It's easy to begin the year with a set of noble goals, and find that as time goes on, life chokes out our best intentions, and we fall back into old patterns of behavior. This is why gyms are packed in January and nearly empty by September. It's why many people lose weight initially with a diet plan, but gain the weight back later when they just can't keep up with it anymore. That plan of attack just isn't sustainable. When our motivation doesn't go deep enough, we are apt to give up more easily. I don't know about you, but I'm in this for the long haul. This is my health, my life, I'm talking about, and I don't want to take that too lightly.
Of course, I don't want to take it too seriously either, and motivate myself to strive for my goals in unhealthy ways. Just as positive thoughts can push me to new heights, so can negative ones. But the outcome isn't the same. Telling myself I can succeed allows me to see my progress, encourage myself, build up my self-esteem, and focus on making positive choices. Highlighting past failures, comparing myself to others, creating strict and unrealistic boundaries, and not respecting appropriate limits causes me to begin spiraling into negativity, frustration, potential injury, and ultimately a loss of motivation when I think I'll never reach my goals.
I have been trying to decipher what my personal motivations for fitness and nutrition have been recently. I'll admit they're not all as pure as they could be. I definitely admire toned muscles and lean figures of fitness experts and aspire to that in some sense. But if that was my only motivator, I would find myself thinking negative thoughts when I fail to measure up, constantly comparing myself to others and falling short at every turn.
Instead, I am choosing to focus on a greater motivation: my well-being and health. I'm seeking to pursue things that ultimately will make me feel good, not in a hedonistic sense of pleasure-seeking, but in terms of a few different things. I ask myself:
- What choice will make me physically feel good later?
- What choice would I be proud of having made?
- What choice would I recommend to someone else in my position?
These questions, and the choices that I make when considering them, have propelled me toward higher aspirations. I've considered my limitations, both in terms of figuring out when and where I should stop short of my initial goal, and understanding when I still have more to give and can press past what I thought I could accomplish. It's truly encouraging when I realize I can lift a heavier amount of weight, run farther, or use more self-control to avoid foods that won't make me feel good. Growth is sometimes slow in coming, but it is coming.
I remind myself with each step that I'm making a choice about how I want to live my life, about who I want to be. It's not about the number on the scale or my jeans or about the number of squats I can do before my legs turn to Jell-O; it's about making healthier choices I can feel good about so that I can live a full life. Both have been proven to lower risk for disease, exercise can reduce stress, and I truly believe that life is better when I make good choices about fitness and nutrition.
Of course, I still sometimes don't challenge myself enough in my workouts and know I could give more effort. I still find myself caving and eating foods that I know I really shouldn't. But I'm making progress, and that's enough for me.