In Praise of Lowering Expectations

Fat biking in Fourmile. Photo: Scott Anderson

I have this problem where I unwittingly try to make everything I do more difficult for myself. This is evident even in my original Outside 365 Manifesto. In that manifesto, I created a well-defined rule for what it meant to get outside and be active. 

The more years that roll on, the more I become convinced that living life doesn’t have to consist of yearning for what you do not have and struggling to achieve it. Rather, living life well is more closely tied to doing the best that you can with the resources you have at your disposal.

Instead of setting my Outside 365 bar at one mile of walking, 30 minutes of biking, etc., I removed the bar entirely and simply said, “if I intentionally get outside and move, that is enough.” 

Early on in my challenge, many of my outside days didn’t even consist of taking the dog for a one-mile walk. It may have been eight tenths, a half a mile, or even on one or two days 0.4 miles—paltry in comparison to many other days where I’d spend hours in the saddle, covering dozens of miles of singletrack.

Along the way, here’s something I realized: even if I only walk a half a mile, that half a mile is infinitely better than nothing. There’s a common saying that “no matter how slow you’re going, you’re beating everyone on the couch.” Actually, I’d upgrade that statement to say you’re moving infinitely faster and infinitely further than the person on the couch. The rate of increase, of a half a mile compared to 0 miles, isn’t 50% of 1 mile or 100% of 0, no—it is infinitely better

Of course, that revelation isn’t groundbreaking or even original, but here’s the upshot: removing unnecessary rules, lowering my standards, and simply choosing to go outside and move my body has resulted in me actually succeeding in getting outside. While perhaps some days are still only 0.8 miles, others are 30 miles of mountain biking, two hours of paddleboarding, and so much more.

Sometimes if you lower your expectations, you end up accomplishing so much more than you’d ever have dreamed!

Outside day 143.