The holiday season kicks off with Thanksgiving, a holiday characterized by spending time and enjoying good meals with friends and family. It is meant to be a time of grateful reflection and thanksgiving for all that we have. Ironically the following day is Black Friday which is a time spent in consumer chaos, away from family, fighting our fellow man for good deals on things we don’t really need. I believe this contrast is a pretty accurate reflection of the way most Americans live their lives and why few people will never find happiness or meet their health and fitness goals. Here is why:
We chase happiness and, in the process, we tend to compare ourselves up instead of down.
We think “If I just had more money, I could buy ________ and I would be happy.” What does this way of thinking say to someone who makes less than you? Can they never be happy? 99% of the world makes less than $32K a year. Are 7 billion people shit out of luck when it comes to being happy?
“My job sucks, I don’t like my boss. If I just had that job I would be happy.” What does this say to the residents of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation which claims an unemployment rate of over 70%? Sorry folks, there are no jobs available for you so just get used to a lifetime of unhappiness.
People bring this life philosophy into the gym everyday. Training becomes a burden instead of a blessing. Eating healthy becomes a curse instead of a cure.
“If I could just lose 20 lbs, I would feel better about myself and I would be happy” If the way you look is the foundation of your happiness what does that say to the lady with third and fourth degree burns, a face full of scars, and no hair on her head? Or the person born with a genetic disfigurement? They can’t change the way they look, are they not able to be happy?
If performance is the basis for your happiness in the gym what is the guy born without arms or legs suppose to do? If attention on social media is the source of your joy in fitness, how is the Special Olympics competitor without an Instagram page supposed to find it?
Truth is there is always more money to make, every job brings with it stress, we will never weigh or look exactly the way we want to look, and we will always want to lift more, go faster, and run farther. These things are fleeting; they will change, and we will chase them forever like the wind; unable to actually catch them. They will fail us time and time again, stealing our joy and happiness, yet we will continue to chase them with a false hope.
The failure rate for people joining gyms, starting fitness routines, going on diets is higher than the drop out rate for Navy Seals because people think that the results they get will make them happy. It won’t. The process will be a burden. They’ll be tired, the gym will be too long a drive, the weather will be bad, they’ll have a busy schedule and not enough time, they won’t be motivated, the diet will be too hard, and so on and so on. If they manage to find the discipline to have success and stick it out, at some point they’ll get burned out, they’ll get injured, life will throw them a curve ball, and they’ll struggle. They will chase gratification and never find it.
But what if we flipped things around and instead of comparing up, we compared down. What if instead of seeking gratification, we found gratitude? How would that impact us?
“I’m so thankful I have a job. So many people don’t.”
“I’m so thankful I have enough money to buy the things I need and some of the things I want. So many people don’t”
“I’m so thankful that I get to choose to eat nutritious food to fuel my body and keep me healthy. So many people don’t.”
“I’m so thankful that I get to pursue health and fitness and go to the gym today to improve myself physically. So many people don’t”
With gratitude as our foundation for happiness and joy, everything else becomes a blessing. Pursuing our fitness goals is a privilege and whether or not we reach them exactly, we can still love the process and be thankful for it. Here are a few things I am thankful for in the process of training that have nothing to do with the progress I make.
-I am thankful for the ability to experience community. Life is better through relationships.
-I am thankful for encouragement. Every time I train, I get to be encouraged and encourage someone else.
-I am thankful for the opportunity to be an example. My wife, my son, my friends, my customers, my community, my nation, my world will all at some point need someone to set an example for how to approach their health and fitness. I hope I can live up to the task.
-I am thankful for the opportunity for self improvement. Even if I don’t improve physically, I improve mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually through the struggle.
If you’re someone who has had a difficult time finding or regaining your purpose and discipline in the gym, I encourage to take this to heart. This process is a blessing that we get to pursue freely, not a burden of guilt and struggle that we have to carry.
If you’re constantly seeking gratification, you will never find gratitude. Be thankful.
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