My handstand coach always says the reward of getting better at handstands is getting to do more handstands!
And it's true!
Of so many activities we do that we wish to become lifestyle habits.
In my experience, so often people's intentions for coming to a fitness class are to get it done so they can check off the box and get some external reward - such as validation by weight loss, a dessert that they "earned", to be stronger, more flexible, win the competition, break the record, whatever the desire.
And many fitness instructors run classes this way: I will make you feel destroyed, make it burn, make you run so hard you almost vomit...And then you’ll feel like you worked hard enough to deserve that reward.
And then we wonder why it's so hard to stick to our workout routines.
But a routine is just that...
Something we do regularly.
The reward is MORE!
When I started running, I could run maybe 2 mins before taking a walk break.
The reward of keeping it up is that now I can run MORE.
The way I got to this place almost 6 years later was not by making running a terrible experience. It was by making the training something I wanted to do MORE of. Which for me - someone with little willpower to do what I hate - means making training feel good!
I praised my body for what it did.
I challenged myself, but allowed myself to take breaks when needed.
I was compassionate and non-judgemental in my progress and setbacks.
I gave myself a lovely stretch and considered all the great things I'd done.
I ran in beautiful places.
Used it as a reason to enjoy the fresh air, to travel, to meet people.
And all the while, I also did all the things that are typical goals: I increased my cardio capacity and it helped out my pole dancing endurance and has probably enabled me to do cooler hikes, get fewer colds and illnesses and recover from things faster. It also became an incredible stress reduction tool for me. (Oh, the incredible benefits of cardio!)
What's the point:
If the reward is MORE, whether you are an instructor or a participant or training yourself, why not make it feel as GOOD as possible?
You can still create challenges and progress and set and reach goals.
And it can feel good...even in the challenge.
This isn’t just for fitness. It’s for life too.
When I achieved a PhD, I got to do more research!
When I won a pole competition, I got to do more pole!
When I trained my dog to sit pretty, we got to train more tricks! (And now he can drive a car, ride a scooter and do handstands. More has been SO FUN!!)
When you love what you’re doing, a goal is just like a little check-point and your self-worth and future training is not dependent on it.
And the nice thing is, especially for goals that are beyond your control, you still get rewarded by getting to do more! Competition is a good example of this, since no matter how much you train and how well prepared you are physically and mentally, there is so much beyond your control on competition day. Any one could win and it has NO impact on your inherent worth. When you see the ultimate reward as the medal, it can be beyond just disappointing to not win - it can feel like all out failure. When you KNOW the reward of competition is that you challenge yourself to expand your competencies and capacities, then whether you have the best run or the worst run on competition day (or the best run, but someone else happens to be awarded a higher score than you), you still get the ultimate reward of continuing training at a higher level.
The reward of MORE keeps me going and reminds me to be kind to myself and keep things fun!
The next time you decide to set goals for something that you intend to be a long-term activity, I strongly encourage you to include ideas on how you will make it a positive experience for you.
If you want to receive ideas and inspo for creating positive life experiences (even during times of challenge) right to your inbox, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here.