Imagine that two neighbors decide that they each want to build identical houses on their properties. They call a contractor to come and advise them, and as the contractor begins to explain the process of building the houses, one of the friends interrupts. “Oh no, I don’t want you to use nails on my house,” he says.
The contractor is confused. “You don’t want any nails?”
“No,” the man answers. “Nails are a pain. I don’t like them. I know other people who have built houses without nails, so I am going to skip that part.”
“Are you sure?” the contractor asks. “Nails are one of my most valuable tools. Every house that I have built that has been satisfactory to my customers has included nails. Without them, you may not be happy with your house.”
“I am sure,” says the man. “I don’t want to deal with nails, and I will not have them.”
The contractor begins the process of building the houses for the two neighbors, and soon the man who wanted his house built without nails notices that his neighbor is already moving in.
“Hey,” he says indignantly. “Why isn’t my house done yet? We started building on the same day. We have the same kind of house. But you’re moving in and I am still waiting for my house to be done. What gives?”
The neighbor pauses. “Yes, we did start on the same day, but you decided you didn’t want to use nails. That’s a fine choice, but it’s going to take a lot longer for your house to be done. I used all of the tools that were available, so my house is done and I can move in now.” And he went inside and sat in his favorite chair and enjoyed his new house.
In my work as a health coach, I often hear another version of this story. Many people have a weight loss goal, but as we begin to discuss the various tools and processes that go into weight loss, some of them stop me and say, “no, I don’t want to do that part.”
It may be reducing empty calories from alcohol or soda, or paying attention to calories and logging them in a food journal, or eating smaller portions. Those things are a pain, and no fun, and they’ve heard about other people who have lost weight without doing those things, so they want to skip it.
And that’s fine. You can certainly achieve a weight loss goal without doing the things that other people rely on for success. But soon, frustration sets in when their progress is slower than they expected. Sometimes, friends who decided to use all of the tools available to them reach their weight loss goals faster and maintain them longer, like when the man saw his neighbor moving into a new house even though they started building on the same day.
We all have tools sitting around us, waiting to be used in pursuit of our goals. They usually exist because others before us have discovered that they work really well. If you’re struggling to make progress while others sail past you, it may be because they are using tools that you’ve shrugged off.
That’s OK. The tools are always there, and it’s always a good time to reach into the toolbox and pick up a nail.