.Effort Over Results.
I tried again and again. I set strength & flexibility goals about twice a year - "by June I will have abs, I'll be able to do 10 pull-ups unassisted, I'll squat x amount, I'll be able to do full splits, I'll stop eating sugar and all things that are harmful to my body". Each year, June would come and I would get to 3 pull-ups and fall off the bar with my arms burning. I'd look down at the layer of fatty tissue covering my non-existent abs, my flexibility was nowhere near enabling me to relax into a full split, and I had chocolate bar wrappers hiding on my bedside table!
What happened?! I had good intentions of achieving my goals, I wanted them so badly! But life is busy and full of many distractions. I was making it to the gym on a weekly basis but my mind was not present. I was projecting into the future, just waiting to check things off my list; thinking that if I showed up and went through the motions, the results would come. But it's more than this.
Since my goal was so far into the future, it created a disconnect from what I actually needed to achieve in the moment - there was a disconnect between the results and the effort. In wanting the result, I was giving up on all the energy that was required in each moment to actually achieve it. Results don't happen in the future, they are made by consistent actions in the present.
The day I stepped onto the path that led me to physical strength & flexibility, to letting go of my patterns of unhealthy eating, was the day I stopped focusing on the results.
This was scary. Letting go of the idea of having abs, letting go of the idea of doing pull-ups or squatting a certain number, or getting into the flexible postures I'd observed in other yogis, meant letting go of all the ideas of what those meant to me.
Abs = self-worth. Squats = sexiness. Flexibility = being a better yoga teacher. None of these things are the truth! They may be opinions you hold, but opinions often get in the way of how we actually function...
So I had to re-write the placement of my values. I still thought those things were cool and I would aim loosely at them, but I let go of needing them as a pre-requisite for feeling a certain way about myself.
I found all the happiness I desired was available to me now. When I placed all my focus on results, I was starving myself of this energy. I was waiting to achieve something, to be somewhere else in the future, before I could feel content.
Maybe you think that in doing so, you are motivating yourself to achieve. You might think that if you approve of yourself, or accept yourself now, you will lose the motivation to act.
THIS IS NOT TRUE. YOU WILL NOT LOSE MOTIVATION. You may become less stressed, less chaotic, and less ungrounded, but you will not "let yourself go" in a direction towards ill-health. If it is true acceptance that you access here and now, you will be simultaneously giving yourself respect and value. You will not indulge in your ideas of laziness or unhealthy habits. You will be grounded, neutral, and have the freedom to choose your actions and where you put your attention, instead of feeling pressured to move yourself based on results.
It is not in human nature to sit back and do nothing. The mind and body are built for more activity than this. Unless you are completely exhausted and wiped out, in giving up your need to act, you will free up the choice to act instead. IF you give up your focus on results, and you find you are exhausted and laying in bed for a week, two weeks, three weeks. Be there fully. Accept where your body is at, nourish it, and as it gains strength, you will find the energy to choose your actions daily, and put in effort towards what you truly value.
In bringing my attention to the efforts instead of the results, there was no room to make the excuse that, "June is so far away, I don't need to bother with my workout, or I can still indulge today - I still have months to 'smarten up'". Every moment is the result. The effort becomes your focus and you are less likely to fall into patterns of extreme behaviour of binging on last minute actions, in hopes of achieving your goals.
If you aren't progressing in your skill, in your strength training, in your career, or in any other area that you're setting goals, check in to see where your mind is during those moments of effort.
When it comes to achieving anything, consistency wins. So let go of results, come to the moment. Choose your daily actions and put your attention on your efforts instead. Make learning your goal, not accumulation of knowledge. Make energy output in the moment more important than where you might end up down the road, or what that might mean to your ego.
Be here now.
There is a saying that summarizes this nicely.
"How do you eat an elephant?" "One bite at a time."