By Gloria Schwartz
Hindsight is 20/20. It’s often easier to see or understand something with clarity when you examine it retrospectively, rather than when you’re in the midst of it. If you want to improve aspects of your fitness – perhaps your strength, agility, mobility or stamina – it helps to take an honest look at what you did in the recent past to move towards your goals. By gaining insight into your achievements and
setbacks, you can develop the necessary perspective and create a realistic plan for moving closer towards your goals.
Start by identifying what went well (e.g., I worked out twice per week most weeks) and areas for improvement (e.g., I never attended that exercise class I said I would). Think of each of your goals as a suitcase that you must unpack. That way, you can see what you put into it. What did you do to accomplish each goal? What decisions did you make along the way and what actions did you take.
Big decisions and big achievements are the result of a series of micro decisions and micro achievements. You don’t suddenly and miraculously achieve significant improvements in your strength, go from couch to marathon or anything else. Every day is an opportunity to make multiple small-scale decisions that impact your fitness and health. Those micro decisions add up over time and can bring you closer to, or further from your goals.
Suppose you’re sitting at home on a cold winter’s morning. You know there’s an exercise class in an hour. Do you stay in the comfort of your home or do you get dressed and go to the class? This is a micro decision, not a huge life-changing decision. It involves weighing alternatives and deciding which one gives you the most satisfaction. If you think in terms of immediate gratification, you’re more likely to choose the easier alternative of staying home. However, if you consider whether the decision you make in that moment will move you towards your goal or away from it, you may choose the alternative that requires effort. If you’re already physically fit and regularly active, then skipping a class probably won’t matter; but you’re more likely to get up and go. If you’re living with or wanting to prevent chronic lifestyle-related health issues, then skipping a class matters if it means you’ve already developed a behavioural pattern that’s in opposition to your goals.
Every day requires you to make micro decisions about many aspects of your life, including fitness and health. You may not even realize you’re making those decisions. Will you get off the couch? Will you cook a healthy meal? Will you grab a bag of chips from the vending machine? Will you walk or drive to your destination? Will you take the elevator or stairs? Will you push yourself a bit harder while exercising or stop the exercise before the instructor finishes counting down to zero? Will you engage in negative or positive self-talk today? The list is endless.
In his century-old poem “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.”
Interpretations of the poem suggest Frost was teasing his friend who had difficulty making decisions. It seems that Frost was saying that when there is more than one path, if we take the one that is less familiar or new to us, we may experience the most benefit. Why is that? Perhaps it’s because novel experiences allow us opportunities to learn and grow. It may be more comfortable to stick with the familiar and the easier path even if it’s not good for us.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone and going in a different direction can be scary. When it comes to fitness and healthy living, each of us is on our own journey. There is no single path that leads us all to the same level of health and wellness, nor is it possible for everyone to achieve the same results. The shortest line between two points is a straight one, but for most people the path to better fitness and health has many bumps and detours. Choose the path that works best for you at this time and aligns with your goals. By consciously making more positive micro decisions that support your goals, you can experience more progress with your fitness and health in the year ahead.