Lessons From a Boomerang

Resiliency: What does that word mean to you?

To me, it means learning from mistakes and using that knowledge to create positive change. Being resilient in the face of adversity requires that a person be honest enough with him or herself to see their own mistakes for what they are without blame (self or others), reflect on what could have been done differently and have the courage to try again. Resiliency involves taking the “if only….” Statement and transforming it into “next time…”

Recently, I came across a statement published in the American Journal of Clinical nutrition that said 90% of successful dieters had failed before with many of the dieters reporting several gains and losses before achieving their goals. By itself, the statement is pretty uninformative, but it does say one thing: the successful dieters didn’t give up. In fact, I would venture to speculate that most of these people kept trying different things, learning with each failure what worked and what didn’t until they found what worked for them.

It has been my observation that the same thing is true for exercise and fitness. What’s the difference between a really fit person and one that isn’t? The fit person doesn’t let failures like choosing a fitness program that they don’t like or otherwise doesn’t work for them stop them. They take the knowledge gained from their mistakes and use it to move forward.

Isn’t this how champions are made?

Can a couch potato become a champion athlete? Of course! It takes more than just the intention to do it, though. It takes commitment and a mindset change. It takes being honest with yourself about your motives. It means releasing your fear of change, fear of failure, fear of success and dependence on other people’s opinions of your choices. It involves looking at past attempts and reflecting on both the good and the bad about those attempts without judging yourself negatively.

Let’s use an example of a fictional person named Roger. Roger is a successful scientist and has a lovely family. He’s happily married, has three children and all the “trappings” related to his success. Life’s good. He has one thing in his life that bothers him: his health. When he turned 38, he started to show medical signs of years of inactivity and overweight – high cholesterol. At age 40, he knows he needs to do something to improve his health, but the motivation isn’t stronger than the “pain” of changing his lifestyle….yet.

Over the years, Roger has sporadically gone to the gym and not eaten too much “junk” food but he has never been particularly motivated. He chose to be too busy to make his own health a priority. Whenever he starts a new fitness program and gets frustrated he feels like a failure. Failure is a very uncomfortable feeling for Roger. He doesn’t like it, so he runs from it.

Wham! One day he has a mild heart attack and ends up in the hospital. The pain of change just became less important than his motivation to be healthy! Roger must change his life or lose it. BIG motivator. Sadly, this type of earth shaking experience is all too often the impetus for change.

Roger no longer has trouble with mindset changes when faced with the alternative which is possibly premature death. But what about our second fictional person, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth is 35, has a successful career, great family and no health problems. She has always felt healthy and is mildly active. She intends to work out 4 hours per week but usually only manages on average two hours per week. She is always “dieting”, going from one fad diet to the other. She feels like she has 3 kilos (6.6 pounds) too much weight. Not enough to impact her health.

So, what really are her honest motives to change? Does she have any? When she is honest with herself she knows she is motivated by the way her body looks. This makes her uncomfortable because she feels that other people would think she is vain or superficial (I am sure that her husband doesn’t mind one bit that she wants to look good!). This uncomfortable feeling is keeping her from changing her mind set and developing strategies for success. All because of other people’s opinions about what should or should not be important to her.

See why it’s important for Elizabeth to reflect on her fears and impediments to fitness success? It’s also important for her to come to terms with the idea that what she has been doing hasn’t accomplished what she wants it to. Then, she will need to identify and embrace changes that she decides will work for her. This self reflection will lead her down her own personal championship road.

Real lasting change comes from resiliency… growing from our mistakes. Champions are made one mistake at a time! Like a boomerang, they always come back for more.

Copyright (c) 2006 Ainsley Laing