What is Optimal?
I think the search for the best way to do things is a fruitful one, but lately I have been feeling like we're missing the boat as coaches. "Optimal" is not perfect, nor should it be represented as such.
Optimal by definition is: "most desirable or satisfactory." (Merriam-Webster)
When we discuss what is optimal in training or nutrition, or even life, the discussion seems to be shifting towards what is perfect, or what is the best case scenario. In many (most) instances, this is literally impossible to execute. So to say that "optimal" is to eat 6 meals a day, evenly space your macros etc. to someone who works as a nurse on split shifts, you're essentially telling them that it's impossible for them to be optimal. Which means that they will be sub-optimal, not good enough and won't be successful.
My goodness, why would that person even try? Or even worse, why would they even begin to believe that success is even possible?
We are setting them up for failure...
I see this as a massive misstep as coaches. Our number one priority should be to improve self-efficacy. This means that we should aim to stack small wins and aim to improve the confidence of the individual as it relates to their competence - to make them feel like they are capable!
When we conflate the term optimal with perfect, we literally do the opposite of this.
So, I propose a massive shift... or better yet, a more accurate depiction of optimal. What is the best you can do, with what you have where you're at.
Optimal is not perfect. Optimal is REALISTIC!
We need to start meeting people where they're at and help them to find ways to adhere, stack wins and see progress. We need to help people develop consistency over time.
That is what's optimal!
We can be better and we must be better. Lest we risk losing people before they even start.
Paul Oneid MS MS CSCS
Founder and Lead Educator, Coaches Corner University