Fitness (His Edition)
Focus on efforts, not outcomes...
Ah, the end of the year. Bring on the self-improvement platitudes; the hollow New Year’s resolutions; the well-intentioned yet often meaningless promises we make to ourselves to be better humans over the next 12 months.
Yes, I know, I’m a bit of a New Year’s grinch (and regular readers may be rolling their eyes at what is another rant in this regard). I’m probably also becoming a little more jaded as I age, but that’s because I have come to realise the futility of our psychological attachment to outcomes. So much of our self-worth is determined by our achievements. Our measure of success and our ultimate satisfaction is all too often directly linked to the medal around our neck or that new personal best.
But what if I told you that, despite what we are told and have been led to believe by so many self-help ‘gurus’, we seldom, if ever, can control outcomes? Well, it’s true. There are just too many variables at play. You can’t control if and when you get sick, what deadlines or projects at work may detract from your training, what the weather will do on race day, or how the personal bias of a judge may relegate you down the order at a bodybuilding contest. While you can certainly reduce your risks and improve your chances of attaining a specific goal, there are seldom any guarantees. And fixating on and trying to control every aspect of life, be it your home life, your professional life or in your chosen sport, is often our downfall.
This is because, according to one of my favourite experts in the field of personal development, Dan Millman, you can control your efforts, but not outcomes. He therefore suggests that you focus your best efforts on the present, without attachment to future-based outcomes. In doing so, you more often than not will achieve what you set out to do in the first place. And if you don’t, you know that you did your best which, after all, is all that we can really do at the end of the day. In this sense, the goal is no longer the most important element, but rather how you plan to achieve it and how well you stick to the plan – doing what you need to do, when you should, as best you can.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t set goals. They are important. So go ahead, set yourself a few new goals for 2017, but rather than fixate on them – worrying if you’ll achieve success or what others will think if you fail – just focus your attention and effort on the work needed to arrive at that point with the physical and mental preparedness that will give you the best possible chance of success. As Millman says: “Now is the time to apply yourself like never before.” Fixating on future-based goals takes your focus off the present and what you need to be doing now to succeed. In the end, it is the process of preparation toward a goal, and the benefits thereof, rather than the attainment of the goal itself, that holds the greatest value in our lives. If you don’t believe me then do this: Next time you cross the finish line with a new PB, or stand atop the podium at a show, ask yourself if the feelings of elation you experience are simply a matter of achieving your goal, or a manifestation of emotions built up over the weeks and months of hard work; the spilt sweat; the unwavering commitment. I’m willing to bet that your level of satisfaction will be directly proportional to the time and effort you put in and the magnitude of the sacrifices made to reach that point, more than the mere fact that you achieved your goal. I hope that this has given you some food for thought as we close yet another chapter in this wild ride we call life.
See you all in 2017!
PEDRO VAN GAALEN