The Psychology Of Fitness

Mindsets, Body Types and Everything In Between

Focus On What You Like

“Seek that which you wish to be.” 

Ever since I started working at my current company, we’ve had to focus on our Strengths, based upon Strength Finders by Tom Rath and Marcus Buckingham.  This was an interesting concept when I was first introduced to it.  Ever since I was introduced to it, I’ve heard it expounded through a bunch of articles and books that I have read.  The latest round of this concept was from a book I just completed, Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky.   In it he tells how he took a story-telling workshop with Jay O’Callahan and how all the participants went around and told the story teller their “appreciations” of the story they just heard.  There was no constructive criticism but instead only positive feedback highlighting what the listeners liked about the stories. 

You would think that without constructive criticism, you would not be able to improve.  What the author states though is that after a couple of rounds of going through this process, with the highlights of what was appreciated, those “appreciations” begin to shine even more brightly and the things that you may have not liked at first, start to fade away naturally.  In other words, by focusing on one’s strengths, they became better storytellers.  Focusing on strengths has also been shown to improve employee morale at companies along with improving play in various sports. 

Focus on that which you are good at and you will achieve more success. Sounds simple enough.  The problem is that we almost never instinctively look at the positive and try to build upon it.  We should though.  With exercise, if we can focus on those aspects of ourselves that we like, the actions we enjoy, then we can have an “in” into making it a part of our lives, or keeping it there. 

In another book, Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath, they make a case for “Following the Bright Spots” when making changes.  They say to investigate what is working and clone it.  In our own lives, this has to occur if we are to take on something that isn’t inherently natural or enjoyable for us, such as exercise for some people.  Find an activity, an exercise or sport that YOU do like and do more of it. 

For the naysayers that say things like, “Well I really like eating pizza and sitting on my ass,” what I am trying to say is focus on those times when you really liked eating that piece of fruit over eating the pizza.  Focus on those times when going out for a walk was infinitely more enjoyable than sitting on your ass.  Focus on the bright spots and focus on the strengths that you have.   In other words, forget the mistakes you’ve made and “seek that which you wish to be.” 

Another quote by O’Callahan, drives home the error of needing negative feedback to improve and instead describes how appreciation-based feedback leads to deeper creativity (and hence, better stories):
“People need to relax to be able to discover. Our unconscious won’t come forward and help us see things when we are too logical and focused on criticism.  Sometimes someone will say, ‘I just want to know how to improve, not what is good.’ People think that pointing out faults is the only way to improve. Appreciations are not about being polite.  They are about pointing out what is alive.  The recipient must take it in, incorporate it.”

So, although I don’t think this is the panacea of weight loss and exercise, I do believe taking into consideration that which you enjoy, especially when you’re in a rut and have hit a rough patch with motivation, you can re-invigorate that motivation and get you moving again.  So the next time you’re having trouble getting started, sticking to an exercise program, or motivating a loved one to start an exercise program, go back to the “play” aspect of exercise and enjoy the whole process…not just the end results.

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1 comment found

  1. i love the concept of accumulative advantage… focusing on something you’re good at usually means you LIKE doing it to a certain extent, you do it often enough (moreso than things you’re NOT good at) to accumulate practice, then depending on how submersed you are in whatever it is you’re good at… you master it.

    so simple. yet dismissed so easily.

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