I have been approached by many sincere people in my time as a fitness trainer. I consider it a wonderful privilege that so many have sought my help. I have felt a great responsibility as I have been permitted to play a small part in their collective journeys. Their diversity is so amazing! While the differences in age, personality, education, athletic accomplishment, personal and professional acclaim, economic status, race, culture, religious creed, and physical condition are what make each so unique, I am fascinated that to some degree or another, these individuals have all been genuinely seeking a greater sense of happiness in their lives. An extreme rarity would be the occasion in which I am asked a question I have not heard before. Regardless of the varied backgrounds of the inquisitors, the questions themselves tend to be strikingly similar. The most common ones which I have fielded are as follows. #1 “Where specifically do I need to begin? #2 “How do I actually start?” #3 “How soon will I know if this is working?” #4 “How long will I have to commit?” To those whose journey has led them to this moment of pondering your present state, your immediate task or purpose, and your long term destiny, I will offer a few golden nuggets of truth which I have shared over the years.
Where do I need to begin? How about beginning exactly where you are at! The beginning that I allude to precedes the purchase of new athletic shoes and apparel. So, thus it is before you literally put one foot in front of the other and begin your move forward to improved fitness. It is the vitally important prelude to refreshing your refrigerator with healthy produce. Begin by exercising a particle of faith. Even if you can do no more than desire to believe change is possible. That is where it all must begin. “A bird sitting in a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not on the branch but on its own wings. Believe in yourself.”-Seth Adam Smith It is amazing what can be accomplished when you put an end to the lies which you have been telling yourself every day. The tiniest flicker of faith can help you separate truth from fiction. “Don’t let the fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you–whether that voice comes from the inside or the outside.”-Dieter F. Uchtdorf “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. Begin, here and now, with what little you think you have. Truly, there are great things which lie within your reach but beneath the many layers of falsehoods you have built. At your very core, you know that you were meant for more. “You were not created to live depressed, defeated, guilty, ashamed, or unworthy. You were created to be victorious.”-Seth Adam Smith
How do you actually start? Let your desire (to believe) work in you until you reach a point that you can give place for a portion of a plan to guide you. So, you start by having a plan. Some of you wonder if your plan should first incorporate a fitness component or whether you should reconstruct your D.IE.T. to start. “To reach a goal you have never before attained, you must do things you have never done before.”-Richard G. Scott What a blessing it is that with each new day you are granted the opportunity for a new start! So, take full advantage of this precious gift this day and try something new. Obviously, there are options available. Your choice will depend on your current overall physical and mental state. Not everyone will be able to start anew in precisely the same manner. A personal assessment is necessary to determine exactly what would best fit you as you eagerly stand at the starting line. An approach which includes your involvement in both some form of exercise and D.I.E.T. alteration simultaneously may be ideal for many of you. If you are not yet prepared to make the courageous jump with a major overhaul in both areas, please do not be discouraged. “Don’t worry about how inexperienced you are or think you are, but think about what, with the right guidance, you can become.”-Unknown Daily healthy eating and regular exercise are absolute requirements for the new lifestyle you’d like to pursue. Certainly, this is not a concept that is foreign to you. However, the formulation of a plan for you does not necessarily have to include both components immediately. It would behoove you to start in a fashion which is most conducive to success. Because of the challenges which you will face, the all important pre-assessment will guide you in the way should take. “The best paths in life are rarely the easiest.”-Carlos A. Goody The reality is that you will have to step out of your comfort zone no matter what decision you make to start. When changes that you implement begin to feel natural, even easy for you, then it is likely time, once again, to make yourself a little uncomfortable. The path you will be traveling needs to be bumpy for a while for your good. So, wear your seatbelt at all times. “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love what you are doing.”-Pele
How soon will you know if this is working? I say to you that if today, your very first day, you are doing something different than yesterday it is already working. If you have engaged your spirit, mind, and body in an effort to alter the course of your life, I say again to you–it is working! Please discard any thoughts of needing to be perfect right now. Do that and the plan is working. This part of the journey may resemble a dance move. You are going to take two steps forward and one step back. Repeat this many times. Now, take three steps forward and two steps back. Repeat again. You are trending upward if we were to gauge your progress on a chart. You are moving to the rhythm of your own dance, not someone else’s. You are moving forward and it is working. “In a moment of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited.”