Trying new things…
Most of us don’t like change. Oh, sure, we want to improve, to do it better, faster, and have more fun doing it. Tomorrow. Today, we creatures of habit are most likely going to do what we did yesterday. We liked it then and we’ll like it tomorrow, and it’s easy to keep doing it. It’s pretty easy, too, to limit our ideas about self-improvement to the things we already enjoy doing. Maybe I’m a runner, and I want to run farther or faster. Maybe I like getting stronger, and in pursuit of that improvement I’ll do more reps, more of the same thing. You get the idea.
Last night I tried something I’ve never done before: Hot Yoga. I’ve always been a fan of balance, in theory. Strength should be balanced by flexibility, and flexibility should be tempered with strength.
In theory. But I hadn’t done much about flexibility in my own training. I didn’t know what yoga would be like. I didn’t know if I’d like it. But I spent an hour putting myself in new positions, and breathing, and paying attention to exactly how my body felt… and I liked it.
So let me encourage you to move in a new direction by trying something new. If you’re like me and you’ve focused on strength or speed, try a yoga or stretch class. If you do yoga, some strength training will help you hold your poses longer. If you play a sport focused on a skill, like golf, try exercising a different skill set. And if you are an all-round athlete, try sitting still and meditating. Get out of your comfort zone. Stretch yourself. Grow.
“I never lose. I either win or I learn.” This quote was a Facebook post from the folks at Spartan (an obstacle race course and fitness group), and it has been widely reposted, likely because others seem to be as struck by it as I am. Those words are probably as close as anything I have seen to a real credo by which to live: embrace setbacks as opportunities to learn, instead of rejecting them as personal failures. Setbacks happen to everyone on the roads to our successes. It is okay to make mistakes and it is okay to miss the mark and to fall down and to be hurt. Japanese proverb expresses a similar sentiment: “Fall down seven times. Get up eight.” We heard this a lot in Aikido and Judo practice. Accept that you will make mistakes, you will fall, you will fail before you can succeed. You will only learn if you are willing to also fail. “I either win or I learn” takes that important acceptance one step further: you can turn that fall or that fail into something valuable if you are open to learning from it. It is a great thing to persevere and never give up, but that single-mindedness can leave you banging your head against the same wall over and over again. Don’t do that, it hurts It is an even better thing to learn from both successes and failures. That has been true for me in all manner of endeavors. It was true when I was trying to lose weight, it was true when I was training for a black belt exam, it was true when training for a Spartan race, it was true in graduate school, and it has been true in my professional life as well.
So, don’t keep repeating what’s not working for you: learn why it’s not working, and change it. Don’t kick yourself because your diet isn’t showing results; think about where and how it’s not working for you. Don’t scold a child who did not meet your expectations; ask yourself how you failed to communicate and in doing so, teach the child it is ok to fail while you also learn to express yourself more effectively. Don’t hurt your back the same way twice!
Don’t give up because you have tried and failed. Think. Do things differently. Fail differently. Win or Learn…words to live by.