Part 3 of 3 - Immeasurable Success
I’m going to bring this series to a close by addressing a few specific points – points that have nothing to do with the foods you eat or the exercises you perform. These all have to do with what’s going on inside your head.
Let’s begin with the touchiest of subjects:
Explanations vs. Excuses
Depression. Stress. Injury. Pregnancy. Time. Money. Any one of these can serve as an explanation as to why you don’t have time to train, or can’t afford to eat healthily.
Being depressed or stressed begets the need to seek out comfort. High-pressure gym memberships and rice cakes don’t exactly fall into that category.
It’s difficult to find the strength for
physical exertion when you’re tired,
or just in a foul mood, even when
you know that exercise can produce
all those happy endorphins that
tend to remedy such moods.
I’ve seen both second and firsthand how much work is involved creating and raising a child, especially when those adorable bundles of joy mature into monsterhood. Balancing a job with parenting, whether you have one child or a litter, is enough to sap the energy out of even the most devoted fitness nut.
Anything involving exercise...comes with a price, and the more elaborate the program, the higher that price. Then there is the cost of health food, which is so outlandish that it borders on the offensive. I won’t launch into a tangential tirade, but the fact that organic juice is astronomically more expensive than soda is a great example as to the kind of things that are contributing to our country’s obesity epidemic.
But here’s the thing. And it’s one of the more controversial points I’ll make. It’s the one with which everyone personally connects and over which they get most defensive.
All of these are explanations, not excuses.
Before you get worked up, let me throw myself on the fire here. I hate to run. I absolutely hate it. Running has never held any interest for me because I am too easily distracted and prone to boredom during repetitive activity. I respect those who can run, and run well. Those of you who marathon, I salute you. But that’s not me. I used to say that the only way you’d catch me running, is if I’d stolen something. I would joke that the whole reason I studied martial arts in the first place, was so I could stop running, that it was called “fight or flight” for a reason.
These are excuses. Plain and simple.
I can find the time, don’t need to spend money,
and can manage to work it into my schedule
at some point.
So my only real excuse is that I don’t enjoy it.
However, I’ll do you a solid here and save you the cliffhanger - this story doesn’t end with me finding a way to convince myself that running would be good for me. I know it would, but I hate it. So instead, I focus on the benefits that come from running, and find ways to augment my training regimen so as to achieve those same results.
And that’s the whole point, to find ways of enjoying what you do, because your time is precious and you work enough at work without having to work when you’re not working at work. It’s what you and I have in common, above all else - no matter how different our goals might be or where we stand on our own respective health and fitness scales, we share the same desire to feel our best and enjoy our lives. You can’t do that if you’re always working and judging yourself.
You also don’t need someone else telling you when you’re making excuses, but you absolutely need to be asking yourself if that’s what you’re doing. You need to decide when taking time off is something you need or something you’re just in the habit of doing. It’s easy to stay in a routine and harder to climb out of a hole you’ve dug for yourself. Just be sure to ask yourself how long you plan on staying down in that hole and what life can be like for you once you make it up and out.
Temporary Success vs. Permanent Success
This is a very simple concept but one I urge everyone to consider carefully.
Fitness shouldn’t be a struggle. A challenge, yes, but not a struggle. I have already had a number of people contact me since my first two articles, sharing with me their own methods and letting me know that something I disputed “worked for them.”
To this point, I urge caution.
We all have our methods. But….if the method is so successful, why are you back there again? Why are you now traveling the same road to success you have already traveled.
Did it truly lead you where you want to go?
Or are you just running laps around
the same circle over and over again.
When you focus on a short term solution like weight loss, you may achieve short term success. The pounds might come off, the belt may tighten, but the focus is misguided.
It’s easy to put back on weight you took off and it’s even easier to get complacent after you achieved goals that were reached in this way. If you’re the type of person who has always struggled, who has gained weight, lost it, and gained it again, the issue is unlikely due to diet or exercise.
It’s harder to keep going back to square one. The ebb and flow of dieting and binging, of ambition and otiosity, means that you’re always working harder to get to where you want to be and you almost never stay there. When you focus on your state of mind, your self-image, the progression is long-term but the success is too. And more to the point, it takes so much of the pressure off and puts self-confidence and pride in its place.
