“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” – Legendary Basketball Coach, John Wooden
We’re all familiar with the expression, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. However, this isn’t very good advice if you keep repeating the same mistake over and over again without learning from it and changing your strategy. A good example is when people make New Year’s resolutions to try and improve their health by joining a gym, or going on the latest fad diet. This usually ends in frustration and being stuck in a “cycle of failure” because they view their health goal as a means to an end (e.g. to lose weight or to get buffed), and not relevant to their role in daily life. As a result, when our goals lack meaning or a “higher” purpose, they don’t consistently motivate us to be healthy and physically active throughout our lives.
One of the more common reasons for not being able to sustain a healthy lifestyle is having an all-or-nothing mindset (e.g. if I don’t see results soon, or if I can’t do it immediately “right”, it’s not worth doing at all). The idea of ultimately failing at our desired goals hurts our ego, which reduces motivation. If our fragile ego keeps derailing our goals, this gets in the way of learning from our failed attempts. To improve at most things in life (but I’ll stick to health), it first requires an interest or enjoyment in the process. If you’re trudging on a treadmill or eating nothing but salads to lose weight, you’re going to view it as an unpleasant chore and soon quit. You’re more likely to stick to a new physical activity if you enjoy it first, and then recognize the emotional health benefits such as increased energy, better mood and connection to others.
Making healthy lifestyle changes can be difficult, but if you can make it pleasurable, sociable, and meaningful you are far more likely to stick to the changes you have made, especially if you have the support of others. It’s important to derive meaning from your health goals to keep you steady with the practice while learning from your mistakes along the way. I know this feeling all too well while making a mid-life career change to become a health and fitness instructor.
The Bigger Picture: Separating the Goal from Yourself
It’s easier to pursue our goals, learn from our mistakes and accept feedback when we are committed to something that is bigger than ourselves. For most of my adult life, playing sports or engaging in recreational activities was ego driven towards competition and trying to get better, stronger and faster through training. It wasn’t until I was almost 50 that I realized I could turn my selfish athletic pursuits into a greater good by becoming a trainer and group fitness instructor. Yet I had to overcome failed attempts on certification exams and learning the skills of a strength and conditioning coach. I also lacked confidence in public speaking, which led to feelings of failure while conducting group fitness classes. However, I learned from my mistakes and gained confidence with experience. But what has inspired me the most was looking at the bigger picture: making a healthful impact on the lives of people in my community.
But what if you never enjoyed sports, or for that matter being physically active, because you lack coordination or don’t feel confident moving your body? After all, why do something you don’t enjoy when life is hard enough? However, if we take our health for granted and don’t consider how unhealthy behaviors might affect those we care about, we’re not seeing the bigger picture. If we can change our view of our health from an egocentric to an altruistic perspective, our health becomes more meaningful by being concerned for the well-being of others as well.
Remember, to live a healthier lifestyle you have to think of it as a journey, not a destination. Take small steps and if you have a setback, don’t get discouraged or be hard on yourself. Try to learn from your mistakes and keep on course with the bigger picture of your journey. When I have doubts about my own journey in life, I get inspired by coaching my Rock Steady Boxers who heroically fight each day against their Parkinson’s disease. They have taken on the attitude that when you get knocked down, you get back up and keep on fighting, not just for yourself, but for your loved ones as well. And they know the importance of having the support of a group, rather than going at it alone.
If you’re struggling to be more consistent with maintaining your health, your Be Resilient community and coaches can support and help guide you on your journey to lasting health and fitness.