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After three years of working in fitness and over a decade of being a fitness participant, I’ve come across a lot of attitudes that see fitness, and life for that matter, as a destination. “Once I weigh ___ lbs, I’ll be happy, or “once I have it all figured out and I’m not stressed, I’ll be happy.” I’m guilty of this attitude as well, but waiting to live life until everything settles into place is not living. Until you give up on the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.

My last two blog posts have come around to the same point—that striving to live a more present life will ultimately lead to a more joyful one. Now, it can be really easy to turn the idea of being present into a destination as well, so don’t fall into that trap. Contrary to popular belief, being present doesn’t mean being comfortable. In fact, it’s horribly uncomfortable at first. Being present means leaning into what’s happening right in front us. All of it—the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s being in the shit in order to grow. It is within those shitty moments—the moments that we are most scared, nervous, or unsure—that we grow. Lean into those moments.

This is one of the many reasons I love exercise. While my relationship with exercise has certainly changed over the years, the incredible feeling of accomplishment and pride that I feel when I complete a near impossible workout has never changed. To me, exercise is the ultimate expression of self love—we give ourselves space to be challenged, but on the other side of that challenge is growth and celebration. Every person needs to be able to experience that. It will change their life.

The key to a happier life isn’t in the next promotion, a slimmer waist, or a brand new car. It’s you. Everything you’ve ever wanted is already within you. It’s up to you to bring that to the surface.

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I spent a lot of time in my college years chasing balance. At the start of each quarter, the word “balance” was my mantra going into a new term, hoping that I would finally find an equilibrium between school, work, my social life, the gym, and all my other responsibilities. When my friend Laura Bruner coined the term “balance is bullshit,” it opened my eyes that I could spend my entire life chasing balance without ever finding it. This is yet another example of the dangers of destination thinking, a blog topic for another day. Laura pointed out that while she may experience moments where she feels that everything is in balance, she will continue to appreciate the constant ebb and flow that life brings.

When I was in college, I always told myself that “next quarter, I’ll balance things out,” hoping that I would be happier and less exhausted whenever that time came (it never did). However, doing so leads me to forget to enjoy what’s happening right in front of me.

We have to learn to enjoy the unbalanced moments—the moments of chaos, not having it all together, and not feeling quite satisfied. We have to be satisfied with the dissatisfaction. That, I think, is the point of life—constantly working to perfect things and chase a better life, while still finding joy in each moment. Learning to accept that nothing will ever “fall into place” has been integral to living a joyful and present life. If you find yourself painstakingly yearning for “balance,” I challenge you to let that go for a moment and bask in the glory of the perfectly imperfect.

Laura Bruner's website and Instagram links:

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Updated: Feb 17, 2021

What words come to mind when you think of a person who sets goals and achieves them? For me, I think of the words accomplished, capable, successful, and overall, I imagine that person’s got their shit together. What about someone who doesn’t set goals—what words come to mind? I immediately think of the words lazy, unmotivated, and unsuccessful. Why is that? Why does such a simple action have so many consequences for how and what I perceive about a person’s character?

In Western society, goals are seen as tools to help us achieve great things, and I believe that for many people, that can be the case. What about the people, though, who feel that goals are stifling? What about the people who value the constant ebb and flow that life brings?

I’ve realized lately that I’m not a goal oriented person whatsoever, and I’ve always felt that must be because I’m not a hard worker or because I can’t finish things that I start. However, our society is extremely goal oriented, so when someone doesn’t fit with that it can seem like there’s something wrong with them. I’m realizing I also like to focus on processes, qualities, and values instead. So instead of “I want to workout 3 days/week” I resonate way more with shifting it to “I want to enjoy movement” and “I want to move consistently.” That shift feels way more motivating or relatable. I can work to perfect processes my entire life whereas goals are either accomplished or not, which doesn’t work for me.

Now, I realize that goals can be modified given a new situation (like a pandemic) or can change once the original goal is met, but for some, the idea of setting a goal can seem so intangible. For some, they can become so focused on the goal that they lose sight of the process. For some, they won’t be happy until they meet that goal. That’s one of the many reasons I hate weight loss goals. People imagine that everything will fall into place when they “lose the weight,” like life isn’t worth living until they accomplish that goal. Newsflash—life is happening right now, why can’t we learn to enjoy what’s happening right in front of us? Moreover, what happens when the weight is finally lost? I really question whether or not it will provide the satisfaction one thinks it will. Speaking from experience, the person who just achieved their weight loss goal will still be dissatisfied with themselves and will just create a new goal, hoping that they will finally find satisfaction at the achievement of that new goal, until they realize they are still dissatisfied. It’s a never-ending merry go round from hell. Most people ride that never-ending weight loss merry go round their entire lives.

“But isn't that working toward constant progress?”

To me, it sounds like never fully being satisfied. It sounds like something that takes us out of the present moment. Going back to the weight loss example, what if we shifted that goal to a process? What if we shifted it from “I am going to lose ___ lbs” to “I am going to move my body consistently” and “I am going to eat in a way that makes my body feel good?” This process can be perfected over a lifetime, but it will focus on the present moment the entire time. There is no accomplished or not accomplished, just a daily ebb and flow. It teaches the person to acknowledge that they’ll get thrown off track by life and to find their way back. For the goal setter, getting thrown off track can oftentimes lead to the abandonment of the goal altogether. With the weight loss example, what if an injury happens and the person can’t exercise how they’re accustomed to for three months? In this example, it’s going to be pretty difficult to lose the weight they originally set out to lose. If they instead were focused on the process of moving their body, they could find a way to do so despite being thrown off track.

For the people who feel like something is wrong with them because they don’t feel motivated by goals or can never seem to accomplish them, this was for you. Nothing is wrong with you—it’s time to start questioning why we’re all made to believe that there’s one way of achieving success in this life.

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