Believe It!

Often times, the only difference between success and failure is having the belief that you can succeed.

When you don’t believe it, you encounter things that you cannot do and reasons to give up. But when you have faith in yourself and your capabilities, you come across stumbling blocks and obstacles that can slow you down but will not stop you.

A friend reminded me of that yesterday; and it holds true for all goals in life, whether they be fitness-related or not.

A Lesson Learned

I have said it before and I will say it again: It is not a workout, it is practice.

All movement is skilled, meaning that we acquired our ability to control what our bodies do. So every time you exercise, you have the opportunity to get better at that movement. Be aware of your body’s tendencies, and evaluate your performance.

Stability, strength, balance, speed, power, breathing, and endurance can all be focused on during your self-evaluation; your goal is to improve one or more. And whenever you improve, your body has learned a lesson in movement. If every picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a lesson worth?

Be Yourself

You learn a lot about other people’s goals when you take the time to ask.

One of the most common answers is to name someone famous. “I want to be big like Duane Johnson”, “I want to catch like Odell Beckham”, or “I want to swim like Katie Ledecky”. It can go even farther; “I want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg”. While those answers all convey the criteria by which people judge their performance, they also set up unreasonable expectations and unachievable goals; each of us is unique.

We learned to model ourselves on those around us when we were children, and even though we mature a great deal, many of us get stuck in the pattern of using a model to frame our goals and achievements. Yet it does not have to be this way.

When we create our visions of future success, we should strive to be ourselves throughout. Yes, this helps by giving us a real, achievable final outcome without the added baggage of whatever our model does or has been blessed with. But more importantly, it allows us to plan for the obstacles that are unique to our individual circumstances.

Get After It

You will spend months, if not years, working on the things you truly aspire to.

There is a time for preparation, when you plan and then methodically take the steps that get you closer; and then there is the time for action. But how do you know when?

It is easy to figure out when there is a deadline; a race day, a final day for entry submission, or even an accepted norm such as retirement at 65. Yet when there is no deadline, you can waffle on a launch date. There will always be another process that can be refined, another detail to attend to.

So for every goal that is important to you, take an honest look at where you are and get yourself an estimate for when you can move on it. Give yourself a deadline and go for it. It can be pushed back if life gets in the way. Someday might never come, but tomorrow is almost here. The only way to get after the future is to relate it to the present.

Watch Your Language

The words we use matter, in our thoughts as well as in our conversations with others. Because the mind is capable of processing at speeds much faster than our rate of speech, even our rate of internal dialogue; each word has connotations that can trigger reactions. These reactions often happen on a subconscious level, and have an impact on our mood and outlook.

Every language gives us a number of options to convey thoughts, and some are better than others. While we use many words interchangeably, our reaction to the words may be very different. A few examples: I want to vs. I have to, I can’t vs. I won’t, That looks difficult vs. That’s impossible

Though we have command of our choice of words, controlling the emotional reaction once we use those words is much harder. So when it comes to achieving the goals that you aspire to, the difference between success and failure may just be watching your language.

On Happiness

“I’ll be happy when..” I caught myself starting out a thought with that yesterday.

While it definitely relates to circumstances, remember that happiness is a state of mind. If you are not happy, changing one condition will not usually give you a lasting feeling of joy. More often, you will experience a fleeting, momentary sense of accomplishment that will get replaced when the next want comes around.

Try to separate emotional well-being from goal realization. Both are important throughout life, but making one dependent on the other can lead to a vicious roller coaster ride of emotional highs and lows.

Patiently Working

The hardest thing about making positive changes is having the patience to wait for results; which is not surprising when you consider that it takes weeks or possibly even months to see the change you want. While many important adaptations happen in your body during that period, these often do not feel like enough in a culture that celebrates instant gratification.

You can either:

Be more aware of the small changes. Test your progress and then re-test. Seeing numbers that are improving will help you to mentally fight against the feeling of being stuck.

Or:

Chart your improvement by paying more attention to the habitual change, as opposed to the physical change. Your body might not be changing at the rate you desire, but the more you work at it, the more your training routine is becoming a sustainable lifestyle.

The Measure Of Success

We all have goals that we are working toward. But how are we measuring them; and when?

Any journey can be broken down into a series of steps. The beauty is that you make the decision about how big of a step that you are trying to take. Since we often fizzle on goals that seem too tremendous to accomplish; would it not be better to frame big challenges as smaller, more manageable parts?

Take any long-term goal, especially one that you tend to put off, and break down the steps until you have a simple action that can be accomplished within two to four months. Now project what the follow-up action would be after you accomplish your kick-start task. Once you have these two steps, you are ready.

Invest the time in the next few months for your kick-start task. Do not think about the overarching goal, just go about the business of that first step. Once checked off, take a moment to celebrate the successful first step, and then jump right on to step two. Within the first few weeks, decide what the new follow-up step will be, so that when you finish step two you will already know the next month’s task.

To recap, measure success (and celebrate it!) in small and manageable segments. Plan the current task and it’s follow-up. Then focus on the process and get to it. Do not let something feel so big that you never give it a shot.

Strength From Weakness

We tend to enjoy the things that we feel that we are good at, and we tend to avoid what we do not enjoy.

When it comes to self-improvement, those tendencies are destructive – especially in the realm of fitness and health. Your body is not a set of independent parts. It is a complete unit, where every part is interdependent and impacts the function and ability of all of its structures. Avoidance is not the solution, it will only lead to larger issues that take even more time and effort to tackle.

Instead, commit to finding a few minutes each day to work on areas of weakness or that display dysfunctional movement patterns. Improvement and comfort within a routine will only come from regular practice, and removing the negative feelings associated with a practice is your first step to making a weakness into a strength.

Expect the Unexpected

Expectations often get us into trouble. We base them on hope more often than we base them on objective information.

Whenever we try something new, our only basis of comparison is to the expectation that we had going in. Just like going to a sequel that has been hyped up by previews, our expectations often leave us disappointed – even if the experience itself is pleasant. This becomes very important when we make decisions based upon a combination of expectations and very limited experience. Trying new things helps us to grow as individuals. When we do not give ourselves a chance to experience things with an open-mind, we lose an opportunity to fully embrace the lives we live.

It is very hard to keep an open mind in the information age, especially when a number of sources tell us what to expect. Try to balance these expectations with a healthy dose of skepticism. Either expect nothing, or keep in mind that your expectations are only possibilities. In other words, remember that your experience may be completely different from the forecast.