-Jeffrey R. Holland Don’t ever dismiss your efforts as pointless or wasted. The point is you are making great strides regardless of the length of your dance steps. Even a misstep will prove to be a positive learning experience. Plant your personal flag in this strange, fertile ground and stake your claim to it. You are a pioneer, and this is your new territory, and it is working! As you are happily waltzing about your business, I challenge you to take the following test. Through the course of an entire day, can you forgo lamenting aloud concerning your plight? What would it be like if you uttered not a single hint of a complaint to yourself or others? If you can do this, it is working and your circumstances will surely change. “If for a little while the harder you try, the harder it gets, take heart. So it has been with the best people who ever lived.”-Jeffrey R. Holland Do not be fooled by the apparent easiness of the way others have chosen. This plan, though hard it may at times appear, will bring forth an abundance of good fruit. So, accept the bitter cup when you must, and rejoice in your sweet victories for a moment when they occur. But, keep moving despite the occasional awkward feel of the natural ebb and flow of life, and you will discover that it is working! Now let us compare the plan you are following unto a seed. If you give place that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, and if you do not cast it out by your unbelief, that you will resist it in any manner, it will begin to swell within your entire being. When you feel this swelling, you will begin to say to yourself–it must be that this is a good plan, for it is beginning to enlighten my understanding. Yes, it is beginning to be delicious to you. You may not have a perfect knowledge of what is happening, but that seed you have planted is helping to expand your confidence. Therefore, it is working. In truth, if your only measuring stick for success pertains to the number of pounds lost in a week, or a month, or six months, that may not be enough to guarantee a sufficient increase in your faith. While dropping several clothes sizes is a sign of the effectiveness of the plan, I wish to share with you an indicator of much greater significance. For you to find that satisfaction you seek, the size of your heart must grow in proportion to the decrease of your waistline which you delight in. If your desire to share the things you have learned with others increases by leaps and bounds, then it is really working! Furthermore, the more you give yourself in service to others, and express gratitude for what you now possess and who you are becoming, the more effective, efficient, and far reaching your plan will become. It will have found a home in your heart and it can only be good.
How long will I have to commit? If you expect to see changes in your life that will last, then you must make a commitment that is ever-lasting. There cannot be an end to your pursuit of complete health and wellness. Goals attained or destinations reached are merely points along our personal journey where we must begin again. Some love to use the term “maintenance phase” to describe the time period after one has successfully met the objective of a specific plan. I see great value in always establishing new goals for yourself. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how long your quest has taken you, or just how perfect you believe yourself to have become. It is too easy to rationalize and think to oneself, “I’ve worked so hard for so long. I’m going to take a rest.” That self-proclaimed well deserved rest can turn into another deep slumber. You cannot afford to fall asleep at the wheel. Stay alert. Remain vigilant. Thinking that you can simply coast your way through the remainder of your life is, frankly, missing the mark. This commitment requires you to faithfully focus on family, food, fitness, and fun from now on. I cannot imagine a day when you stop working on self-improvement. I do know that others will be counting on you to continue. Please remember, this whole journey is not just about “you”. If you are not “all in” for all times, then disappointment and discouragement will likely come calling in search of a place to stay. It might not be your home they enter, but don’t forget the amount of influence you have on others. Your life-long commitment must include continually building and maintaining relationships with others. You must maintain that very same desire which helped you begin your journey. This sense of connectivity to your original dream is important so that you never lose sight of the way you have come. Developing and maintaining a state of eternal optimism needs to be part of this commitment. You never know what tomorrow has in store for you. I maintain that you can’t just “call it quits” without dealing with some undesirable consequences.
Through the years, I have come to learn something that has been very helpful to me. There is not a single one among us who is either absolutely perfect or hopelessly flawed. I believe that there is a fine line between what we perceive to be the start and end of our respective journeys. Each day has its own proverbial starting line and finish line, but there really are no endings, only new beginnings. It is our duty and privilege to make the most out of every day. No matter where we find ourselves, we are never really a finished product. I hope that concept is motivating to you rather than deflating. I humbly accept the reality that I am still a work in progress. I know that you can soon begin with the inner strength that comes even from a molecule of belief. I know that you will add upon that belief as you courageously embark on a suitable course of action. I know that you will find joy in the journey as you discover the plan is working now for you. I know that your joy will be more full as you willingly share the experience with others. I hope that you remain steadfast in your commitment and never give up. I know the best is yet to come.
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