A while back, I found a quote that said something to the effect of “the end is not the goal, the process is the goal.” This gave me a great “aha!” moment. It gave me a way to express how I had been feeling when approached by clients who could only focus on the end goal in the gym. For a lot of people, fitness is a means to an end. The abs they want to see at the end of the process is what they focus on and what they use as a measure of success.
What these people are missing out on, is that the process is the result they should truly be looking for. The process is the goal. You could have a goal of getting down to a certain weight and, with a little hard work, education, and persistence you will get there.
Then what? You’re now at you’re goal weight or you finished that 5K you were working towards. Do you go back to life as it was before this process? Do you go back to a sedentary lifestyle and putting your health on hold for other aspects of your life? Do you go back to mindlessly eating what your body may not need or want? What do you do after the “after”?
Let me pose a few questions to help you decide. Let’s say you lost 30 pounds. Excellent! Good for you. Now, something you may not have thought about: How long did it take you to put on that extra 30 pounds you didn’t want? I doubt it was one day. I doubt it was a week. I’ll bet you it even took longer than a few months. Everyone’s body is different but everyone’s body also likes to maintain wherever it is. So, how then did you put on 30 pounds that seemed to just appear?
Answer: your lifestyle; your accumulation of habits. Habits are just your brain on autopilot. A sedentary lifestyle and your nutrition choices that led you to an extra 30 pounds were habits; habits that need to be broken to keep you from ending up 30 pounds heavier. This means adopting a new lifestyle.
Your results are in the process. The process is the change and should be the goal. If you adhere to some healthier habits, you will maintain your new found physique; you’ll continuously benefit from your new lifestyle; and you won’t constantly be on this roller coaster of dieting and the newest weight-loss fads.
My advice to anyone trying to make a healthy change for themselves is to find a program or a method that encourages adopting a new and healthy lifestyle. If you are just starting out a new fitness journey, ask yourself the following:
- Are you safe? This should always be number one. Nothing should come before your overall health. If your new fitness plan has you run to the ground with rapidly developing injuries, it’s time to reassess.
- Are you setting actionable goals? There is nothing wrong with having physique-driven goals. Just don’t let them be your only goals. Set short-term, actionable goals based on living that healthy lifestyle we talked about. Set the goals of getting to the gym 2-3 times a week or improving your energy. Reaching those goals will happen before you get your six-pack. They’ll also help you get those abs later down the road.
- Are you learning? Are you blindly following a plan or are you learning something about exercise and healthy lifestyles? Set yourself up to learn. If you know nothing, hire someone to help. Go to seminars or surround yourself with people who know a little more than you. If you are not learning something about yourself, your nutrition, or your body, you need to dig for more. You don’t need to become an expert. However, you do need to have a clue. How are you going to stick to a healthy lifestyle if you don’t know any of the “why”?
- Is this sustainable? Can you picture yourself following the same diet and exercise program you’re on for the next year? Or even just another two months? If you answered no, you should change something. Strive for gradually improving your diet and increasing your exercise. A sustainable approach makes for sustainable results.
- Are you reaching your goals? Lastly, make sure you are still reaching your goals (at a reasonable pace). Track your workouts, track your nutrition, and track your results. Don’t just rely on the scale – there is truth to the saying “muscle weighs more than fat.” Try tracking tape measurements, how clothes fit, or just how you feel. Even when results are steady, you can still feel discouraged. Tracking how much stronger you are or how much more energy you have are great ways to keep you motivated.
If you are embarking on a new health and fitness journey of any sort, you should ask yourself the above questions. Whatever your goals, make sure you are focusing on the process just as much as the result. I hope you find a balance in your new healthy lifestyle that keeps you thriving!