Building Self-Esteem to Accomplish Your Fitness Goals

We’ve discussed wanting lifestyle change.  We’ve talked about ways to do it, why you should, how, when, and the science behind the reasons.  Today we are going to explore why you don’t do it.

I can hear the collective exhale, “thank god”, you sigh, finally an answer to my issues. Nope, sorry, just some more ideas on exploring where you really are in the process. I repeatedly get clients who want instant gratification.  Remember this is a slow process and it can be a very spiritual experience as you peel off layers of identity, excuses, habits, routines, and other activities that are not working anymore.

Let’s talk about self-esteem. I find this to be a huge stumbling block for many people. Even if self-esteem is there in other areas of life, say work or parenting, when it comes to health it can be dented. Many who are in the process of change doubt what they are doing, are in an uncomfortable place of change, and are facing other issues that may work against their goal further adding to the doubt and insecurity. In an article a few years back (but worth repeating) Brian Tracy , “People with high self-esteem are more positive, more likable, and more effective in every part of their lives. Your job, therefore, it is to keep your self-esteem high and positive on a continuing basis.”

He goes on to outline six critical elements of self-esteem building: Goals, Standards, Success Experiences, Comparison with Others, Recognition, and Rewards. Striving toward each element helps build, grow, and maintain your self-esteem. High self-esteem is directly related to accomplishing your goals, and the more you accomplish the goals you set the more confidence you have, and the more you strive to live by your standards and values. When your values and standards are congruent with the lifestyle you lead the more self-esteem you have and the more peace you feel in daily life. See the process? The elements build upon each other to help you be the best you can be.

We are typically taught not to compare ourselves with others, but here he refers to positive comparisons where you feel you have room to grow and accomplish your goals while using another’s success as a benchmark for your own. This is a tricky place to be. Similar to setting realistic goals you must choose comparisons that will allow you to be successful and continue to build your success experiences. He does note that we come to a place where we are no longer competing with others, but rather our own past successes.

Another factor in cultivating self-esteem is self talk. Many of us have an inner critic. For some this can be a voice that spurs us to strive harder and make the finish line, and for others this critic derails us and we pretend not to hear it as we sit on the couch with the whole bag of potato chips, only to hear it loud and clear when the bag is gone and the opportunity for exercise missed. Victor M Parachin, Mdiv writes (again and oldie but goodie), “Avoid becoming your own worst enemy by talking back to nasty voices in your head.” Next time you hear yourself saying I am fat, I am lazy, I will never make it, I can’t, talk back and tell the voice to be quiet. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend.

Look for areas in your life where you can implement these elements and begin to build yourself up. Draw on your strengths and downplay your weaknesses. Find successes in your past to use as comparisons for new goals, and find people you admire to model your direction after. Tracy states, “…you need to build your own structure and take full responsibility for building yourself up on a regular basis.” If you won’t take the time on you, who else will?

“Cultivating Your Self Esteem”, Brian Tracy, Club Solutions, June 2005 pg 36 www.clubsolutions.biz

“Cultivating Confidence”, Victor M. Parachin, Mdiv, American Fitness, July/August 2005 pg.36-38   www.americanfitness.com

Who are You Hiding From This Halloween

Its Halloween Time. The time when we put on costumes to pretend to be something or someone we are not. If you are of another tradition it may be the time you connect with those from your past who have gone before. This halloween think about how you are hiding from yourself pretending to be somebody you aren’t or how you are holding onto the past trying to get back to where you’ve been (ie thinner, faster, fitter). Reflect on the images and feelings those sentences bring up and use that information to redirect you toward your fitness goals. Here’s how.

