We experience many obstacles in life, including some that get in the way of our health and fitness. The first step in overcoming obstacles is to recognize and acknowledge them. While we may be able to readily identify some of our personal obstacles (e.g., those running shoes are not within my budget), others such as our own attitudes may be less apparent.
In her best-selling book, Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg writes, “Knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better.” Sandberg was referring to how women are treated far better in the Western world than in many other regions of the world; yet, she states that Western women should expect and demand better (e.g., equal pay, respect and high-ranking positions on par with men) rather than settle for less than they deserve.
Where is the line between gratitude and complacency? I find Sandberg’s quote inspirational and equally relevant to our health and fitness. Yes, it’s important to be grateful for one’s current health or fitness level, even if it’s less than optimal. We don’t need to strive to be perfect; that would be a recipe for failure. If you have a chronic health condition, it’s a good thing to focus on the positive and tell yourself, as I tell myself, “It could be worse. I’m grateful for where I’m at.” But, did you ever consider the possibility it could be better?
Are there changes you can make to your lifestyle that could contribute to improvements to your overall health despite your existing health challenges? When
you begin to think in terms of the precise steps you can take to improve your health and fitness, rather than simply thinking where you’re at is good enough, you reach a tipping point and become poised for greater success. It’s an awakening, an epiphany, though you may only see it as such in hindsight after you’ve experienced improvements.
In her book, Sandberg also describes the “imposter syndrome” – the phenomenon of capable people being plagued by self-doubt. “We consistently underestimate ourselves,” writes Sandberg in reference to women in the workforce. This phenomenon pertains to people in the business world, and to anyone desiring to better herself or himself. You may be confident in some areas of your life but be plagued by self-doubt in other areas.
Even after you consciously decide you want to feel better, enjoy better health, have better mobility or simply look better, self-doubt can get in the way. For example, if you want to start developing your physical strength, you might imagine that other people in the fitness centre are watching you and thinking you look unfit, overweight or incompetent. Whatever your goal, being overly concerned with what others might think of you can impede your progress.
Don’t worry what others think or say. Don’t allow your own insecurities to undermine your goals. Sandberg writes, “We all know people who could do so much more if only they believed in themselves. Like so many things, a lack of self-confidence can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.” If you don’t have the strategies to talk yourself through those moments of self-doubt, seek out a positive person, coach or personal trainer to guide and mentor you so you can move forward with your goals.
“There is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do,” writes Sandberg. “You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you.” While Sandberg is talking about careers and the corporate world, her words of wisdom are equally applicable to life and lifestyle choices. How do you decide what goal to set for yourself? Should you register for an exercise class or a race? Should you aim to lose five pounds or 50? If you happen to hear that there’s an opening on a recreational sports team or there’s a new group fitness class coming up, do you jump at the opportunity and consider it an exciting challenge, or do you tell yourself it’s beyond your abilities and dismiss it? Instead of worrying about “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” if you try something new, think of “what’s the best thing that can happen?” if you try.
When you’re open to self-improvement and able to shed some of your self-doubt, you’ll notice nuggets of wisdom – as I found in Sandberg’s book – that serve as reminders that we all deserve the best health and fitness possible.