Has anyone ever said that to you before? I have heard it more than once. Sometimes we can stand in the way of our own progress. We can get hyper-focused on something that we want and have so much emotion around it (and at times, unrealistic expectations about things outside of our control) and feel frustrated and defeated when things don’t go as we had anticipated. This often leads to feelings of failure and often times, quitting.
This topic can apply to a variety of areas in life including careers, health and fitness, performance, relationships, etc. I’ll share my own recent (borderline meathead) example and then I’ll share some thoughts to simplify and clarify the process to help you to get out of your own way, if you need it.
During the quarantine, I have been fortunate to be able to continue to train in my home gym. I have been working on building some volume with my back squat and bench press. As I competed in powerlifting the past couple of years, I struggled with keeping my emotions in check during my training. I often had an expectation in mind of where I “should be” based on what I had done in the past instead of just doing what I could do for the day. This expectation was not always realistic and drove me to make emotional decisions that did not move me toward my goal. These training decisions led me to push too much intensity that surpassed my ability to recover. My emotions (and the numbers in my head) got in the way of my own progress.
Over the past couple of months, I trained with consistency while not being emotional about the numbers and was probably a little more conservative with my weight increases. I have no meets on the calendar. The weight on the bar no longer seems so important. (The real question is the weight on the bar ever REALLY important, but that’s a topic for another day).
Do you know what happened when I stopped worrying about numbers? I got stronger and stayed healthier. It was way more enjoyable, much more sustainable and I hit some personal records for my current weight class. When I stopped obsessing about the outcome that I wanted and simply focused on the process of what I could do each day, I was able to progress. This is one small example. I could give more examples of how I get in my own way of progress, but I know you don’t have all day.
If you think you might be getting in the way of your own progress, here are some things that you can do:
- Set reasonable and realistic goals and understand WHY the goal is important to you. If it’s not important, why is it is a goal? What makes it so meaningful to you? Dig deep to really understand your true motivation into why this is something you should prioritize. Also, why is it important now? What’s good about changing and what’s good about staying the same?
- Come up with your plan! A goal is just a wish without a solid plan. Determine your point A. Where are you now and where do you want to go? What’s your experience level and what type of support do you need to close the gap? Please don’t throw darts and “hope” to get there. Develop a specific plan with actions that you’re ready to do now. Start small and build from there. Expect to do things differently if you want to have something different than you have today. Doing more of the same will most likely yield more of the same results. Your plan should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) and it should be as clear and as simple as possible. What steps and actions will your plan include?
- Measure your progress periodically. How will you measure your progress? What will you use as your metrics? How frequently will you evaluate your progress?
- Once you have a goal, a plan, and a way of measuring your progress in place, then focus on the process-oriented goals (the little action steps you can do each day) that you identify. What can you do today to drive you closer to your goal (the outcome)? Do that consistently. Repeat those process-oriented actions tomorrow and again the next day. You should have process-oriented goals that support the outcome that you want. Instead of being laser focused on the outcome, what happens if you get as focused on the tiny steps to get there and enjoy the little wins? Mentally, it’s a lot less stressful and easier and it’s way more sustainable.
- What happens if you have a day that doesn’t go well? Accept that it’s going to happen. We all have days that don’t go as planned. Sometimes, it might be multiple days in a row. Tomorrow is a new day so learn to let it go. Recognize your roadblocks and hurdles in your way and find ways to address them in your plan. We all get stuck at times. We all have areas in which we can improve. We all feel insecure at times. We all make mistakes. We are all human. Be kind to yourself.
- Periodically re-evaluate your progress. Have you moved closer to your goal? If so, acknowledge what is working and keep doing it! If you’re not moving closer to your goal, then recognize what’s not working and adjust the plan. Focus again on those process goals, follow the updated plan, and re-evaluate later. Keep doing this until you get there. Prioritize your mental and emotional well-being throughout this process. Recognize where your own self-talk may be limiting and holding you back. Find effective ways to reduce stress and unwind, regardless of the type of goal that you set.
When was the last time you did something important or achieved something that made you feel proud that didn’t involve some struggle? To progress, we have to learn. Learning involves getting uncomfortable and struggling and also FAILING. It’s not easy and that’s okay. Set your expectations accordingly.
If your goal is to improve your health, fitness, and/or performance, you may need education, guidance, support, coaching, and accountability. Know that there are no perfect workout plans or nutrition plans. You don’t need a perfect plan. You just need one that works for you. You also don’t need a perfect execution of the plan to get results. We are all individuals and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to health and fitness. The $70 billion diet industry in the US will try to sell you on quick fixes, magic potions, products, fancy supplements, and all the latest fads. Many people will throw their money away and grow even more frustrated. There are many approaches. None are magical but some are detrimental.
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