Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Labels, identities and resilience

It's recently come to my attention that some of the most successful maintainers apply labels to themselves, e.g. runner, yogi, triathlete. I wrote about identities in the past but didn't quite make the intuitive leap that I made earlier this week.

When a someone embarks upon a quest for health and fitness, they may likely experience trepidation at the prospect of having to exercise.

Why?

I'm sure you could produce a plentiful list of reasons, but I believe they can all be distilled into a single fear: a fear of discomfort.

Discomfort can be internal, i.e. the fear of not knowing what to do in the gym or the fear of looking foolish. It can also be external like the fear of physical exertion. It is a powerful fear, and one that should not be discounted.

It's important to realize that this particular fear can prevent someone from trying things that they might enjoy.  It's important to remember that there is no reason to let fear limit you; if believe you can do something you can do it. You might not be good at it at first and it may not seem like much fun but if it's something you truly want then you have to culture an attitude of persistence and perseverance.

Words have power, despite the old adage about sticks and stones.  You are what labels you believe yourself to be and more importantly you become the labels you wish to be by attaching them to yourself.

What does this mean exactly? I'll elaborate.

I'm a runner. I feel the siren call of my shoes to pound pavement on a regular basis. It isn't exercise to me anymore, it's part of who I am now. And yet, it wasn't always a part of who I was.

There was a time when I first started running that I hated it. I felt slow, awkward, gawky. I couldn't find my stride and I felt like everyone at the track was staring at the fat girl running.   I persisted though, because every time I would finish a difficult run I felt a sense of accomplishment. Running always left me in a better mood than when I started. And yet, I didn't believe in that label strongly enough to allow me to lose weight and get healthy at that time.  In fact, I believed too strongly that I could never get below a certain weight or be lean and lithe. I believed that I was still just the fat girl.

Several years later, I started believing that I was actually a runner, that I could actually be lean, lithe and healthy. It was only then that I was truly successful.

Believe, persist, persevere and be fearless and you can achieve your dreams.