How many of us watched the Olympics with awe at the accomplishments of the athletes? I certainly celebrated these young people’s achievements, and noticed their mental toughness. Many of us in the city have our children engaged in sports or physical activities as an “extra-curricular.” As a mom with kids who are very active in sports and fitness, I have thought long and hard about what this might be offering them for the later years of their life. Things I don’t want are bodies that are hurt and in pain years later because of too much over training or injury, and I also don’t want my kids remembering me pushing them as their motivator for involvement in sports. What I do want is kids who grow up to have a lifelong love of moving – as a way to connect to their selves and also their community, have a well body, ease stress and even battle depression or any other mental illness. I also hope dearly that they will find in their bodies a confidence in themselves as powerful beings, and set themselves up on a path to being change makers and active participants in a good world. Do I actually think involvement in a hockey or swim team, dance or cross fit, a Pilates or yoga class might do that? You bet!
You may have heard the current thinking around praise and children. We all hope to raise children that are self-motivated towards doing their best. It makes good sense that if a child expects praise for coming in 1st in a race or getting up at 6 am to make time to fit in some movement before school, that the motivation for those activities may become external. Mom likes it when I do that, can turn into “I’m doing it for Mom.” For many of us, what we want is a child who is internally motivated. The goals then might become different when they are self-created. “I want to come in 3rd as that will mean I’ve made a personal best time.” “I want to give it all I’ve got in this game.” “I know I’ll feel so much better after going to my workout, so I’m going to set my alarm and stick to it.” While we celebrate the victories in our child’s life, we often have to curb our “good job!” phrasing and instead train ourselves to praise effort. Putting effort in always means you have something to celebrate and be proud of, and it is the building block of success in most areas.
But enough about the kids! How can we apply this thinking to encourage ourselves to stick with our plans of moving every day and often, and to feel good about it? Our group classes always provide an opportunity to polish these skills with ourselves. There is usually someone in class that can perform a movement with more ease and skill, or do a more complicated sequence, and because of this, there can be a tendency to feel less than another. This comparing and noticing can lead us to feel badly, discouraged or incapable. I know because I’ve heard many of those kind of statements, and I have thought them myself sometimes too. I think we all know though that they really don’t feed us and nourish our relationship to our own body and self. I wonder if we could set our mental goal to be as intrinsic as possible. What if we praised our effort (in other words our: focus, concentration, showing up, making room, being present, doing more than we thought possible) and saw how that changed the internal dialogue. Please let me know if it does for you!
You know what else that makes room for? Enjoyment! I was so touched by the moments when I saw an Olympic athlete stand in the 3rd place and wait to see if they would be knocked out by an upcoming competitor for a medal. While I can’t exactly put myself in their shoes or skates, I felt so warmed when they were the first to congratulate the athlete who bettered their time or performance. With real smiles, they were able in that very hard moment to take some enjoyment in another’s success. That’s really a remarkable thing, given the height of the stakes. Let’s take a little bit of that in too, celebrate your next door neighbour on the mat who does something spectacular, and find some joy in your own achievements.
I have many moments of feeling proud of your accomplishments in studio. Top of my list is noticing every time you got here, you showed up and displayed commitment to yourself. Thank you for making the effort to connect to your body. By doing so, you are creating a healthier world.