As a Tai Chi and Martial Arts instructor I’ve seen many people commit to exercise, exercise programs and lifestyle changes including Tai Chi. Many of these people succeed in their goals and find the satisfaction they were looking for when they decided to start. There are those however who never meet their goals. They fall short for various reasons, dropping their exercises and often disappear from the programs and classes before they even know what they are about. They seem to forget the reason they decided to start or it becomes not as important as they thought it was. What is the difference between these two sets of people?
We could say that the difference is that one set of people tend to be more driven, they have more desire, more fire. Perhaps the other set of people are lazy, no desire, they just don’t care. Would you believe these statements to be true? Well in some cases perhaps but this is not an absolute answer. These statements represent extreme examples from each set of people. So what then is the answer? The first set of people, those who succeeded in their fitness goals probably did not let anything stop them from showing up, from being present. Sometimes all you have to do is place yourself in the right place, building, class or even frame of mind and the rest will fall in place.
Before I began teaching fulltime I had a gym membership at a very popular fitness club. I set my routine and decided what my schedule would be. I stuck to my schedule no matter what. Is this to say I was highly motivated, energized, always eager and ready to go? NO! It just means that I made a decision and stuck to it. Some days I wanted to roll over, slap the alarm clock and go back to sleep. Sometimes I still want to with my current routine. I always made it to the gym however, and once I was there I was always glad that I made it. Not once did I think “Yeah I just shoulda rolled over”. My routine today consists of strenuous stance training and other activities that are martial arts related. In our practice we have a term we call “ Eating bitter.” When we eat bitter what we mean is the exercise we are doing is not particularly fun, in fact it could translate to “Help! My legs are burning or my shoulders ache. Or why am I doing this? I want to stop.” But the fact is we do it everyday because the pain or time spent pales in comparison to the achieved and desired effect. And eventually we begin to like the bitter. This is what the fitness success stories will all have in common. It’s not a blazing desire to train, although in some cases it may be. What will make you succeed and set you apart from the rest is consistency. The way to be consistent is simply to show up and do.
On the other hand, the other group then must be inconsistent. It may be that they have all the right intentions and may even start out highly motivated. Perhaps the program is a little harder than you thought. If there are others there doing it then chances are you can do it too. They probably started out with the same abilities and resources that you have and increased theirs over time. What happens then? Why do people falter? Choices, little choices all the time. There exists within all of us a little voice, a hater, if you will. This voice will give you so many choices and bring out doubts to try to stop you from changing your life or being consistent in your new routine. You must learn to block it out before it even begins to speak or takes it’s taunting as a challenge. Many times people quit before they even begin because of this voice. They don’t even start or try. “You can’t do that” It will often say. But let’s say we get past that voice enough to start. Just trying a new class or routine sometimes takes a great deal of courage and should be commended. So once you start don’t let that voice try to compare you to the other participants or fitness enthusiasts. “Man, everyone else is good but look at you, you can’t get it. You have no talent for this”. This is just one of the examples of what the inner hater voice might say. I guarantee you that if you do not give up you can achieve anything! This is what I say. You learned to tie your shoe. How many attempts did that take? You don’t even remember. Now you can tie your shoe with your eyes closed while chewing bubble gum and humming your favorite song right? Consistency, you never gave up. The voice may tell you “Hey let’s just relax tonight, we’ll go next time.” Next time comes and you’ve fallen behind so now the voice is filling you with more and more doubts and giving you more choices. “They’re watching the game at Vinnie’s let’s just go there.” “Haven’t seen Sarah in a while maybe I’ll stop by there.” Or… “Let’s just slap that alarm and roll over “. Whatever thoughts you may have if they are not in line with what your fitness goal is or if you are not where you should be to achieve it then those thoughts are a distraction and contrary to what you truly want. It’s easy to give up and we can find excuses and rationalizations for just about anything and come out feeling justified. However ultimately if you gave up or quit without achieving your goal or your reason for starting, then you have failed. Does that mean you’re a failure? Well, everyone knows all success stories, famous people and inventors have failed many times before finding success. So if you fall short I say get your butt up, get out there and try again. Oh and tell that voice, whatever it’s saying, to just shut up. Sometimes there are unforeseen emergencies and circumstances that may deter you. Don’t let them stop you, it’s just a detour on your road to success. Take the time needed to straighten out your situation and jump back in. If you are behind in your goals or in a class don’t sweat it. Fitness is for life, do what you can and be proud of that. As time progresses so will you.