Back on June 6, I did a blog about Vision. I suggested that vision is something that you mindfully create, rather than just some mental image that pops into your head. I defined a fitness vision as “…how you see your personal fitness/wellness at some defined point in the future…”, and suggested that you arbitrarily pick some time points in both your short-term future and your longer-term future.

So… did you do it? Did you spend some time creating a vision for your future, fitter self? If not, my encouragement is that you give it another try. We are not in the habit of doing this, so we might need a reminder or two. Here’s your reminder: give it a try. You can re-read that blog for the full story, but it’s important to let those creative, imaginative ideas flow. And here’s why I bring it up.

I will assume that, if you are reading this, you are either closely related to me OR you have at least a passing interest in personal development. You would at least like to see yourself being more physically fit. I think we usually assume that, along with greater physical fitness will come other good outcomes like lower stress, better health, higher quality of life. There are no guarantees, but I will take my chances on the idea that improving my own physical fitness will enhance my life in a variety of areas.

How does a vision of improving our personal fitness relate to goals and limits? I would argue that we often unconsciously or even consciously set limits on what we can do. For a variety of reasons, I suspect that we set those limits well below what we physically are capable of. I think we get in the habit of setting “safe” limits that are so easy and safe as to be essentially meaningless. We blur the distinction between limits and goals with the effect that even the goals we set are so safe and achievable that accomplishing them is so lame it’s underwhelming. We set limits on what we think we can do that are so low (relative to our ability) that we basically prevent ourselves from pushing forward to the next level. In fact, we might start to slip backward.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that, many times, we are so much in “Limit” mode that we don’t even sit down to consider our own vision of where we would like to be at various points in the future. And setting a goal would be, to quote Brother Maynard and the Book of Armaments, “right out.” So we don’t set goals – not meaningful ones, anyway. And we don’t think seriously about where we would like to be down the road.

I am saying that it is easy to allow our thinking to become “limited”. We talk ourselves into not likely being able to do certain things (i.e., we limit our scope of performance). Then, even if we do set goals, we undercut our ability so much that there is no risk or challenge. With these nothing-ventured, nothing-gained goals, there is little sense of accomplishment when we achieve the goal. We don’t inspire ourselves and we likely don’t inspire anyone else. And THAT is pretty boring. Did I mention uninspiring?

My challenge for all of us is to find a way to revitalize our thinking by challenging our physical abilities (we need to be realistic, given our current health and fitness and such). We need to shift our Limit-oriented thinking from, “I can only do [x]…” or “I can’t do that…” to “I’m not sure if I can do [x] but I’d like to try it and see. I might even try [x and y]”. That is more goal-oriented thinking, and it is also introducing a challenge component into it. You have to work (i.e., try hard) to accomplish the goal. You might have to practice or train.

Here’s an experiment to explore this concept:

1. Find a friend, relative or co-worker who has taken on a physical challenge – like a non-walker who starts walking daily, or someone who decides to take a swimming class or dance class or train for and participate in a road run or triathlon. Ask them if they regret setting that goal and accomplishing it.

2. Find a friend, relative or co-worker who has not taken on a physical challenge or pushed themselves to accomplish some kind of fitness or wellness objective. Ask them if they have any regrets about their choice.

Don’t be the person who lives with regrets because they allow Limit-oriented thinking to govern their approach to their personal fitness and wellness. Take this opportunity seriously to find an encourager who can challenge you to become more Goal-oriented, and to set more meaningful fitness/wellness goals. When you accomplish those goals, you will truly inspire yourself and those around you.

And if you don’t accomplish the goal fully, who cares? So you tried to run 5k and only made it 4k before you had to start walking and running. Boo-hoo! You made it 4k! That is a meaningful accomplishment for most people. Celebrate it. Try again in a few days. Learn how to train smartly and safely. Get some coaching. Keep at it. Work hard. Enjoy your rest days. And let all of this percolate as you brew up a great new vision for yourself!