The Weekly Vlog

The Journey Toward One Pull-Up

May 01, 2024

Today I want to talk about my journey to be able to do one pull-up. This has been on my bucket list for a long time. It reminds me in some ways of the journey to lose and keep off excess weight. Here are five similarities I’ve noticed.

First, some context: When I was young, every year we had to do fitness tests—including one to hold yourself with your chin above a pull-up bar for as many seconds as you could. I was abysmal at this, at the bottom of my class. Now, I’m almost 50, and upper-body strength is still a challenge. 

The first Bright Line Eating principle that I’m reminded of is unstoppability. When we come into Bright Line Eating, we may struggle. When I started seriously trying to do a pull-up, shoulder impingements kicked in and I was in too much pain to keep training.

Then I got frozen shoulder, and that meant at least one more year without being able to train.

This year, however, my shoulder impingement was mostly gone AND my frozen shoulder was mostly gone. I was doing treatments for joint pain, too. I had to move unstoppably through challenges to get to a point where I could start to train toward a pull-up.

The second lesson is this: my book Rezoom talks about how to ride the waves in your journey. I mention something James Clear talks about in Atomic Habits: when trying to achieve something, most people focus on the goal. But what creates sustained behavior change is to think about your identity, not your goal, and then move on to focusing on the processes that will get you there.

My process was to get a good personal trainer and do what he told me to do. I realized that my identity as an exerciser needed to be: someone who strives for physical goals and who shows up for training consistently, with accountability and support

That brings me to the third similarity to a Bright Line journey: accountability and support. My friend Timo asked to join me in striving for pull-ups: his goal was to do 10, my goal was to do 1. Now we do a voice memo every Sunday night reviewing our week’s exercise progress. We decided we would strive to achieve our goals by my birthday, June 29.

I got to the point where I was close to doing a pull-up about three weeks ago. But I couldn’t quite do it—I got stuck at 90 degrees. That’s where the fourth BLE similarity comes in. Last Tuesday, before going on the pull-up bar, I paused and remembered WOOP. That’s an acronym from Gabriele Oettingen that stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan. It’s a way of thinking that has you visualize your plan to overcome your obstacles. 

I visualized myself bursting through that 90 degree stuck-point, and this is what happened: I made it! I did a pull-up! I was so proud!

The final Bright Line lesson is something I teach in Bright Line Mind. Achieving goals doesn’t make us happy. Was I happy when I did my pull-up? Sure, for a few days. But raising your baseline happiness requires you to be striving for a goal: the pursuit of something matters, not achieving the goal itself.

At first, I thought I’d make a new goal to do three pull-ups, or five. But then I realized that neither of those goals felt self-concordant (aligned with my Highest Self), so right now, I’m trying to become a lap swimmer, someone who can (and does!) swim for 30 minutes, three times each week, and that’s my goal. I also have a new goal to be able to do 20 full pull-ups.

When you look at your BL journey, know that reaching your goal weight isn’t going to make you happier in a lasting way. What will, though, is being someone who is striving for what matters—whatever that is for you. Maybe it’s making it through the Bright Roadmap and then doing it again to help others, or maximizing your peace and serenity in your Bright Body, or maybe you want to publish a book, or take up painting.

A bonus tip: A good goal is one that you have about a 50 percent chance of achieving. That helps you to feel accomplished when you do reach it, but it’s also okay if you don’t. 

My pull-up goal is one I had about a 50 percent chance of reaching. But I achieved it, it feels great, and I’ve moved on to other goals.

Click here to listen to this episode on Bright Line Living™ - The Official Bright Line Eating Podcast.

Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. is a New York Times bestselling author and an expert in the psychology and neuroscience of eating.  Susan is the Founder and CEO of Bright Line Eating®, a scientifically grounded program that teaches you a simple process for getting your brain on board so you can finally find freedom from food.

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