Nothing is ever as it might first seem. So allow yourself to take a chance and mold the world to how you would have it be. Think of how you imagined your life a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, before you directed yourself to where you are. Did it all turn out the way you thought it would back then? Think back to what you thought it would be like to go through the various rites of passage before you went through them. Your fitness and wellness journey is no different, and will be no different in the future. Serendipity steps in. You learn more. You take the reigns or give them to others. And, truth be told, it can end up being so much better than you expected.
I'll give just two illustrations of seemingly impossible circumstances where the outcome was nothing like what one likely expects. In doing so, I want the reader to consider his/her own seemingly impossible roadblocks (not just in your fitness goals, but whatever struggle you may be having in life). However, reconsider them. If these two examples show you anything, it's that you too can get past your roadblocks to something unimaginably wonderful.
The picture above is of one of my clients who is the team lead for the American Men's Greco-Roman wrestling team on her trip to Iran for the 2014 World Cup. When she returned she regaled me with a hundred stories about how repeatedly pleasantly surprised she was at her interactions in Iran, and how the Iranians were repeatedly pleasantly surprised at the interactions with her. In a nutshell, each party underestimated the respectfulness, gentility, humility, piety and cultural sensitivity that would come from the other. And it resulted in her having a "media darling" week in the country of Iran.
As I listened to her debrief throughout the week, it kept occurring to me that her Persian expedition was not too dissimilar from a fitness journey. That is, with a little bit of guts and taking a chance, beautiful impossible things happen. Almost every part of her trip was historic, in that a woman had never been in various buildings and forums where she went. And "knowing" what she thought she did beforehand, she could've easily just forewent the tour, stood this one out, played it safe and stayed home. The Iranian government could've easily declined entry and the various concessions they had to make to accommodate her. Instead, both boldly proceeded and people's worlds changed.
Prior to my client's return, two weeks ago, I myself was overseas; and my son was standing on a canon outside the mansion once home to Laskarina Bouboulina (whose statue is next to him). Born in 1771 Bouboulina was the only woman in recorded world history to be named a full admiral until 2013. She had no female role model after whom to model herself. She could've easily said, "this is how things seem to be" and accepted her plight. But instead she challenged every imagined imposition in her path, amassing a furtive arsenal on the island of Spetsos, chartering the construction of one of the largest ships at the time, bribing Turkish officials to look the other way, and launching a series of offensives against the Ottoman Empire to ultimately play a pivotal role in the Independence of Greece. She was born to be just another Greek woman (in fact, she was born in a prison), quietly oppressed by the Turks; but she imagined and created something so much greater. Even when she had acquired a large estate, she was not content to stand back and enjoy retirement. Rather, she personally attended to brutal battles at the ripe old age of 50, which is REALLY saying something for a woman in the early 1800s.
Nothing is as it seems to begin with. And that's because you make things what they are. Holding back from a full commitment to your fitness is just like holding back from the rest of life. You think you know what it's like, so you shoot yourself in the foot before you take a step, and now you dare not put it forward because it could get hurt worse.
Yes, it requires doing what maybe no one including yourself thought possible. But you know what? EVERYTHING EVER DONE once seemed like it couldn't be.
The jury is in. In fact, it has been in for a very long time. No one was born irrevocably predetermined to become fat or anything else. Sorry.
Thanks to the Enlightenment, humans could begin blaming all of their faults on the deterministic actions of matter in the universe. Thanks to Freud, humans could begin to blame their failures on being stuck in a developmental stage. And, much more recently, thanks to the Human Genome Project, we have all begun to update the Medieval "the devil made me do it" to "my genes made me do it." I mean, after all, taking responsibility sucks, right?
However, despite all of our hopes and dreams that we could blame everything on inherited genes, it just isn't so. First off, genetic expression changes throughout your life and is dependent on your every act, choice and environmental change. Second, various discoveries disproved that malarkey: http://dmm.biologists.org/content/6/1/236.abstract. After all, it is pretty preposterous, since no matter what your genetic makeup, people stranded on an island with almost no food don't grow fatter.
Hey, it sure would be great. Imagine if you couldn't help yourself from having piles of cash stacked in scattered safety deposit boxes. Being a bank robber is just in your genes, so you couldn't help but collect all this money. But, alas, we all have to take responsibility for our actions and their outcomes, no matter how much we just want to believe that our taboo is externally induced.
Humans haven't become any more sophisticated in their fundamental desire to absolve themselves of all accountability. Point to the gods or the Higgs Boson. Your argument is the same. Headlines read "evolutionary biology discovery explains prevalence of rape." Really? If only we could prove that the most heinous acts in the universe were incontrovertibly fixed to happen, we could feel a lot better about our own little sins. Nope. You should've zagged when you zigged; and you had total control to do so. And you know it.
Yeah, yeah. I know. "Influence." Yes, genes, family, peers, mental disorders, addiction, etc. exert INFLUENCE. But influence is only influence. Influence isn't even potential. And potential isn't even actualized reality. It is scary. It's scary to say "I caved to these influences." It's an admission of weakness. And we all know admitting to weakness of character is much more difficult than blaming a condition. But you have to start somewhere to begin the change. And why not start with the only thing you can control: your reaction. You can't control others. You can't control who your parents were. So, why are you starting your change (or lack thereof) with talk about totally uncontrollable variables? Instead, let's focus on the empowering. You've got 168 hours of influence this week. Now go pick what you'll fill it with and how you react to it.
Billy Joel had it wrong when he exclaimed "Only the Good Die Young."
Analysis of over 16,000 individuals again confirms that the best predictors of mortality overall are sense of purpose and sense of community/family. This recent research finding, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that risk factors for mortality were being unmarried, infrequent involvement in religious activities, and being socially isolated.
This dovetails perfectly with what I've already written about in terms of managing perception of stress. Yes, nutrition and activity play a role, but ultimately are borne out of, reinforced or negated by one's sense of higher purpose and connection to community and/or family.
The National Geographic Blue Zones project began digging into these same factors now for over a decade, and I think that Dan Buettner's article on "The Island Where People Forget to Die" helps put a fine point on it: have incredible meaning in your life and have incredibly meaningful relationships.