The Beauty of the Individual
Judgement is everywhere. I’ve heard countless times throughout my life about how cruel kids can be. They tease whoever is different, ostracize the social pariahs, experiment with ways they can make themselves feel better about their own shortcomings by projecting their inadequacies onto others. Yup, kids are cruel. But you know what? Adults are worse. Much worse.
The public voice hits us from every direction with opinions about how we should look. The standard by which this forces us to measure ourselves nearly always does us a disservice. And those cruel little kids have now grown into crueler adults who hiss about us over the water cooler and who have found new, inventive ways of cutting others down.
It’s this fat-shaming that makes people retreat into their shells. It’s this attitude that has spawned terms like “dad bods” and “plus-size models.”
Yes, the longer we’re on this rock, the harder it can be to love ourselves in the face of what the rest of the world thinks.
The first lesson I teach my students is often the last lesson learned - it doesn’t matter what other people think of you. Conceptually, that’s easy to understand, but it’s a hard thing to make a reality. Most of the time we want to look better because of the way others look at us. We want to be in better shape to keep up with those around us. We want to triumph in our endeavors because of the way we are treated when we do. But when you approach anything in your life with this mindset, you are deciding to base your successes on the approval of others and opening yourself up to the ubiquitous negativity that is sadly inherent in our species.
There is nothing innately special
about me. Whenever I train a group
of students, there is usually always
someone there who is stronger than me,
another who is faster than me, some who
are smarter, some who are skinnier,
some who are more naturally gifted than me.
But if there is any one character trait that defines me, that most contributes to my success, it is the belief I have in myself, the confidence I’ve developed over a long career of staring angrily into the mirror before I found the strength and love within.
Every great success story is identical at its core. Every time you hear about an athlete with a physical disability who did the unthinkable, every time you hear about someone who was written off as unqualified or incapable, but who one day rose to greatness, you’re hearing the same story. Only the details vary. The “who” and “what” and “where” and “when” are what makes each story new, but each are united in their “whys” and “hows.” The “why” is because the desire to achieve their dreams overpowered the doubt and criticism the world threw at them. The “how” can be explained with a lot of other unimportant details, but every one of those details are born of the same idea – these individuals believed that they deserve to achieve their dreams and that they were capable of doing so. This state of mind is all the “how” a person ever needs.
So that’s that. Still with me?
I admit that not every point I have made will apply to everyone. Some people love to work out. Some people are happy to diet. But one of the most important things I’ve learned from nearly twenty years of teaching people to unlock their true potential is this - when you teach 1,000 students, you need to find 1,000 ways to teach the same lesson.
If even 1 of 1,000 people found a sense of inspiration from this article, I will consider it a complete success. And so, I’m off to go work on the other 999….
If there is only one takeaway to be had from this article series, it is this - your goal can’t be to look a certain way, it needs to be to feel a certain way. You and I, and everyone else, are connected by a desire to be the happiest versions of ourselves that we can be.
And no matter the size, shape, weight or age we are at this precise moment, the decision to love ourselves is a challenge we all face and a thing we must achieve.
Ignore the clock, neglect the scale, look beyond the mirror. Monitor your joy, not your weight. Calculate your confidence, not your body fat composition. Don’t worry about the size of your waist, worry about the size of your smile.
And when you come face to face with the ever-present negativity that’s out there, don’t forget - nobody can tell you who you are or what you are worth. Those answers are yours to discover for yourself. After all, the journey isn’t over until the destination, and none of us have reached that yet…
For those of you who have read this article series in its entirety, I am truly grateful. I hope the time you have invested has returned some new insight or motivation. In gratitude, I will make you a single promise...
if you train your mind to acknowledge your self-worth and find the beauty within, you will conquer any goal you set. And whatever the size or shape of the person staring back at you from the mirror, you can be certain that they will be smiling at you every time.
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If you missed Part 1 of this feature, you can find it HERE.
If you missed Part 2 of this feature, you can find it HERE.