For those of you who are using this time of Shelter in Place as a motivator and a focused time to crush your physical goals, I applaud you. I honor your tenacity and am openly jealous of your personal discipline. To clarify, jealousy means you have it, and I wish I did too—unlike envy where you have it, and I want it instead of you. I will be the one clapping for you, but I am not you. These are a few thoughts for the rest of us.
Goals are tricky, even in the best of times. We find them, set them, plan for them and celebrate when we meet them. If we don’t hit our PRs, we evaluate, reset, and return to our goal with renewed tenacity. But for some of us, a goal can end before it even begins. We find reasons to avoid them or make excuses for not trying. We feel deflated when they take time and throw our hands up in defeat. Guess what…that’s okay! This does not mean changes are outside your reach. You may just need a new starting point.
What I want to offer is the idea that where you are, right now, is enough. The person you are, the health you hold, the relationships you foster, the career you built…it’s working. You are here surviving a pandemic and stressors you likely don't even realize. And though you may not be fitting into your jeans from high school (do we still have our jeans from high school?) or crushing personal goals you have, you are doing something that is allowing you to get up and face each new day.
I offer the idea that you start from that vantage point. Look in the mirror or at your hands or at your feet or out your window. You are here and have made it this far. Are there things you would like to change, improve, create? Likely, yes. But what about the idea of honoring, accepting, even loving what you already are? Not an easy task, but it makes it a lot easier to change small habits when you begin from the space of accepting yourself as you are.
I have always hated my thighs. At age nine, I looked down at my legs while sitting on a swing set and wondered why they smooshed together. Barbie’s legs didn't do that. Neither did my friend’s, Susie. What’s wrong with my legs? So began decades of disdain for my own self. Not sure what shifted…whether it was something I read, saw, or learned. But I do remember lyrics from a Shakira song. “Lucky I have strong legs, like my mother, to run for cover when I need to”. No, I don’t have Shakira’s legs either. But those words defined a shifted perspective from how legs appear to what they do! And man, does that song make me dance! Guess what lets me do that? Yeah…my legs.
So what if you tried that on? What if you looked at yourself from where you already are and started a small task of accepting your body for what it allows you to do? What if you saw your perceived flaws as part of what deems you unique? What if you looked at your believed failures as things you had survived and maybe learned from? What would be the outcome of improvement if you put your goals aside and saw yourself as pretty damn okay already given the fact you are here. You have already done this life up to now.
Then maybe, rather than setting goals that require deep personal discipline or extreme shifts, we realize we are worthy of making small changes to the habits we hold. We stop looking at an endpoint (a weight loss, a bench press, a race time) and shift our attention acceptance and awareness. As a goal may ask us to make a big change in order to reach it, acceptance allows us to welcome all parts of ourselves. Awareness gives us insight to observe ourselves and our patterns.
We can start to look at what we are doing that is no longer serving us well. Maybe it’s screen time or late night snacking. As good as four hours of Netflix may feel in the moment (by the way, the show Normal People was so good), I know from past experience I will feel incrementally better if I get outside. As much as I believe I deserve a handful of chocolate, is my body hungry? Or is this a reaction to stress, loneliness, or boredom? What if I journaled, called a friend, or took a walk? What if that walk became a new habit I gravitate towards since it helps me sleep, let’s me pet the neighborhood pups, allows me to see the world outside my home? Now I have shifted my habits to do something for me, not in the pursuit of a goal. And perhaps this small shift leads to better health.
If you are one whom goals work for and keep you motivated and inspired, I will continue to applaud your effort and crave your focus. But this type of change has worked for me and brought me to a deeper sense of contentment and acceptance and even lasting shifts in patterns.
I wish you all moments of peace during this time. May your goals be soft and your acceptance be strong.
[Else has additional certifications in Behavioral Change and a background in Psychology. If you would like to work with her to help change some of your personal health and fitness habits, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please email her as well if you would like to join the APJCC's free Virtual Run Club starting 5/19]