My high school math teacher was quirky.
Actually, quirky doesn’t even begin to describe Mr. Solomon. He lived for the precision of Algebra and Trigonometry, pinched the bridge of his nose when we exasperated him (which was daily), and carried his love of precision over to our homework and class structure.
I once got a negative two on a test because not only did I do all of the problems wrong, but I also got the heading wrong. We were graded on our headings.
Mr. Solomon had any number of pet peeves about math and life, and among the highest on his list was the use of the word "just."
He taught his class by demonstrating whatever the hell you do in trigonometry (I barely passed), and then the next day, we came in as a class and put all of the problems on the board, and then took turns explaining how we solved those problems. We were required to use a pointer stick, because our fingers weren't precise enough.
One day, I took my turn with the pointer stick and tried to explain the problem on the board.
Me: “Then you just take the five and...”
Mr. Solomon. "You what????"
Me: "Um...you just take the five..."
Mr. Solomon. "You don't just do anything!!!"
He said it with flair and I was mortified, and then totally forgot what I was saying because I didn't really understand trig in the first place. What I've never forgotten, though, is the use of the word "just."
And if Mr. Solomon were still alive, he'd be shocked to know that the more I coach, the more I've come to agree with him on using the word "just."
Almost every day I have some version of the following conversation with a client.
Me: How can we be helpful with your nutrition goals?
Client: I know what I need to do. I just need to do a better job.
The word ends the conversation. “Thanks coach, but there’s nothing you can do, it’s all on me. I’m going to go home and struggle my way through another night of eating and hope for the best.”
No. No. No. No. And as a coach, I won’t let that slide anymore.
You heard it here first. If you tell me you just need to do a better job, I will not let that slide.
First of all, you’re going to take the word “just” out of the sentence.
"I need to do a better job."
Ok. With what, specifically? Choose just one behavior. Get specific.
"I will not have a snack tonight after dinner."
Let someone else help to hold you accountable. Did you have a snack last night after dinner? No? Great. Let’s build on that. Yes? Ok, let’s talk about that.
Whatever the goal and whatever the circumstance, let's find a way to work at it.
Because I don't just want to help you hit your goals.
I want to help you hit your goals. Period.