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Transformation Requires Sacrifice and Other Uncomfortable Facts

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I was reflecting on something Lanny Bassham wrote in his book, With Winning in Mind. It’s something that I reference a lot, and definitely suggest giving it a read. When discussing selecting the right goal, Lanny says that you should pick something that you’re willing to trade your life for. He doesn’t mean that in the literal sense of dying for your goal. Rather, it’s a figurative statement about giving up the life you lead now for the attainment of that goal. If it’s not powerful enough, then you won’t do it.

In the last episode, we talked about the Martial Marksman mindset, I had an aside about homeostasis. The context was that driving change in your life means introducing some stress. That stress could be physical, mental, or something else. The point was that introducing sufficient stress signals to your mind and body that something must change in order to make the stress less impactful the next time.

While writing all of that post, I had a very long aside about how difficult this actually is. Eventually, I decided to break it off into its own article- which I’m sharing with you today.

I don’t want to undersell just how difficult it is to make this process happen. Part of it is that change happens slowly. You will not get the kind of improvements you want to see after just a handful of exposure to the right kind of stress. It takes hundreds, if not thousands, of exposures over time to make this happen. Eventually, and probably a lot sooner rather than later, pursuing this kind of change runs into the homeostasis problem.

The Homeostasis Problem

If you recall, homeostasis is the tendency towards stable equilibrium between interdependent elements. When it comes to driving change, you might think of this as a “status quo bias.” We tend to want to keep things as they are because it’s familiar and comfortable.

This all makes sense when you’re thinking about introducing stress by lifting a weight, or building a habit for dry practice.

But here’s where the problem comes in: usually, the “interdependent elements” part of the equation include more than yourself. Humans are social creatures, and we tend to surround ourselves with people “like us.” Your lifestyle, as it exists today, is probably organized in a way to best support the current status quo.

For example, let’s say you get back from a long day at work to have dinner with the family. After the kid(s) go to bed, you and your wife have a ritual of talking for a while then watching something on Netflix for a bit. After that, you scroll social media and trade a few posts, then go to bed. Both of you probably view this as “together time.” So what happens if you decide that you want to spend 30 minutes per day practicing rifle drills by yourself, and the only time available is when you would be watching Netflix together?

That’s the challenge. When you introduce stress to drive a change, you’re not just pushing against your own willpower. You’re pushing against your entire lifestyle and social circle, elements that have little to no reason to challenge the status quo.

If you aren’t aware of this problem, then it’s easy to abandon the new habit and any change you were hoping to develop out of it. It’s easy because everything else in your life is literally organized against you.

Working the Problem

Going back to the “together time” example. At first, you probably won’t think this is an issue. You feel good about doing something more productive with your time, and you start picking up little wins and showing progress against the clock. Not long later, though, your wife starts getting upset that you never spend time with her anymore. She misses hanging out with you and watching shows together. As a family man and husband, you [rightly] prioritize the marriage more than a faster time on whatever drill you were working- so you stop your new habit and go back to the old routine.

Think of more examples like this. Maybe it’s an after-work crowd who likes getting drinks and greasy food together. Your social circle and lifestyle accept a minor bump in the road. After a while, though, things change. Your efforts to change the status quo start making them uncomfortable. What starts at first as a few minor jokes about your healthy eating becomes complaints that your’e no fun anymore, or that you’re difficult to plan things with, or that you’re not a team player. 

Within your own life, you start to feel like you’re missing out on stuff like your favorite tv shows, meals, or other little activities that you didn’t think about much before- but suddenly feel their absence.

This is where it gets hard. This is the point where most people fail. They tried to push too far, too quickly, and weren’t prepared for the consequences.

As far as I’m concerned, there are two ways to deal with this problem.

The first is to commit to much smaller changes done gradually over time. For example, rather than scheduling 30 minutes per day of dry fire, why not commit to 10 minutes every other day? A lot of men try to commit to five gym workouts week, because they read it was the “ideal” way to do things. Why not scale back and commit to two sessions per week? In either case, the reduced frequency is easier to manage, and you’ll still get results because it’s still more sessions than you were doing before.

Committing to smaller goals works well because it racks up quick wins along the way. With every incremental step forward, you can look back at the trail of success you’ve already left behind you. It’s also less threatening to others, as they see it as a compromise with their comfort levels as well.

Commit to Sacrifice

The first path, and probably the easier one, is incremental transformation. The second is an all-in commitment regardless of the sacrifice.

Ultimately, incremental transformation gets you to the exact same place. It just does it with a speed limit. You see, the fundamental thing happening is that whatever the change is that you’re trying to implement, you are changing your identity. You are giving up the person you were for the sake of the person you will become. This is the sacrifice.

Sacrifice is hard. If it wasn’t then we wouldn’t have thousands of years of stories extolling the virtues of those who made tough sacrifices.

The whole point is changing your self-image to be that of someone who is and does the kinds of things that you want for yourself. Whether you do that quickly or slowly is up to you and how much discomfort you can tolerate in the process, but the sacrifice must happen regardless. Transformation is never comfortable or easy, but that’s the nature of the game.

But what about our friends and family who might become uncomfortable in the process? I don’t have an easy solution. The best thing you can do is try to get them on board and become your support team, if not joining you in the process as well. IN the worst case, it might mean losing friends or giving up on a goal for the sake of your family. There are no solutions, only trade offs.

Moving Forward

I didn’t plan to publish this in the first few weeks of 2024 when everyone is fresh onto their New Years Resolutions. I actually planned to post it a while ago, but hey…the timing works out anyway.

This topic came up because I was talking about mindset. The most important component of mindset for us, and the Martial Marksman specifically, is the concept of self-image. Who are you? What do you stand for? Is the person you are today representative of who you want to be?

If not, that’s fine. What are you doing to change that?

Remember, complex systems can only tolerate so much stress at once before they break down. Change, especially radical change, is a form of stress. Try to limit the amount of change you’re pushing into your life to just a few things at a time, and let the good things come to you in the process.

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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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Oldest First
Newest First

Good timing – good topic Matt! Working on a few things myself right now. As a single guy I seldom have to compromise my time between things – the trick has always been ‘prioritizing’. Older now with ‘some’ commitments to others I find the ‘small step’ approach works very well – especially when starting up (workouts, dry fire) again. I’d like to add that working with or joining a group with like minded goal(s) has great benefits in keeping one motivated and consistent. I never put more range time in ‘on my own’ than when I joined a shooting club… Read more »

Dr. Ryan Morris D.O.
Dr. Ryan Morris D.O.

All very true. I really think the mindset of someone willing to fight and sacrifice for their family is core to my perspective, and it seems to be yours. Perhaps that is why I enjoy Every Day Marksman. Still, the better I am, the more they benefit from it, so I must invest in myself. What I have found useful, as I have gotten older, is to really work on optimizing time better. You can work to make the sacrifice your down time, or your less productive time. I think it was Epictetus that said something to the effect of… Read more »

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