Friday, February 1, 2013

Ass Kicking: The Emotional Element

"Goal setting." I read those words and I get heart palpitations. It sounds so... serious. And incredily un-fun. It's the equivalent to someone calling me "Michelle." Like I'm about to prepare tax documents or have the wooden spoon broken on my buns. So I'm going to flip the script so that I can get around to what I want to talk about without having constriction in my chest: how about this, for the purpose of this post, goal setting will heretofore be referred to as "ass kicking." There. I feel better already, don't you?

Lately, I've been doing a boat load of reading about goal setting "ass kicking" and how one goes about doing it; what stands in our way of doing more of it, better, and ultimately, how most of us end up kicking our own in the process instead of actually getting out there and kicking some. Still following me? Good.

One of the things I recently read, was this blog from the incomparable Mark Sisson. The skinny of the blog got at how important the role of emotional work is to health goals (and I'd take that a step further and say any goal in general, not just health). Afterall, what we think we ultimately become. So if you're running some craptastic track in your head, while wearing horribly unsupportive and unfashionable shoes, it isn't so far a stretch that our physical goals will run amuk and/or that even if we achieve those physical goals we still won't be satisfied if we haven't taken care of the ghosts in the attic.

The emotional element is exactly like The Force. Your emotions and resulting thoughts can either make you feel strong, secure and capable of literally raising a spaceship from a swamp with your mental powers or they can be used for self-imposed evil sending you spiraling out of balance. Most of us forego really looking at and taking care of the emotional piece and just figure if we hit it harder in one area (let's say working out like a crazy person but not taking a look at our destructive thinking and habits) that somehow we'll get to where we want to go. Well, take it from an expert with that pattern, here's what happens when you deploy that approach: you don't see the results you're hoping for, so you get more pissed at yourself and give yourself a proper emotional lashing, then you engage in some sort of self-sabotaging behavior. In my case, this would be negative self talk chased with a Taco Bell party pack washed down with a bottle of red. And I don't care what they say on those commercials, you definitely do not feel like you've been "living mas" afterward. Truly, it's awful.

And it's not just me. Just about every client I have, and countless other workout buddies I've had over the years, struggle with this exact same thing. I can't tell you how many times I've seen the emotional element rear its head during a workout leaving a person breaking down or crying mid push-up. Is it because they can't do the workout? Hell no. Is it because some crazy coach or trainer is berating them? Nope. 100% of the time it is because of something going on in their head space and the physical act of busting their ass in the gym literally beats the emotional stuff out of them.

So what needs to be done? It's actually pretty simple: you've got to get busy taking a look inside if you're going to get to where you want to go on the outside. How you decide to do this is up to you and can only be decided by you, but don't mistake it is your responsibility to do so. Find a trusted advisor to talk to, journal regularly and keep track of your thinking patterns, identify thoughts and activities that derail you so you can learn and modify in the future, schedule regular sessions with a counselor or therapist -- whatever it takes, DO IT. Most people don't abandon a physical health goal because it's physically too demanding, it's because they've emotionally and mentally been derailed or temporarily defeated. Why bust your ass physically only to let yourself be defeated by yourself mentally. There's no way around it: there is no way to your ass kicking goal without a dive in to the internal, emotional work. After all, if you want to get to the castle, you've got to swim the moat. Emotional crocodiles and all.

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