What do dumbbells, narrative writing and goal-setting have in common? Everything, it turns out.
I started weight lifting three years ago. Since then, I’ve competed in a Figure competition (a division of bodybuilding, but with different judging criteria), developed a fitness blog, and most importantly, found myself on a marvelous journey that has prompted me to learn about every dimension of myself.
Training is a metaphor for life. It develops the mental habits and conditioning necessary to lead a successful, prosperous life you’re proud of every day.
Among other lessons, weight training has taught me:
- Most barriers are mental and therefore invented
- Behaviors we resist are those we should practice with the most heart (ahem, waking up before the sun to break a sweat…)
- The challenging route is often the most rewarding one
- Growth requires sacrifice, but produces gains that are ultimately extremely fulfilling
- Goal-setting promotes confidence and is the cornerstone of a great life
Go-getters know with high goals come many setbacks. Failure is guaranteed. The best we can do is humble ourselves to those setbacks and use them as fuel.
This year, I faced setbacks galore: a tilted kneecap, three deaths of friends and family, course credit overload (NYU senior here), and extreme physical exhaustion.
So, I did the unthinkable: I quit my sport. And I’m better for it. I credit the soundness of this decision to my favorite exercise of all: The ‘Fess Up.
The ‘Fess Up is what I call the writing exercise I use whenever I’m not reaching a goal. It helps re-center me.
You don’t have to be a gym rat like me to use this strategy. It’s One Size Fits All. If you’re a professional and your goal is to improve your team’s performance, this exercise may help. Or a parent aiming to spend more time at home but finding yourself too tied up at work to peel yourself away.
The ‘Fess Up is all based on the premise that sometimes our unconscious minds prevent us from being our best selves. I know if I’m not reaching a goal, it’s likely because a negative force deep in my unconscious brain is throwing rocks at my more positive conscious mind. What do I do? Challenge that little force to come out and play.
STEP ONE: The primer. Sit alone in a quiet space with pen and paper. Start writing about the issue you’re facing. Write whatever comes to mind FIRST. The goal is not to make sense of anything yet. You’re trying to access your innermost thoughts and emotions. Don’t judge yourself. You may uncover some unsavory thoughts, but those can’t be channeled positively until they’re addressed.
STEP TWO: The self-interview. After you crack your less-conscious side, it’s time to start putting logic to those spontaneous and ugly feelings. This part is The Why. Each person’s issue requires different questions, but some key ones to consider might be: why am I not reaching my goal? Is this my goal or X person’s goal for me? What excuses am I making that are causing me to bow to my fears/nerves/discomforts?
STEP THREE: The graph. Draw three columns on a new page. Label them: Problem, Reason, Action, respectively. In the “Problem” column, identify your problem in plain terms. In the “Reason” column, outline why that resistance is occurring. Are you too busy to attack your goal in the scope that you initially hoped for? Do you need to break down the goal into smaller pieces? In the “Action” column, list at least one concrete behavior you can adopt to remedy the issue. Remember: introduce change slowly. It’s better to outline one realistic action versus three overwhelming actions.
You may find this approach too scientific. But there’s a remarkable way in which narrative writing becomes therapeutic—even before you take any action.
It wasn’t until I ‘Fessed Up to myself that I realized that my goal of competing was hampering my larger goal of being happy. So I’m done with competition-oriented workouts, and I like myself better now.
If you decide to use The ‘Fess Up exercise and want to share, I’d love to hear how it worked out (both puns intended.) Or, if you use a different strategy to reach your goals, I’m interested to know more. Please share in the comments below.
I also encourage you to ask any fitness, health or nutrition questions you might have. Until then, take care of your minds and bodies.