For most people the start of their self improvement journey started with some really tough first steps. Be it those first few work outs at the gym, the first long walk up a hill or first few KMs on those first runs. It was tough, uncomfortable and to achieve a goal they pushed through it in order to become better. So why then is that initial spark, that initial drive, lost over time? You did it once, so why not continue doing it? Instead, slowly, without realising it, people are drawn in to routine and habit which can ultimately destroy progress.
Now sometimes this is not a bad thing. Few people are strong enough to spend the entire time chasing goal after goal and pouring every ounce of energy in to that cycle, yet there is a balance to be found here. My own personal view of life is very much based on finding balance in all things. Life is a kaleidoscope of experiences to be had. For me a little of everything makes an overall healthier life then doing any one thing to the detriment of all others. This rings true when driving for self improvement, most of us need some time with the foot off the gas just to gather up momentum for the next push. Indeed we often come back stronger for a short break.
No, what I’m writing about here isn’t the times when we ease back to give ourselves a well deserved break. What I’m highlighting is over time our training can plateau. We still go to the gym regularly, we go to our classes and sweat, we tick off our exercise routine yet progress slows. It’s at this point you need to go back to the foundation, find the mindset where it all began, and ask yourself some tough questions.
By our nature we are creatures of habit. Habit is comfortable, familiar, safe. We crave
safety. It’s this drive for routine and perceived safety that can lead to negative mental states that many can perhaps relate to. When you first started a self improvement journey you broke old habits, you left the safety of routine and you became better for it (Both mentally and physically). Yet our nature still craves habit, still craves safety, and sure enough it’s scarily easy to suddenly find yourself a creature of different habits. Where they may be marginally healthier then the old habits did you not break those old habits in order to become more? To become better? So why be happy with new habits?
When it comes to physical training it’s that last push, last rep, squeezing out that very last minuscule bit of energy to push beyond your current limit… THAT’S when real progress is made. Without hitting limits and pushing them we can stagnate. When habit settles in we’re not pushing those limits anymore, we cease to grow, we’ve forgotten why we first started our journey.
We can try and avoid habit in our physical training by keeping things varied. Vary your routines, your type of exercises. If you run try some cycling or strength training. If you spend your time lifting weights go climb a mountain now and again. Enjoy classes but vary them with normal training, keep setting new goals and keep those goals in mind. Remember the ‘Why’ of what you’re doing with your training time and during your training really ask yourself if you’re giving 100% and pushing those limits? If you’re not, then why are you spending your precious time doing this?
Mentally, you don’t know what you don’t know. Just like physical training in order to achieve balance you need variety. Look in to different coaching our counseling techniques, read different books or try talking to different people about their experiences. Think of it like having a favorite restaurant or meal that’s your go to, forsaking all others. Once upon a time you had no idea it existed, and you don’t know what other amazing restaurants or meals exist out there. It’s great to have a favorite to rely on, but imagine what else is waiting out there to be discovered!
If you mindfully make a conscious choice to settle in to a pattern, be it you’re happy with where you are, you allow other priorities take focus, or you just need a break then that is indeed different… but be sure to reflect frequently, dig deep and ask yourself is this what you truly want, or are you settling in order to be safe again? Perhaps that drive that got you this far needs a chance to see how much further it can take you…