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

Planning and Goal Setting For Fitness Success

Goals take planning. Many people have begun the journey to better health and have taken the challenge to begin exercising.  It is important to put into perspective what you are trying to accomplish.

First, look at where you are. What is it about where you are that you want to change? Is this something you can do easily? Why or why not? What might hold you back? How will you deal with those obstacles? Are you ready to change? Remember the saying: The pain of staying the same must be greater than the pain of change. It will be uncomfortable, hard, and time consuming, but if it matters to you it will be worth it. Who are you changing for? Write down the answers to the above questions. This will help cement the process you are about to begin. If you feel you are up to a challenge ask a friend to ask them and provide your answers, truthful answers, back to your buddy. An outside observer may offer fresh perspective on where you are and where you want to go. Please, make sure the person you pick to hear your inner thoughts genuinely supports your efforts.

Next, decide on a time line. How long will it take you to complete? What amount of time are you willing to commit to this experience? What is the priority level of this goal? Again, write down the answers. As you review your list, are you being realistic about your goal? Do you feel you are ready to take this goal on? Do you have adequate support? Do you need help from someone else: ie, family member, friend, professional? Who are your support people?

Finally, you must decide how you are going to tackle your goals? Will you do them together? Do they fit? For example: I want to become more healthy and eat better. These two goals fit together and help me accomplish both. On the other hand, if I want to learn a new computer program and how to paint, I may be better off tackling one goal at a time due to the intensity of each. Ask again: “am I being realistic about my goals?” “my time commitments?” and “my desire to reach this goal and put effort behind accomplishing it.” Remember if it was easy you would have already done it.

Once your list is done it is time to prioritize your goals. It typically takes twenty-one days to create a new habit so it is a good idea to take on one goal per quarter, or for three months at a time. Not that you won’t continue once you have begun, but giving yourself three months to really focus will allow you to create healthy habits, break the old ones, and account for setbacks, which will happen. Once you have chosen four goals to accomplish this year (less if they are very intensive) it is time to plan.

You will want to examine time commitments throughout the year, such as vacations, conferences, graduations, births, things you know are coming up and have the potential to throw you off. Then examine your daily commitments and decide how you will fit your new lifestyle activities into your existing lifestyle. Finally, map out the next year based on your large goals, followed by the smaller goals you will use to measure your success by. In the end change is a difficult practice, but we call it practice for a reason: if you do not practice you will never get your new habits down!