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Monday
Oct012012

Is this bad for you? 

You walk in the door with a extra spring in your step, today has been a good day. You got up early and had a healthy breakfast, at work you were a busy beaver going from one task to the next and completing them with ease and you even caught up with a friend for a run where you ran faster than you normally do. You’re justified in feeling good about yourself, it’s the reward for your good behaviors during the day.  

You walk into the bathroom and catch a look of yourself in the mirror and you have a little sparkle in your eyes, ‘I’m doing alright’ you tell yourself. After washing up you see the scales and you think to yourself “I should have lost some weight, lets see”. It is in this moment where you are jumping onto a roulette wheel of self perception which will determine how you feel about yourself for the rest of the night. If the number that spins up is one that you are happy with the sparkle in your eyes will stay and you’ll probably maintain your good behaviors for the rest of the night, if the number isn’t so favorable you’re going to head down a completely different path. This path will take you down road which will probably lead to behaviors you will regret. 

What’s fascinating about this situation is that you have had good behaviors for the whole day but this single one factor, this number on the scales, has the biggest influence on how your feel about yourself.  

This situation has me thinking about the way we measure ourselves. Does the way we measure ourselves create a focus which can lead to decisions or emotions that aren’t good for us?

A real world example of this is businesses that conduct unethical decision making when chasing profit. If your only measure for success is profit there’s a chance you’ll make decisions that will hurt your business in some, if not many ways. When we transfer this thinking to health and fitness there are a lot of people who’s only measurement of success are the scales. If they don’t have the right number they go to a vulnerable place that often leads to bad decisions which take them on a downward spiral. 

So what is the solution? Research does show that measuring ourselves can be a powerful tool in achieving success. You see it a lot in today’s world with the various easily accessible mobile applications that we can access via smart phones. With apps like Map my Run people are keeping records of their fitness journeys which helps with motivation to constantly reach the next goal. This measurement tool motivates people to get out and do more but there are other ways to measure yourself and to achieve success. 

1. Test yourself first:
Too often people measure themselves based on some magical number they pull out of the air. They chose a benchmark that is based on a level they were at a long time ago. ‘I was happy when I weighed (insert your own magic number here) so that’s what I need to get to’. Instead of going for some magical unrealistic number, weigh yourself now and use this as the base line from which you are trying to improve from. 

2. Be realistic:
Now that you have your current base line for where you are right now set some targets that are realistic. I understand that if you are 15kg over weight you want to get rid of it asap but it takes time. Set a target of losing say 2kg in the next 3-4 weeks. While it’s the end result you ultimately want, by setting realistic goals to get you there you will feel it’s achievable and you will attack it in a more realistic way.
How do you lose 15kg straight way? You do extreme behaviors which are not maintainable and will ultimately lead to failure and leads to gaining more weight.
How do your lose 2kg over 3-4 weeks? You could cut back on a couple snacks throughout the day, remove a bit of alcohol from your week and try to get some fun exercise into your routine.

3. Find different ways to measure yourself:
Explore different markers for how you can measure yourself. This can be thought of in two different ways: Measuring for a specific outcome (like losing weight) or measuring for the overall picture of the who you want to be. 

  • For the person trying to lose weight you could measure consistency of exercise, how often you are making healthy food choices, or you could create an ‘energy’ tool that tests how you feel about yourself when you make these different decisions. You could even measure how you externally impact others: how often do you make other people feel good about themselves?
  • If you going for the overall ‘best you’ measurement you could look to the behaviors you know you do when you are in your good place. For example, I know I’m in my good place when I’m meditating, exercising, playing my piano and spending time with friends and family. When I allow those activities to slip I find I start to fall into bad behaviors that have a negative affect on my self perception. I have set up time measurements around these activities so I notice when they are being neglected. 

4. Have rewards for success: If you test yourself, find the right types of measurements and base these around realistic markers you’ll probably find that the best reward for your work is that you feel good about yourself both physically and mentally. Physically because you’ll be achieving your desired results and mentally because there’s that esteem that comes when you know that you are doing what is right for you. Allowing yourself to have rewards when you achieve your targets can also be a motivator. For those of you trying to lose weight I would recommend that you don’t perhaps use food as a reward but you might allow yourself to spend some money on yourself, perhaps shout yourself a new top, or a new pair of shoes when you have reached a target. These rewards work as markers for success and can help you stay focused when the going gets tough. 

If we only measure ourselves in one way, and we do this unrealistically we are increasing our chance of failure. This can make us feel negative about ourselves which leads us down a path of bad behavior and keeps us away from being what we really want to be.

Stop and have a think about this piece, reflect on how you measure yourself, how you could improve and then put together a plan that makes you successful. This way when you look in the mirror at night you have that happy, satisfied sparkle-eyed feeling more often. 

 

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