One day I was listening to Arnold Schwarzeneggar speaking about discipline on the Tim Ferriss podcast. What he had to say stuck with me as a powerful perspective on one of the most mysterious and sought after personality characteristics found in self-help books and seminars sold the world over. He said that he never had to be disciplined. He loved working out so much that he looked forward to it. He adjusted his schedule, even in the military, so that he could hide dumbbells in the tanks and get extra training in before work.
This means that when you are truly committed to something, common buzzwords like “desire,” “motivation,” “discipline,” and “fortitude” go out the window. When you are truly committed, you are willing to deal with the sacrifices that come with the pursuit of your heart’s desire. This also means that you might already be pursuing your true desires without even realizing it.
Maybe you feel like you should get fit, but staying up late and eating junk food on the couch every night gets in the way. Or maybe you constantly struggle with upper body strength in workouts, but there’s no time left to train after you hit your group class workout with your friends. So what are you to do?
Well, this isn’t your usual motivational speech about tightening up your belt, hiring a coach, setting a schedule and sticking to it, or any of that stuff. This is all about realization and acceptance.
When you feel like you should do something, but don’t do it, the problem does not necessarily lie in the fact that you are missing the action you are neglecting. The problem may lie in that you have an external goal that does not fit with who you are as a person. This has nothing to do with your worth as a person, or any form of judgment.
Think about it this way. Do you think that Tom Brady has to talk himself into training everyday? Do you think Elon Musk has to place restrictions on video games so he can get work done? The people we look to as the highest achievers have insane work ethics because that is who they are. They are, for most of us, unrealistic avatars for who we might be if we could just stay focused. If we could just get to bed an hour earlier each night. If we could just skip the ice cream before bed.
This is really about acceptance and becoming. The first thing you need to do if you have struggles sticking to your goals is to take an honest look at yourself. Are these your goals, or are they something you have absorbed from watching flashy workouts on social media? So much gets blamed on social media these days, but it really does have an effect and can start to layer on expectations for ourselves that we really don’t care about. The interference between these internal and external desires can cause so much friction and discontent when there really isn’t any reason to feel guilty at all.
Once you can look at yourself and decide that maybe you really don’t care about being super strong, then you can focus on your cardio without guilt. Or maybe you don’t care about developing your skills and you really workout simply to feel your heart rate spike while doing tons of reps with your friends in a group class. These are just random examples, but if you feel fulfilled and happy with your training then that is completely fine.
However, and there is always a however, if you don’t feel fulfilled and you ache for more results from your training, then you need to make changes. Skip some group workouts if you only have one hour to train and focus on your skills. Instead of doing a morning jog everyday, sleep in and have a solid breakfast so you can throw all your energy into your strength training and actually grow stronger. Your cardio will go down, but if strength is truly important, these gains will counterbalance the losses and you will still be more fulfilled than before.
It’s all about taking that look in the mirror, recognizing what you are doing, and honestly evaluating if it makes you happy - happy in the sense of being fulfilled and proud of yourself. A lot of the time, you’ll realize that you aren’t the least bit fulfilled. This realization can be a powerful catalyst to spur you into action in all the ways you put off before. Or it may turn out that you’re okay with your current fitness level and you prefer to spend your energy outside of training with your friends and family.
Until you learn to look at yourself honestly, you won’t know. It’s not possible to sum up the meaning of life in a single blog article, but working towards fulfillment is a close approximation. Take the life that you are given and live it on your own terms. Block out the noise and dive 100% into what makes you feel alive, or dive 20% into five things! It’s your life. Just don’t live in a constant state of one foot in and one foot out saying you wish you were doing something else.