Enjoy this guest post by Alex Titarenko. Alex is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NESTA Certified Lifestyle & Weight Management Specialist, and fitness, nutrition & self development enthusiast… who occasionally likes to enjoy a good slice of pizza.
Some of us go to the gym to build strength. Whether it’s strength in our cardio endurance, strength in the ability to execute our favorite exercises, or the strength to squat triple our body weight, the gym is a place we come because we see the potential to strengthen something about ourselves.
Getting stronger and transforming your body from something that’s weak and frail to something that’s strong and capable can be somewhat one dimensional. There are other areas where most of us can build strength. These strengths may seem very abstract and irrelevant to fitness, but they’ll actually help you build and keep your physical strength. These other strengths will give you a more holistic approach to your health and wellness, and will not only help you get your results, but also aid you in maintaining those results over the long term.
In the positive psychology realm, there are 6 dimensions of strength that actually break down into 24 areas we can all work on. Everyone has these 24 traits, and based on many factors such as your personality, you could be strong in some of them and weak in others.
Here are some examples of how developing these intangible strengths could help you along your fitness journey.
Perseverance: you were able to start going to the gym and eating healthy, but will you be able to keep doing those two actions for the foreseeable future? What about when life throws you a curveball with an unexpected stressful situation? Will you have the strength to persevere or will you give up?
Integrity: are you being honest with yourself about your diet and bad habits? Are you strong enough to tell yourself the truth?
Courage: are you able to let go of the parts of yourself that are holding you back? Are you willing to critically examine and deal with the parts of yourself that are keeping you from reaching your potential?
Love: are you practicing self-love or are you abusing your body? Are you abusing it with too much of a good thing? Are you treating yourself like you would treat someone you love? Your son, daughter, mom, or dad?
Gratitude: we can all be a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time. Are you grateful for how far you’ve come, or are you always stressed out thinking that you need more?
Connection & Purpose: why are you doing this? What’s driving you to get in shape, lose body fat or build muscle? Is it because you want to be good example for your children? Do you want to be their hero? Maybe you just need to be the hero of your own story?
Self Control: can you put that cookie down?
Forgiveness: can you forgive yourself for eating that cookie?
Wisdom & Knowledge
Love of Learning: will you learn strategies, recipes, and facts about diet and exercise that will be effective in getting you closer to your fitness goals?
Open Mindedness: are you open to new ideas that might help you? Or are you set in your ways, even if you’ve been unsuccessful with reaching your fitness goals?
I’m sure that most people could think of at least three areas that could use some strengthening. Which ones do you need to work on? Which ones would help you with your fitness goals?
Here are some tips for finding out.
Write down your goals for the next week, the next month, the next year, and the next ten years. Write down a list of ten behaviors that could help you work toward the goals you wrote down. Now write down ten behaviors that if left unchecked, would destroy that future. Then, looking at the list of behaviors you want, think about the person you need to become on the inside, to live out the behaviors you listed. What parts of you need strengthening? Conversely, looking at the list of behaviors you want to stop, ask yourself what parts of yourself do you need to let go of? What are the things that are holding you back? Even some of our strengths can become too strong and become dysfunctional, like someone who uses too much humor to mask their sadness, or someone who practices self-love a little too often and “treats themselves” a little too often with alcohol or junk food.
Ask friends and family about your behavior. People outside of yourself can often give you some objective truths and hopefully some constructive criticism. This will be hard for some as many of us hate the burning feeling of hearing the truth about ourselves. As psychologist Jordan Peterson puts it“The truth is something that burns – it burns off deadwood, and people don’t like having their deadwood burnt off often, because they’re 95% deadwood.”
What do you find absolutely irritating about other people? What behaviors or traits? Have you ever wondered why you found them so aggravating? It could be because they’re traits that are found in your “shadow self”, a concept which psychiatrist Carl Yung says we all have under our conscious awareness. These are parts of ourselves that our conscious ego does not identify as “ourselves”. To our ego, they are simply unacceptable. Can you transmute these traits into something useful? For example: anger can be transmuted into an excellent source of energy. Once you find what you need to strengthen, practice that behavior over, and over again. As the saying goes “practice who you want to be.”
As the title of this post mentioned, be on your side. If you have inner conflicts or weaknesses that are pulling you in different directions, this could spell trouble for your lasting success with your health and wellness goals. Once you strengthen the inner parts of yourself that need some attention, and you let go of the destructive or dysfunctional parts that could be holding you back, you will be unstoppable.
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