Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Anti-Goal and First (things First) Principles

Rannoch the Profound has a post about what happens to folks to scuttle their training:

You are trying get moving, not launch a rocket.

So many people seem to struggle with this. If the conditions aren't optimal they simply abort.

Give me 10 minutes and a kettlebell. Not so hard.

For those with workout OCD, it stops progress in it's tracks. The requirement to have everything in it's proper place prevents them from so much as breaking a sweat. This anabolic anxiety permeates everything they try to do. Plans are great but if you are fixated on a having all the ingredients for particular outcome you are missing "all that heavenly glory".

Rannoch's observation got me wondering if one of the limiting factors that contributes to this OCD training effect is The Goal. This is not to say that goals are bad at all, but they can become mental mine fields when not treated appropriately. The voice in the head becomes:

I *have* to do this kind of workout today because of this GOAL i have for date X, and if i can't train that way because of whatever (including just being pooped) then what's the point? anything "less" than the prescribed load, volume and moves is just failure (to serve teh goal), so why bother? I'm such a loser, aren't i?

That's kind of voice sounds irily reminiscent of procrastination/perfectionism. When the goal feels too daunting to achieve well, just leave it to the last minute and blame the fact that you didn't have enough time; or worry worry worry the little details (see "getting intrigued") rather than the big picture. Fear, fear of failure, of therefore being a failure is the thing in either case, and so inertia, it seems, sets in.

Goals have a lot to answer for. In a sense, perhaps, as Stephen Covey might put it, it's a trust issue with ourselves: if we don't meet our commitment to our goals, we break faith with ourselves till we give up on ourselves. Frequently we may coat the cost of this failure by "getting intrigued" (described towards the end of this post on complexity ). Where we say oh this isn't right; that isn't right; i'll do it tomorrow when the moon and the stars are aligned and i feel better.

For myself, this failure can be a particularly trying place to be if i can look back and see past successes, dedication, effort. So what's wrong with me *now* that that's not happening?

Maybe a better question to ask is what needs to be in place to re-establish relations with ourselves to feel that success of having done it than that dread of another day gone and the Goal further dishonored.

Maybe some of us who have already figured out that working out is important for our health, our spirit, our commitments, have to be to get to the headspace where the Real Goal is first to remember how to keep faith with ourselves and second to find a path back to doing that in terms of our fitness, health, well being. Perhaps it's as simple as re-setting the goal temporarily to something we KNOW we can accomplish, perhaps just to move something today. To move ourselves, a kettlebell, a rock - through space, perhaps multiple times in a row or throughout the day, and that that *is* a good thing, not only because it really *is* better than nothing, but because we said we would and we did.

Progressively, repeatedly, soon, the groove to that larger goal may just return, when we build our own confidence back up that we can keep our commitments to ourselves and we can trust ourselves with larger challenges.

In the interim, while simply keeping the commitment to move something in a day, we can give ourselves the space to figure out what may be acting in our lives right now such that we've been falling off the wagon; over complicating it, and what perhaps NOT to repeat once we get back in the groove such that we wind up back in the pit - if that's a recurring place to be.

A book i find helpful in this space is Stephen Covey's First Things First. The book talks about the importance of understanding why we *do* things, not in terms of some schedule like life as a perpetual to do list, but in order to define and move from principles. Don't prioritize your schedule; schedule your priorities is a phrase from the book. How do we determine our priorities? Based on what principles? what is our compass?

These questions apply here, in working out, too, i think. If we're not doing what we know to be right and good for our well being, and our ability to serve those we love, then something's askew, no?

Asking such questions can be a rather profound process. Covey suggests a number of ways to engage what can be very challenging work, where not working out is a symptom whose more profound causes may need investigation.

But in this meantime of engaging that process, and assuming that part of it may just be this loss of faith with ourselves to follow through on our commitments to ourselves, here's to everyone who's having a moment of doubt and self criticism. Let's give ourselves a break and all promise to do one push up, one swing, one pistol - one something - together in five minutes, and build on that.

Congratulations to us, we did it.


Rannoch Donald RKC said...

Hey MC,

I hear yah! One of the problems is we become researchers when really we'd be much better placed as practitioners. As a work in progress we can make modifications to our training as and when.

Unfortunately, if we stick around the keyboard long enough there is a real danger that we will spend our time considering often conflicting view points when we could have simply been practising.

As for past efforts, I think it is essential that you frame these in a way that they become useful triggers or catalysts rather than a stick to beat yourself with. the past is so much more attractive when the future is bright.

Physical achievements are arrived at by a combination of mind and body. It's invariably the mind part that second guesses or begins to doubt.

The dreaded "Snatch Test" is a prime example. I knew I could do my numbers but on the day I really had to focus on that fact. Once I'd finished I took a good minute or so to embed that feeling, that experience, the whole sensation. Now it's one of a few touchstones that remind me of how good I can be which is always a great antidote to the doubters in my head.

Dr. Mark Cheng said...

Well written, Professor... BRAVO!

mc said...

Rannoch, as always, a pleasure - thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

dr mark, you are most kind. thank you for stopping by. tea soon.

the pleasure of your conversation, gentlemen is a gift.



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