The Grass Isn’t Always Greener on the Other Side
If you’ve ever thought about what it would be like to be somebody else (come on, we’ve all done it!), then you’ll relate to the topic in this week’s post. In it, I focus on why it is usually not a wise idea to sit back and dream about being in someone else’s shoes. Instead, use some of the concepts I outline in the article to craft your own fitness and life journey that is filled with motivation that comes from your own unique goals and circumstances. Enjoy!
Have you ever wanted to trade places with someone else? Perhaps it was somebody that you looked up to, or even somebody you didn’t know but admired. The bottom line was, from your perspective, their life looked better than yours.
If you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not alone. I can remember plenty of times where I fell into the same trap. My inner dialogue would look something like this: “They have the perfect house, in the perfect neighborhood, with the perfect family, and perfect health. They’ve got plenty of money; they must not deal with any of the problems that I’m faced with.”
While there are still moments that pop up like this in my mind, I was fortunate to learn early on that everyone has their own problems. We are all humans. We all face the same unknowns, the same anxieties, the same fears that cause uncertainty and doubt.
If I were to walk a mile in their shoes, then I have no doubt that I would think my own life to be perfect in comparison.
When it comes to fitness, the same story rings true. So many people want to have the body that someone else has. Sometimes, this desire can be motivational, but usually it’s just depressing.
Why is that? Well for one, this desire is usually unrealistic, as genetics, environment, and sometimes even Photoshop largely determine what someone’s body looks like. Secondly, this kind of motivation sets you up to fail because it does not come from a mindset of positive, intrinsic motivation.
As a Wellness and Health Coach, I’ve spent time studying and learning about what kinds of motivation tend to work, and I can tell you right now that extrinsic, self-deprecating, and unrealistic goals will not motivate you and get you to where you want to be.
These kind of goals seek external rewards and approval from others, and look something like this:
Desiring more money because you don’t make as much as the next guy
Wanting to lose weight because it will make you more acceptable or desirable to others
Seeking for anyway that you can look better than your co-workers in your boss’s eyes
Wanting to change your life because someone told you that you aren’t good enough
You’ll note that there are good aspects to all of these goals. Working hard to earn more money is not always a bad thing, if you need it. Losing weight is usually a great thing to do. Seeking to do better at your job is not a bad idea. And lifestyle change can be incredible, when done for the right reasons.
However, the underlying motivation for these goals is the problem. They are all driven by what others see, and what you think will make you look better to them. The motivation isn’t something that comes from within you, but from outside. It is driven by a feeling of inadequacy in other people’s eyes.
These goals also come from a mindset that says, “I’m not good enough right now, I need to make myself better.” Instead of valuing what you do have and being thankful for that, you begin chasing after something else because you’re not satisfied.
This is a mindset that will set you up for failure in any lifestyle change you attempt, because the mindset itself is the problem, not you.
In order to make lasting lifestyle change, then, you must start by appreciating what you do have, and not desiring what everyone else has. You have to start from this positive perspective, and from that starting point, you can seek to make lifestyle changes that line up with your goals.
So often, the kick start to change is from someone telling you that you need to change. But nobody can tell you what changes you need to make, or what goals you should be shooting for; they have to come from within you. So how do you come up with these goals and a vision for change?
Start by taking some time to think about what you want your life to look like at its best. What would you be doing more of? What would you be doing less of? Who would you be doing this with?
Once you have nailed down that vision, only then can you start thinking about goals and action steps to get you to where you want to go.
When you start to write out goals, they should follow a specific format in order to promote success. As I discussed before, goals that are built upon the foundation of extrinsic rewards and desires are not the best for lasting change. Goals that are intrinsically motivating, and line up with your life vision are much more likely to breed lasting success.
To provide a framework for setting these kind of goals, I like to use two acronyms: MAP and SMART. MAP stands for:
M – Measureable
A – Attainable
P – Passionate
These kinds of goals are easily defined and measured. You must be able to measure and know when you have arrived at your destination.
They also should be attainable and realistic. Goals that are too large and unattainable only lead to frustration and failure. Start with attainable goals and build on your success.
Finally, it must be something you’re passionate about doing. A goal that is given to you by someone else, isn’t likely to be something you’re passionate about. For example, if a doctor tells you that you must lose 40 lbs. to maintain your health, you might feel obligated to do this; but it’s hard to be passionate about it. You have to develop your own motivation and passion that comes from within you.
Something we often look for in health and wellness coaching is the fire. Where is the fire or passion inside the person sitting in front of us? Perhaps they should do certain things to maintain or improve their health, but why do they want to? Is it because they’re tired of their doctor hounding them about it, or is it because they want to be alive to watch their grandchildren grow up? Find that passion, and you will have no trouble building goals and action steps that lead to success.
SMART stands for:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant
T – Timely
The SMART approach to setting goals follows the same principles as the MAP approach, however it adds a few other important factors. In addition to being measurable, attainable, and passionate, goals should also be specific, relevant, and timely.
In order for a goal to bring about action, it can’t be vague. It has to be a specific goal with well-defined action steps that are mapped out to get you to that goal. If you say, “I want to lose 40 lbs.,” you have just defined the destination. What you haven’t defined is how you’re going to get there, what steps you will take, and what obstacles you are prepared to face along the way.
The goal also must be relevant to what your ultimate life vision is. You have to clearly see how this goal and the steps you will take to get there are worth your time and energy. You have to see how it helps you move forward and reach your destination, otherwise it’s difficult to maintain motivation.
Lastly, a goal must be timely. If you just say, “one day I’d like to lose 40 lbs.” then you’ve already failed. This is a goal that will never get started until you have a well-defined timeline. This is why weddings work so well as motivation for people to get in shape. There is a specific date when it’s “show time.” If you’re not where you want to be by wedding day, you’ve simply missed your goal.
Use timely goals in order to provide motivation to start, because we all know how easy it is to put it off. But if you have a clearly defined destination, action steps to get there, and a time frame, then you have what you need to get started.
So, take the time that’s necessary to sit down and assess, with a positive mindset, where you are at right now. Plan out where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there. Build in goals that follow the SMART and MAP approaches. Then start your journey!
This is how lifestyle change works, one step at a time. But it takes an awareness of where you are now, where you want to be, and the right kind of motivation to move you there.
Trust me, the grass is not greener on the other side, so don’t just sit back and dream about living someone else’s life. You have your own life to live right now. Make it what you want to make it.
The last piece of the puzzle is often getting help from a friend or from a coach. You’re not alone in your journey, so seek out others who want to take that journey with you. Share with them the changes you want to make, and the goals that you have.
Of course, there will still be people out there who are dreaming about living someone else’s life, but that’s OK. You’ll be too busy living your own to notice.
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