First, you can’t go back and trying to is futile. One of the hardest things in this world is to look upon today and know you have to accept it – and yourself – just as it is, today, in this moment. You may wish you hadn’t gained weight or that you didn’t eat what you did for breakfast this morning – but matter of fact is you did. So instead of fighting yourself in the past bring your battle to the present moment. Look around – notice and describe what is right in front of you and know that in this moment you have the opportunity to choose what you want to do. From your deepest self – how do you want to live right now, what do you want to eat (or not) right now, and what active thing can you do right now. Do not get tricked into looking toward the future because as much as we cannot change the past we cannot predict what will happen in the future. All we have power over is now.

Second, why are you hiding? What are you hiding? Who are you hiding from? Some of these questions can bring up lots of “junk” we carry around with us. Things we believe about the world and ourselves. If you feel overwhelmed by your answers its time to seek professional help. Find a good therapist who can help you unload and re-pack your bags with skills you need now to get the life you want. If the answers are just difficult or uncomfortable it may be time to look closer at them. For some the answer(s) may be myself or my friends, my culture, my society, my community, my parents, my spouse, etc. It might be an event or past issue that still haunts you – re-read the first step again. Write your answers and revelations down.

Finally, decide what to do with the answers and thoughts that came up. Do you really want to move forward along your fitness journey? If you are not ready to quit hiding and start facing the choices you have in each moment it may be best to just let go for now. On the other hand if stopping is not an option how will you safely bring your true self forward? How will you make small changes each day to continue to move forward along your fitness path? How will you let go of past hurts and ideals that are no longer helping you succeed today?

All of these are big things to ponder. Remember change is a process and not about perfection. We cannot move forward before we are ready. But if you are – good luck, you can do this.

Who Are You Changing For?

Many of us decide it’s time to do something different in our lives. But is this decision truly ours? Or has someone else put the idea we need to change into our head? When deciding to change honestly answer these two questions.

Once you have convinced yourself you are ready for change you must determine who you are changing for. The obvious answer may not be the real answer. Deeply look at your motivation, are you the reason for the change, or is a parent, spouse, doctor, sibling, friend, etc. Is it someone else’s idea or voice you hear?
If it is not you; commitment is likely to wane. Next determine why you want to change. As with the question of who, why is a critical factor in realizing a goal. Determine your why. Get passionate about it. Taste it, feel it, begin to live it.

Immersion into an idea is supported by research and will lead to change. In other words, find as many ways to support your new lifestyle, new activities, new thoughts, rewards, support, new ideas about how you could change your habits to support your new direction.

The more pathways you create in your brain to support this change the more likely you are to succeed. Believe with every cell in your body and it will manifest.

The Motivation Game

Motivation comes and goes. So how can you stay motivated to reach your fitness goals? It has more to do with looking inside yourself than outside yourself for rewards and recognition.

When people hear what I do for a living they tend to grab a part of their body – one they are not particularly fond of – and say, “what do I do about this?” which is then followed by, “ I know I should, but…”, which can then be followed by_________ (you fill in the blank) – excuses.
We know what to do, our bodies tell us they like to move. We watch it, read it, hear it, but we choose not to, why? We know we will feel better, we know we will look better, and we know we will build confidence, which will lead to many positives about ourselves, so why don’t we move?
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Motivation is a tricky component to reaching a goal. It can be so strong one day and absent the next. This means you must constantly find ways to motive yourself. You must be creative here… no pressure right? It can be very simple. Decide that today I am going to walk for 20 minutes, and then look for ways to fit it into your day. Can you wake up a bit earlier, walk over lunch, after work, with your children or partner, is time critical today – do you need to break it down into increments? Look at the number of possibilities you have to reach the goal of walking 20 minutes. Enlist a friend or a supportive person to help make sure you reach your daily goal. (We will be discussing goal setting next week).

If you can step outside your comfort zone, make sure you are driving the change, and determine why you really want to change. Once you have done these two activities you have created a solid start to reaching your goal. Add passion and attention to your daily habits mixed with a lot of positive feedback and you’ll be on your way. Motivation will come and go, but you’ll be ready – you are now motivated to stay motivated!