In a horror movie, you often see someone terrified and running away from the psycho-killer-maniac, while inexplicably looking backward more than looking forward. And you know what happens next. Trip. Fall. Dead.
Do you remember learning to drive? I do. It was about 30 years ago. Long before I even knew what “fitness” even was or thought much about. My driving instructor taught me something back then that resurfaced in my mind pertaining to fitness many years later. “Don’t look at the pothole or you will steer right into it.” What you look at while driving is where you will subtly steer the car. In motivational circles, they phrase it this way: “Energy flows where your attention goes.”
This idea that what you put your focus on is all you see is certainly true in the world of fitness. I’ve talked to countless people about fitness and any time the focus is intensely and exclusively on the obstacles, that is where the energy goes. An obstacle focus means no energy or ideas are going to solutions or finding opportunities around the obstacles.
What is your “can’t?” It’s the reason you tell yourself you can’t exercise/get in shape/eat healthy/etc. There are endless varieties of “can’t” available to you. Over a 20-year fitness career, I’ve heard heaps of them, but I still hear new ones all the time.
When you complain incessantly about the reason you can’t exercise, you eliminate your ability to see what you can do. I’ve known busy people who have had success with exercise, and I’ve known people who are far less busy who have not had success. Almost always the key difference is in the mindset and the perspective each has regarding life’s challenges.
If we want there to be reasons why we can’t exercise or eat healthy, we will always find them.
Here is a common list of “can’ts,” and tips on how to shift perspectives are shown in parentheses.
“I can’t exercise because…”
“…it’s just a crazy time in my life right now.” (Life will always be crazy. Accept this as “normal” rather than “crazy” and get on with simply doing what you can, even if you only have a few minutes per day.)
“…I’ve got a knee injury.” (Work around it or use upper-body muscles. Hire an ACE Pro to help with guidance on how to work around an injury)
“…I’m travelling a lot for work.” (Stay at a hotel with a gym, get out and about where you are staying or perform this short workout.)
“…I don’t live close enough to a gym/can’t afford a gym/don’t own equipment.” (You don’t need equipment to be healthy. Use a body-weight routine, like this fresh twist on five familiar bodyweight moves.)
“…I’ve got family coming for the holidays and need to clean/shop/cook.” (The holidays come at the same time every year so they cannot surprise you. People will survive without your constant attention for all 24 hours of the day.)
“…this is a busy season for me at work.” (Do less than your normal routine, but don’t stop all together. One of the hardest things to do is to get started with exercise. Think of how great you’ll feel knowing you didn’t let the busy time completely wash away your health goals.)
“…it’s just too hard to get in shape.” (It’s really hard to have and raise children, but many people do it. Repeatedly. It’s not easy, but if you believe it’s worth it, you can find the energy for the effort.)
“I can’t eat healthy because…”
“…my kids/wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend will not eat healthy foods.” (You are responsible for your own health and if you love those people, feeding yourself healthfully will make you a smarter and better parent, spouse or partner. Explain to the important people in your life how important your health is and involve them in the process of change.)
“…I don’t know how to cook.” (Then learn. It’s not an optional life skill. It’s wonderful to learn a new skill. And healthy eating doesn’t require a chef’s training. Just get started and realize that you’ll make a mistake here and there, just as you would when trying any other new thing. Watch a few online how-to videos and get started.)
“…I hate vegetables/fruit/plain water” (This is always a learned response. Humans never naturally hate that which sustains life. Find a vegetable or fruit that you do like—or at least don’t hate—and start there. And keep trying it (this is really important). We try a healthy food once and if we don’t like it, we never have it again. We try a cigarette or alcohol once, and hate it—because both of those things are awful at first—yet we keep trying them until we like them because we want to.)
“…I love chocolate, wine (absolutely not a health food), doughnuts, ice cream, etc., too much.” (Remind yourself that being healthy does not mean never having these things again. It simply means that your body is built based on your habits and, as a result, daily booze, candy bars or doughnuts will erode your health because consuming those things has become a habit.)
There is always something you can do that moves your needle closer to health. There is always an opportunity within an obstacle if only we are willing to look for it.
This idea is so powerful once you begin to apply it, and I am so impressed that one fitness company (Primal 7) has made “conquer your can’t” its official slogan. Watch this inspiring short video and see how many people you see exercising who have a big “can’t” they could use if they wanted a good excuse not to exercise. It’s a great reminder that not taking care of our health is always, to some degree, a choice.
The next time you find yourself spiraling out of control with a parade of “can’ts,” consider how you can turn one of them around by focusing on what you can do. Even if it is a small positive action, it is still a positive action. The formula for health (or the lack of it) is SMALL CHANGES + TIME. Accumulate enough small behaviors and do them for long enough and you’ll “conquer your can’t” and learn to “celebrate your can.”