“I’ll pursue my dreams once I’ve reached my weight loss/fitness goals, or when I’m less busy, or when I have friends to support me.”
“Once I’m skinnier/fitter/prettier, THEN I’ll be happy."
Do any of these beliefs sound familiar? They’re all things I’ve told myself at different points in my life. And as someone who's been terribly successful at losing weight, believe me, it does not work this way! I was sure if I could just be skinnier, I would suddenly be confident, social, productive, and happy. But what really happened was I looked at myself and just found more flaws to fix. My arms were now too skinny, my skin wasn’t clear enough, my clothes weren’t nice enough, and I avoided socializing and risk taking even more than before.
There are two problems I can see here. One is that I never felt like I was good enough. The other is that I was making excuses to put off what was really important in my life. For now, I want to talk about this second problem.
Feeling good about yourself and feeling accomplished has much more to do with what you DO in life than with what you look like - the work you do, the skills you learn, the adventures and experiences you have. As a personal trainer, it’s part of my job to help people identify their health and fitness goals, and even if these goals are based on performance instead of appearance, I still don’t think they should become the main focus of your life. Health and fitness should be a stepping stone to achieving bigger goals, not an end in itself. Think about it: at the end of your life, are you going to be happier that you hiked that really tall mountain and made amazing friends, or that you had visible abs? What fitness is best for is giving you the energy to pursue your career, the stamina to explore and travel the world, the confidence to meet new people, maybe the strength and agility to do a back flip (my goal!)….and the positive mindset to deal with anything life throws at you.
Why don’t we just start pursuing our life goals now, instead of waiting until we’re fit/skinny/pretty enough?
Here are some ideas to stop postponing life and putting things off for some time in the future:
- Create goals that require fitness and health, instead of having fitness as the end goal. It could be a difficult hike, a new skill you want to learn (surfing? parkour?), completing a race, competing in a sport…Also have goals not related to fitness: social goals, career goals, etc.
- Dream big - Big goals are more inspiring and exciting. Don’t think you have to resign yourself to smaller, "realistic” goals. Big goals can always be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps.
- Make a list - Now that you (hopefully) have some ideas, write down all the amazing things you want to do with your life. Choose ONE to focus on, and figure out what the first step will be.
- Think - What is the worst that could possibly happen if you actively pursued this goal? If you can actually identify what you’re avoiding, it’ll be easier to move forward anyway.
- Build a habit - Schedule (actually put in your calendar!) time to work on this goal every day. I have a friend who’s just started writing a novel. That’s a huge undertaking and she’s already super busy with school work, but she’s still making time to write every day, because it’s something she’s always wanted to do. So inspiring :-)
One of my favorite bloggers, Steve Kamb, has written a lot more about goal setting/bucket-lists/epic quest lists: Check it out!
What do you think? Are you postponing anything while you focus on shorter term health and fitness goals? How can you stop letting fitness get in the way?