Two weeks ago, I put away my bathroom scale. It wasn’t that the scale was relaying disheartening information, quite the contrary. The problem was that my new focus on a result (weight) was beginning to supplant my focus on the reasons I began this fitness journey.
I started this odyssey to improve my health, better enjoy everything I do and help others reach their goals. To tell the absolute truth, I also wanted to become an athlete. However, that goal seemed too ridiculous to speak aloud at the beginning.
Now that the improbable is beginning to look possible, I am hungry for feedback that tells me how well and how quickly I am advancing. This desire brings us back to that bathroom scale currently languishing in the back of my closet.
Though the scale did measure one dimension of my journey accurately, it did so to the exclusion of others. Charting my weight didn’t mean I was building muscle, speed or endurance. Measuring my mass couldn’t tell me if I was enjoying myself or inspiring others. In short, the result did little to reinforce my reasons.
More dangerously, focusing primarily on the result of weight started me down a path of obsession with losing more. The quick hit of result success sent my brain whirling, calculating accelerated timelines for losing the pounds necessary to reach an ideal imagined weight. The result was taking over.
Ideal weight wasn’t one of my reasons for improving my eating and exercise habits. It wasn’t even one of my goals. My scale taught me that when focus shifts to results alone, it is easy to go wildly off course and even defeat the original reasons for making the attempt.
Focusing primarily on results – whatever they may be – also makes us more vulnerable to disappointment and impatient with natural plateaus. When results don’t meet wished for expectations, the temptation to throw in the towel can increase astronomically. Results are great pick-me-ups, but they won’t take you the distance without a firm foundation of reasons.
If results do meet our expectations for a time, there is a danger of turning into result machines who have forgotten why they are doing it all in the first place. The result becomes the goal to the exclusion of all reason.
A good friend recently said, “Progress is a judgment.” In other words, we see a result that matches our perceived effort and we call it progress. But progress is an illusion. Self-defined timelines and milestones miss the wealth of positive motion that goes on unobserved, is intangible or we never thought to measure.
After a recent race, a spectator told me that seeing us all run by had inspired them to give jogging a try. I would have judged my performance at that race a wash out if I had been chasing a goal of time or distance. But by enlarging my focus to include everyone the race touched, I could see my reasons were being served. We can never collect, quantify or truly know the good that our attempts toward a quality existence have on others. The impact of even just one healthy, caring and vibrant life is too vast to be measured. Our reasons need to expand to include the welfare of others.
For my part, I say set the judgments aside. Instead spend your time revisiting your reasons for what you do. Build these reasons into visions of the life you want by making them deeper and more inclusive. If you are currently focused primarily on results, ask yourself why these results were important to you in the first place and you’ll discover your reasons.
As for my exiled scale, it will be recalled from time to time as I have learned that results can function as incentives and guidelines. But it will never again claim valuable bathroom floor real estate or be taken seriously enough to undermine my courage or make me abdicate my reasons.