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“Enjoy the Journey!” and other unhelpful advice…

Sometimes, I read my old blogs, shake my head and laugh (kindly, or course) at the sheer naivety of my thoughts when I was just getting started as a PT. Today, we'll revisit one I wrote about enjoying the journey and update it, with the benefit of the useful stuff I know now, so that it actually delivers some decent, helpful ideas.

This is where it started originally. I quite like this paragraph, so I thought you might too:

"This week, a sage piece of advice was delivered to me by my calendar. In fairness, my calendar often offers words of wisdom, such as "October 12th - eat cake" or "August 27th - keep your pjs on all day", both of which are good ideas, I feel. But this one was better. "Enjoy the Journey", it told me. And I thought "good point"."

You may also think it's a good point...but struggle to actually do it. In the original blog, I then went off chatting about how you just need to enjoy things more. You know, like it's that easy to dial up the enjoyment on something. Like it's a controllable thing, like the volume on a radio. This was the next paragraph:

"When I'm cursing my workout because my legs are burning or my heart is beating out of my chest, I look at this lovely little bit of cleverness and it cuts through the pain quite well, actually. I remember that I'm on a journey and I should be embracing it. Not swearing at it."

and fair enough, that may have been true then.

OR - and I think this is more likely - it may have been a naive little bit of advice that I thought should be true, so I bought into it and passed it on to you.

In fairness, I can get my head around the fact that this piece of reframing - to enjoy the sucky feeling of out-of-breathness and muscle burn - might well work for some. But for most? Nah.

So the question I'd add here, with the benefit of the wisdom I've acquired over the past few years, is this:

what do you need to do TO enjoy the journey?

You know, the part of the journey where it hurts, cos exercise does sometimes.

  • Do you need to crank your favourite music up, ear splittingly loud*?
  • Do you need to get your friends involved? Suffering is more fun in pairs, for some reason!
  • Do you need the help of a trainer who can make you laugh, reassure you this is a normal and shortlived burn and help you find the empowerment in that?
  • Do you need to find a different form of exercise? The amount of runners who've requested lifting programmes who've then realised, upon doing those programmes, that they just don't feel the lifting. It's not for them cos they're runners at heart. Not lifters.

Here's the thing.

Whilst a behaviour might be beneficial for your health, if you don't enjoy it, you aren't going to do it.

End of story.

Whether that's a exercise programme, a chicken salad or a meditation routine - if you aren't enjoying it, it's got a short shelf life ahead of it.

A lot of the time, we think we can handle the pain or the lack of enjoyment, if the goal is important to us. But I've never met a goal that's been achieved if it involves a heavy amount of things a person doesn't enjoy to get there.

You HAVE to enjoy your food.

You HAVE to enjoy your movement.

You HAVE to enjoy your health behaviours, whatever they are.

Even if you can muscle your way through unpleasant, unpalatable things to reach your goal, guess what? The journey never ends.  Never. We're always on it. Reaching the goal is not the end of the journey - it's just a milestone.

Back to the original blog for a minute, because this next bit is relevant. This is what I said:

"So next time you're feeling the burn, eating a salad, eating some cake, getting a good night's sleep, struggling, succeeding - remember to enjoy it."

and I want you to ignore that too. No one can just MAKE themselves enjoy something they don't.

Here's a better idea if you don't like salad, for instance: ask the question I showed you above:

what do you need to do TO enjoy the salad?

  • Perhaps change it from a salad into something else that got a lotta veg in it.
  • Perhaps add some bits that'll lift it, like apple or nuts or a nice dressing, or even something that's not technically "healthy" like a spponful of potato salad or a small sausage roll.
  • Or something else that you think of that maintains the inherent healthiness, but makes it more palatable. Because then you'll likely look forward to it, enjoy it more and eat it more often.

Wins all round!

Here's what my younger self wasn't appreciating - you're not suddenly going to like something just because someone told you to "enjoy the process".

But by asking the question:

"how can I enjoy this healthy thing I want more of in my life?"

you stand half a chance of increasing your consistency with that healthy thing and therefore reaping the health benefits of it.

Figure out how you CAN enjoy the journey. Because life is supposed to be fun.

*sanity check: please be careful with this if you are using earphones. I don't actually want your ears to split. Or if you're working out in your lounge and you value your relationship with your neighbours.

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