“Don’t start what you can’t finish,” goes the expression. I think that’s a flawed perspective because it dissuades people from challenging themselves. The inability to complete something shouldn’t be equated with failure. The truth is that you can’t finish what you don’t start.
How many times has your fear of failure discouraged you from trying something? If you don’t try, you won’t know. Whether it’s a small step in the right direction or setting a monumental goal, your decision to test uncharted waters should take into account more than your desired final result. Yes, it’s important to have a clear vision, if you want to achieve a goal, but don’t overlook the smaller rewards, milestones and outcomes that are part of the process.
Even once you’ve made a conscious choice to sign up for a class or a team sport, your success isn’t guaranteed. Many factors play a role, including your own level of commitment. Injuries are always a possibility when you’re involved in physical activities, especially if you’re pushing your limits. There may come a time when you have to drop out of a class or temporarily stop an activity you’ve been enjoying because your body is telling you it needs to rest and heal. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed in any way. Having the courage and motivation to try in the first place is, in fact, an often overlooked measure of success.
We all want to achieve the goals we set. We all want to win in some way. I believe the concept of winning is overdue for a paradigm shift. But maybe that’s because those of us who are not super athletic prefer to redefine winning.
What differentiates “winners” from the rest of the pack isn’t as simple as who lifts the most weight, jumps the highest or runs the fastest; winners don’t quit when the novelty wears off. The surge of enthusiasm that courses through your veins when you start something new and exciting can’t last forever.
Have you ever been gung-ho about taking up a new fitness activity? You tell your friends about it, maybe even ask them to join in. You buy some new exercise gear. You make sure your schedule is cleared so nothing interferes with the days and times of the activity. You get started. You love it. Then times passes, and soon you start skipping a class or a practice here or there. Other things come up, and suddenly that activity doesn’t seem like a high priority. What’s changed? Your perception has changed. Just like when you fall in love, you’re drawn to the object of your affection and you can’t stand to be apart.
Fast forward months and then years, and the picture becomes more realistic. Some habits and imperfections that you once found attractive now seem irritating. Do you abandon that person or pursuit, or do you modify your expectations?
Some people are able to stick with their sport or exercise program, adapting and making adjustments along the way so they don’t lose interest. This persistence allows them to improve their skills – whether it’s swimming, martial arts or anything else. Those who get easily bored may drop out sooner, and that’s OK, too. Think about why you dropped out and what you can do differently next time. Maybe better planning is in order. Perhaps you jumped on the band wagon with the latest fitness trend and tried something you ended up not liking. It’s through trial and error that you’ll eventually discover what you find engaging and fulfilling.
Unless you want to become a high-calibre athlete, it doesn’t matter if you start and don’t follow through with a program. The key is to learn and grow, to find what you like and to figure out how to overcome whatever is getting between you and a healthier, fitter body. People who are both committed and adaptable are most able to stick to a program or figure out a more suitable alternative.
Do you have a history of signing up for fitness classes, sports teams or personal training, then dropping out? Do you buy exercise equipment that ends up gathering dust? Think about what you really like to do. Think about why you want to do it. Getting into shape and staying fit is a journey of self-love, self-discovery and personal development that lasts a lifetime. Change along the way is inevitable. Make a plan, get started and don’t overthink how you’ll finish.