I’ve spoken to literally hundreds of people about their goals, and the responses I get come in one of four repetitive little packages. Response One, ‘I want to lose weight’, Response Two, ‘I want to gain muscle’, Response Three, ‘I want to get stronger’ and Response Four, ‘I want to get faster/fitter’. Here’s the issue…I’m here to tell you that, used as they are, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE GOALS IS WRONG. Stick with me, though, and I’ll also let you know exactly how to reframe these goals in a way guaranteed to help you succeed.
At this point you must be wondering why on earth any of these goals are wrong. Well, here’s the big issue, the number one problem…positioning. Each statement talks about goals as something to grab, something to get or something to lose. The goal is always posited as an external object that can be achieved with a specific action. On a very basic, foundational level this is, of course, true. Certain programmes utilising certain training parameters will elicit given physiological adaptions in the human body. (Click here for foundation 'How To Videos) But it’s this kind of thinking that leads to a fixation on questions like ‘which workout is best?’, ‘which exercise is best?’ and ‘which programme is best?’ People get so bogged down in the tools that they forget one the most important things, the process, a.k.a the journey. It’s important to understand that strength, or fitness or a certain physique isn’t just some object to be obtained, it is instead a complex realisation of your character. These qualities are not only physical, but represent the entire journey and development that you have taken to reach that point. They represent the hardship you’ve gone through, the hours and the weeks and the months of dedication. They represent the friendships made through training and the decisions you’ve made to get to that point. Your new strength, your new body, is in fact a new YOU, more confident, more resilient and fully self-actualised.
Allow me to give you an example. A guy, let’s call him James, decides that he ‘wants to gain more muscle.’ He’s 5ft 7, pretty small and feels insecure about his physical appearance. James researches the best programmes he can find (Check out my YouTube video on the myth that is ‘The Best Strength Training Programme’) and if he’s clever he’ll also do a little bit of research into nutrition. Let’s be (VERY) optimistic with James. Let’s say that he finds a good programme, gets good nutrition advice, finds a good group of experienced mentors to train with and actually does in fact achieve the muscle gain he’s been seeking. 5ft 7, 150lb James is now James the 200lb behemoth! There’s only one problem, James still doesn’t feel any more confident; in his head he’s still tiny little James. He’s still shy, he still gets walked all over by the people around him and he still doesn’t feel secure about himself. James now has two choices, he either gives up his new healthy lifestyle because it hasn’t helped him, or he decides that he’s bound to be happier if he just had that extra few pounds of muscle. James was so busy reaching for his external end-goal that he never really tackled the real problems in his life. He got so bogged down in the physical that he neglected the mental and the emotional. He got bigger, but he didn’t become a new person, he didn’t change his character.
I know there will be those of you reading this thinking that nobody is like James, but I’m also pretty sure that there will plenty of you for whom James’ story rings all too true. Luckily, hope is not lost. Imagine instead that James, the clever guy that he is, read this article or read the Character Strength Blog. Imagine that James internalised the idea that strength training should go hand in hand with honest self-development. James’ new goal was no longer just the desire for muscle, instead James said that right from the start that he wanted to overcome his confidence issues, and that taking the time to overcome resistance and create muscle will form a part of this process. This time around James didn’t just find a good programme, he found also found some great books on confidence building and on assertive behaviour. A few months later James finished his programme, weighing in at the same 200lb as in the previous example. This time, however, James feels more confident, he’s learnt some basic ways to stand up for himself and assert boundaries. People now respect James, and James respects himself. The Body he has created is not just some physical spectacle. It is instead a representation of the bigger journey that he has taken towards self-actualisation. In short, James is now a new person, a new CHARACTER.
This is what Character Strength and Conditioning is really about. When I train people to become stronger or fitter or faster or more muscular I’m really training them to overcome the biggest obstacles in their lives. I’m not just a Coach, I’m a facilitator for personal development (That’s why my gym has a bookcase!) And do you want to know something strange? When the people that I train overcome these obstacles, they have the energy and the drive to become even fitter, even faster and even stronger than they ever have been!
So the next time you’re setting your goals, take an extra few minutes to really ask yourself why you want to achieve a change in your life. What is it that drives you? What are your dreams? What fears do you need to overcome? And how can Strength Training for the Soul help you improve your life and create a brand new, brilliant character. Good Luck.
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