We are conditioned early on to believe that life is linear. We go through the elementary grades in numerical order and even if we really like a particular grade – I would have stayed in third grade for several years if I could have – we have to move up to the next grade.
High school is the same sort of progression; so is college. At Millikin, we moved steadily forward from freshman to senior year. Each year brought new courses, permissions and possibilities. It’s no wonder that we graduate thinking our life will continue to be linear.
Many of us take this same belief into our fitness programs. If you start as I did – a middle-aged, overweight, over-eating smoker – progress is steady and predictable. If it takes you more than 30 minutes to walk a mile the first time you try, you can expect to get better.
At some point, though, that progress begins to slow down. We plateau. We stop losing weight. We don’t get any faster. We can’t go any farther. And when that happens, too many of us think we’ve reached our potential and quit.
It doesn’t have to be that way. It turns out that lifelong fitness isn’t a straight line that goes on forever. It’s cyclical. It’s what I call the Circle of Success. It’s the constant revolution of inspiration, perspiration, dedication and celebration.
Inspiration: Inspiration is that match-strike of enthusiasm we’ve all experienced hundreds of times. We see something or someone do something, and we think, “I can do that!” We are fired up. We are motivated.
My moment of inspiration usually lasted about three weeks. My garage and basement were filled with the remnants of my 21 days of inspiration: old tennis rackets, bicycles, an array of late-night television fitness gadgets and even a complete fishing set.
The problem with inspiration is that it doesn’t last. Sooner or later, you have to figure out how to get to where you want to be.
Perspiration: Perspiration is getting to the truth about what it’s going to take to change your life. Perspiration is about being completely honest with yourself. If, as I was, you’re a middle-aged man who is 100 pounds overweight and smoking a pack-and-a-half a day, there’s no sense kidding yourself that you’re going to get in shape quickly.
There’s no single way to get fit. Anyone who prescribes a program based on what specifically worked for them is not going to be very helpful. We all have different abilities, interests, metabolisms, emotional limits and goals. Perspiration is about getting real and making a plan.
Dedication: Dedication is about sticking with it. It’s about realizing that what you want to do is going to be more difficult than you thought and take longer than you imagined. Dedication is about understanding that some days, easy will be hard, and on other days, hard will be easy. Dedication is about knowing that today’s investment in fitness will pay off eventually.
Dedication also means setting goals that are reasonable, achievable and repeatable. If this is your first foray into living a healthy, active lifestyle, it won’t help to set winning an Olympic gold medal as your goal.
Celebration: This is one of the most misunderstood and ignored elements of lifelong fitness. You’ve got to find a way to celebrate your successes, large and small. Too often, we believe that we can’t enjoy a sport or activity until we get good at it. We postpone the celebration until we reach some imaginary level of skill or performance.
To be truly successful, you can’t wait. You must learn to celebrate from the very beginning. It’s celebration that brings back the inspiration driving you to the perspiration and dedication, leading to the next celebration and inspiring you all over again.
The Circle of Success is a way to keep you motivated to find the best in yourself. It’s a way to continue to challenge yourself to keep reaching for something that’s just beyond your grasp. It’s a way to spend your life achieving new goals.
And it starts with that first small step toward fitness.
by John Bingham