigate the Crash
All waves rise and fall, but there are various things you can do to mitigate the crash and ride your wave of motivation to the finish line. The following strategy is one I’ve recently discovered during our 21 day kettlebell swing challenge.
With over 200+ participants signed up, I was curious to see if there was something I could do to mitigate the effects of the wave crash theory and prevent it from taking its natural course (like it did for the jump rope challenge).
About a week into the challenge, I started doing something a little bit different: I started sending out ‘special tasks’ to the group to in an effort to spice things up. These special tasks were still within the rules of the challenge, but they were enough of a change to inject a fresh dose of excitement into the group.
Emails started coming in again. One, in particular, caught my attention:
“I’m glad to receive this special challenge invite Srdjan! The reason: I took the past three days off b/c the swinging became monotonous to me. The excitement began to wane. I like this special challenge b/c adding the time factor adds a whole new element and anticipation to see how well I do!”
Fascinating results. Just a small change in the way we approached the goal was all it took to bring the wave back up for many of participants who were in full crash mode.
A dose of something different – no matter how small – is powerful enough to keep the tidal wave up and moving forward.
So how can you take advantage of this?
Simple. When you feel your motivation waning and your wave of excitement falling rather quickly, find a way to change things up. Try a different workout structure. Try training at a different time of day. Or train in a different location – change your scenery. Do whatever it takes to inject a fresh dose of excitement into your routine.
Note: next week, I’ll be sharing some simple strategies to freshen up your workouts.
Your Task: in the comment section below, share a time when you were a victim of the wave crash theory. How and why did it happen? Looking forward to reading your responses.