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Best foot forward


POWERFUL PERSPECTIVE Draw on past experiences to reach forward.

Using your own strengths to achieve your health and fitness goals

Paul O'Brien

There’s a scene in one of my favourite films, ‘Dead Poet’s Society’, where the teacher, played by Robin Williams, stands up on his desk at the start of his class and then proceeds to ask his students why he just did that. After some funny remarks from the students, William’s tells them that he did it to remind himself that we must always try to look at things in a different way. Indeed, his classroom looks very different from the height of his desk.
What he is referring to is changing our perspective, our way of seeing things. I always remember this when faced with my own challenges or those of my clients. For example, clients will often recount their stories of previous failed attempts to get fit. They list the reasons their plan didn’t work and the barriers they faced.
At this point, normal practice is to create a new goal and use strategies like accountability and support to try to break through the barriers they cited. However, a change of perspective using their previous experience can yield invaluable results that can empower these clients to really drive change in their lives.

Identifying strengths
Let’s take you through an example. I want you to think of a past difficult situation or experience through which you persevered and from which you learned something important. Got it? Now, answer the following questions:

  • What did you do that helped you through that situation or experience?
  • What strengths did you draw upon to help you?
  • What other kinds of support did you use to help you through?
  • What did you learn about dealing with challenges in this situation?
  • Did you identify a new strength you possess in dealing with this situation?

Answering these questions helps to shift your perspective from one that focuses on the problems and your previous failure to one that asserts your inner strength and the opportunities provided by challenges. This is a subtle yet powerful shift. Your next step is to apply the learning to your current health and fitness challenges. You can now ask:

  • How can the strengths I identified help me achieve my current health goals?
  • What strengths can I draw upon?
  • What strengths do I want to develop that will help me make most of my opportunity now?

You are now armed with a powerful new perspective and a simple but effective tool of self-motivation and empowerment.
The value of values
For another shift in perspective, look at how the achievement of your health and fitness goals will enhance other areas of your life that are important to you. This method helps to powerfully connect your fitness goals to what makes you happy, what makes you tick. To do this, you must know what your core personal values are. One free tool you can use to establish this is the Values in Action (VIA) classification of strengths survey, which you’ll find easily on Google.
Shifting perspective, or changing in the way you view things, can be the powerful catalyst you need to achieve lasting change.
There’s a quote from Carlos Castaneda that hangs above the treadmill I use with my clients that elegantly sums up the power of perspective: ‘We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same’.

Paul O’Brien is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise since 2007 and a qualified Life, Health & Nutrition Coach. He is co-owner of Republic of Fitness in Westport. He can be contacted on 086 1674515 or rofstudio@gmail.com.