Everyone has a choice. In a given situation, your choices may be limited, or it may be unreasonable by most standards to choose certain options, but the choice is always there. If you are being robbed at gunpoint, you can choose to acquiesce and hand over your money, or you can resist. For most people, it is not worth the risk to fight for your money, but it is still a choice you have to make in that situation.
I have heard the words “I can't” more times than I can count in the context of discussing an exercise or diet regimen. Almost always, this is completely untrue, and not just from a semantics perspective. Typically, it's a matter of prioritizing other things instead: relaxing after work, doing work, family time, going out on the town, etc. It is not my job to judge people for the choices they make and how they prioritize their time. Rather, it is my job to help people understand which choices make achieving their goals more likely, and simply to help them realize that it is, in fact, a choice they make.
One of my first clients I worked with after I moved to the Bay Area is the CEO of a company that was acquired for about a billion dollars. He has a lot of employees depending on him to keep the company successful, and I doubt anyone would suggest that his job isn't demanding. However, he really enjoyed exercise, numerous times providing unsolicited feedback about how happy he was with the changes he saw both physically and mentally. In the 2.5 years I worked with him before I left that facility, I think he cancelled our session for work reasons only once or twice on short notice.
My former client flat out told me once that he prioritizes going to the gym more highly than his job, and that proved true the vast majority of the time. Again, it is a choice, even when it seems unreasonable to follow certain paths. In this case, a lot of people might deem his priorities as unreasonable, but ultimately that is completely a matter of opinion. In the end, it even proved beneficial for his work, as increased productivity is something he cited as a benefit of the regular exercise he was doing.
Next time you set a goal for yourself, be realistic about what you want, and what it's worth to you. For example, let's take the goal of having a visible six pack. Some people might think they really want this goal, but thinking about it this way has its issues. Most importantly, it ignores what you give up or change to get there. Make sure having a visible six pack is worth those changes to you.
If I told you that to get a six-pack you would have to eat out infrequently, prepare your meals in advance, stop drinking alcohol almost entirely, get 7+ hours of sleep every night, eat a specific number of calories each day, and work out most days of the week for months, would you still want to reach that goal?
For some, the answer is still yes, they want to reach this goal at all costs. For others, they realize that they don't want a six-pack as much as they think they do. More specifically, they prioritize certain behaviors more than having a visible six-pack. Either choice is fine by me, as long as you understand that you are making that choice.
Next time you make a choice, phrase it as such in your mind when you make that decision. For example, don't think to yourself “I want a six-pack.” Instead, think to yourself, “I want a six-pack more than I want that third piece of pizza.” Next time you want to skip a workout, don't think to yourself “I really want to go home and watch Netflix.” Instead, think to yourself, “I want to watch Netflix more than I want to get in shape.” Once you pose the question or idea to yourself like that, you can truly make your decision. Maybe you choose slice #3 over the six-pack. Fine by me, as long as you realize that's what you're doing! Just don’t keep saying you want something, but instead choosing a different path whenever an opportunity arises for your actions to reflect this desire.
To wrap it up, this isn't really an article about how to help you achieve your goals. Rather, it is an article about being honest with yourself and choosing goals that make sense for what you want. Special thanks to my former client referenced earlier; a conversation we had largely inspired this article. Until next time… choose wisely!