The Bouncing Theory: How to Get from Good to Great?

by @deanyeong | Sign up to weekly newsletter here

I started working out many years ago (around three years from this time of writing). As I take a closer look at my health and fitness journey, it seems that I’m always ruined my whole progress and achievements after few months of grinding in the gym and got back to my starting point. Then, I will go full throttle again to rebuild that, but I will certainly drop back to where I have started again after sometimes.

This is really frustrating.

Every single of us experienced this. While the time period may vary, most people have ups and downs in their life. We took a huge amount of action and consistency to reach a certain level of our goals in a few months or years. We saw every challenges and obstacle as the motivators that push us further during that period. And we never ever let any roadblock slows us down. We knew we’re in control.

That brought us to a new height that we desired for long, but not yet the ultimate success on our list. But then, things started to go wrong and move sideway. We lose control over those areas we care the most in our life. It seems impossible to reach another new height. Every obstacle in our way seems inevitable. We got really unmotivated and unproductive. Sometimes, we even got pissed with ourselves and thought about giving up.

We then dropped back to our starting point. Often, we got even worse than where we got started. Until the moment our situation was exceeding our lowest point of tolerance, we finally decided to make an effort in changing our situation again. That drive kept us moving forward but before you know it, we’re in another cycle.

Bouncing Between Good & Mediocre

Some of us tend to blame our results on something else – some sudden incidents, that irresponsible team member, or those tight constraints.

Rather than shifting the responsibilities onto something or someone else, I suggest we should take a close look at ourselves. Every outcome we have today is the result of our past actions. To understand the ups and downs cycle at a deeper level, we should look into what we are doing consistently on a daily basis.

While I’m always measuring my health and fitness progress based on my strength (how much weight I could lift), one of the metrics I care the most is my body fat percentage. It looks something like this in the past three years:

my body fat percentage

It frustrated me so much because it seems like I can never get over the ceiling and break through my plateaus. So I start to take a deeper look into my daily routines and habits. And what I found is changing the way I look at my training routine and overall fitness approach.

We Stop Doing What Works

The reason why most of us are bouncing between good and mediocre but never able to get from good to great is we tend to stop doing what is already working. Sounds dumb right?

When we see some progress and improvement, we think we should do something differently in order to get to the next level. It stops us from doing what’s already working. Besides, we tend to lose focus when we see some results and start to get distracted.

I believe this happen in many areas  of our life:

  • When we finally save up a certain amount of money for future retirement purpose, we start to get out of control over our spending and blow off a big portion of the savings, if not all.
  • When we (read: I) finally cut down 8% of body fat, we think we should start bulking up and lose control over our diet and gain another 10% of body fat again.
  • When we finally hit a revenue target for our business, we get too excited and didn’t put in the same effort to prepare for the next challenges in the coming quarter.

When we finally achieve our goals (usually short-term), we lose sight on the big picture and move away from our initial plan that pulls us back to our original starting point. Until the state that we sense the crisis again, we get back into hustle mode and the cycle goes on and on.

To break the bouncing cycle, try observing your daily actions in different phases of your life. How do you feel and what do you do when things went well? When things went wrong, observe your emotions and actions again.

Daily Habits Create The Baseline

Most of us want to get from good to great, but that’s not what most of us are doing. Our actions are the cause of our results and it leads us bouncing up and down between good and mediocre. Rather seeking for the next big shiny strategy to get us somewhere, we should start looking at our daily habits.

  • If you want to save for retirement, set up a budget and daily spending plan, then allocate monthly saving before you spend.
  • If you want to write a book, break the huge task – writing a book – down into daily habit of writing 1,000 words a day.
  • If you want to lose body fat and maintain it low, fix your diet and practice it daily.

From good to great

It’s what we do on a regular basis lead us from good to great. Even when we’re out of luck, the worst case we will experience is bouncing between good and great.

What Took You Here Won’t Take You There

Some people might argue that carry out the same routine day in day out doesn’t bring you anywhere. I have zero arguments about that. Most of the time, what take you here won’t take you there, but practicing a daily routine is what makes up our baseline. It’s only possible for you to create a breakthrough when your baseline is strong and solid.

Let’s put this into some other perspectives:

. . .

A full marathon is 42.195km. It’s a long distance to run non-stop for even the best marathoners out there, left alone for regular folks (like me). In much of the time, professional marathon athletes don’t train for 42.195km every single day. They may do a 12km training today, and another 16km tomorrow. When the actual race is near, they are well prepared. Without the baseline training, it’s not possible for them to complete the full marathon race at all.

How about business? While striving to hit a new sales target, close a big deal, and grab the huge project, every business will need to have their baseline solidly set up. The sales team has to be well trained and prepared to close a bigger deal, the operation team has to know their product or services well enough to run a bigger project, while the customer service team will need to be ready to handle a larger workload that comes along with the increase in revenue. Without all the solid nuts and bolts, a huge leap in growth may cause more harm than good to any organization.

. . .

Apply it to the individual level, the daily habits and routines are the critical parts since they are the foundation in every area of your life. It’s what gets you from mediocre to good. With a strong and solid baseline, you can now take a big swing occasionally to create breakthroughs.

  • After you have set up the baseline for your business, take a leap occasionally to close some bigger project.
  • After getting you diet right to maintain your fitness level, try a month of carb cycle diet pattern.
  • After writing one article every week for your blog, take your blog to the next level by launching a course.

If things didn’t go as well as you expected, you’re still safe since you have your baseline and foundation set up. In another hand, an occasional swing might create a breakthrough that brings you to the next level rather than bouncing within a range.

raise the standard

The big swing serves the purpose of raising your standard too.

Life is a Long Game

It’s difficult to justify what is mediocre, good or great. It varies from time to time, when a breakthrough is created, the bar is raised, the justification shifted. It’s a never ending process in life and in every area and aspect. The solution really is to think long-term, build the baseline with daily habits, raise the bar with an occasional (planned) big swing, and repeat the whole process again and again.

Never operate with the short-term mindset, because life is a long game.


  1. I was inspired to write this article after reading an email newsletter from Dan Martell, where he shares about what he called the Always On Principle to build daily habits in building his businesses.
  2. Even at this time, I’m still bouncing within a range in term of my body fat percentage, but the daily habits I’m practicing allow me to bouncing with a good range since I had shifted my standard of tolerance.
  3. Raising your standard is really one of the keys in achieving success in our life. I learned this from Tony Robbins, where he mentioned that we don’t usually achieve what we want, instead, we achieve what we tolerant.

The Monday Digest: Tips, techniques & critical thoughts to live a better life. Delivered every Monday.

You will get access to them before they even appear on Elite Daily, Inc., Thought Catalog, and many other publications.