- by Dan Hubbard, M.Ed.
We love hearing stories about success, whether in sports, business, or even health and fitness. Often, we seek to emulate those whom we consider “successful,” such as Bill Gates or Tiger Woods. In his 2008 book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell explains that hard work, practice, and opportunity are key factors in achieving success. But, what about the average Joe or Jane? More specifically, what determines success for them in health and fitness?
Our most accessible window to “success” for the average Joe or Jane in health and fitness is the TV show, The Biggest Loser. We hear about contestants losing a hundred pounds in three months; however, nearly everyone questions whether these individuals can keep the weight off long-term, especially when they return to their regular lives.
Another example of fitness “success” is the not so mythical character I call the “life-long runner.” This runner may be sixty years old and have an arthritic hip, but he consistently runs thirty miles per week and has done so for the last forty years. He isn’t breaking any records, but his running is like clock-work: No matter what is going on in his life, he gets his millage in. Most everyone marvels at his impressive motivation or they just chalk him up as being a little “nuts.”
What can we learn from these two “success” stories? First, they showcase two different types of motivation. The Biggest Loser contestant is highly “outcome-oriented.” On the other hand, our sixty-year-old runner is highly “process-oriented.” Most people look at fitness success in an outcome-oriented manner. They utter statements, such as, “I want to lose fifteen pounds,” or “I want to be able to run a half marathon.”
These statements are both examples of outcome-oriented approaches to fitness and health. Nothing short of accomplishing these goals would be considered a success. But, we all know that most average Joes and Janes rarely reach these goals. Inevitably, something gets in their way. They may realize that their initial goal was too lofty or their motivation has waned. They may get frustrated and quit, only to start the cycle all over again the following January. Now, you may already be thinking ahead. What’s missing?
What’s missing is an optimal and safe balance between “outcome-oriented” and “process-oriented” drive. The most successful athletes, business people, and fitness enthusiasts all possess this kind of balance. Not only do they love the day-to-day process (the life-long runner), but also they have some specific goals (The Biggest Loser contestant). I see this balance daily in my most successful clients. To a person, they understand that as much as they want to reach specific goals, they must focus on the process. Focusing on the process is what sustains you day in, day out; week in, week out. When you keep your focus on the process of working toward your goals, it is easier to stay on that path. What surprises some is that they discover that it’s the enjoyment of the process that carries them to their outcome goals.
So, how about you? Do you have a good, safe balance between outcome-oriented and process-oriented drive? Where do you currently fall on the outcome-process spectrum? I challenge you to consider the possibility that you can achieve this balance in your life. It’s not just for the superstars, the reality show stars, nor that guy who might seem a little nuts at times. It is a safe, intelligent, and logical approach to taking care of the only body you have. Give it a try and let us know how it works for you, because it will work for you!