A recent conversation with a coach at my gym got me thinking. How do the principles I apply at the gym translate into my work? As a therapist in private practice, I don't have a physically demanding job, the extent of my physical activity is getting up and down from my chair. Getting good a squats has increased my efficiency in doing so. Seriously though, as I thought this through, I came up with 7 transferable concepts that apply to my work at Jaeger Counseling.
Proper form = less injury and more efficient execution of moment.
When I first started exercising at the gym, my form was terrible. I looked awkward (and still often do), was prone to injury and sore in places afterward where I was not supposed to be sore. In my work, I teach the basic skills necessary for success. One example is in the area of communication. Often, when couples come in they are talk over one another, don't listen or validate one another and at times volatile, creating relational and emotional damage. By teaching and coaching couples through foundational skills in healthy communication, much progress is achieved.
A goal is accomplished one step, one day at a time. One of my favorite quotes is by a Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu who said, "A journey of a thousand miles happens one step at a time". No matter what one's health and fitness goals are, the journey to achieve them happens in this manner. When I first started exercising, I had goals in mind, tone my aging flabby body, lower my cholesterol and strengthen my core to help my bad back. I wished I could achieve my goals overnight. Many gimmicks exist that promise instant results, however, we all know that there is really no shortcut to hard work over time. The same is true in counseling. Setting realistic expectations and breaking goals down into small manageable tasks that can be accomplished daily, creates change. Often when we reach our goals and reflect back we realize that it was really more about the journey.
Accountability helps with perseverance. How many times do people start an exercise program, a diet or new habit only to find themselves quitting. Left to our own devices most of us default to a pattern that we are accustomed to, one that is most often one of comfort and least resistance. When I first started exercising as an adult I did so at home with my wife as my workout partner. Her presence and commitment spurred me on to continue. Since starting at a gym, my coaches and classmates provide accountability. This is a principle I discuss with all of my new clients and is one of the great benefits of seeing a therapist. As they set goals, I hold them accountable to working toward their goals. When they succeed, I celebrate with them, if they fall short, I help to evaluate what can be learned from the failure and encourage them to get up and keep pressing on. The awareness each week that someone who cares will ask you, "how did you do", keeps a necessary pressure and awareness in the back of your mind to continue at times when you don't feel like it.
Community is key! Many of us experience community in a variety of settings such as school, work, places of worship and in our families. A good gym is a place that fosters community. It is a place where people build friendships, support and encourage one another and do life together. It can be a place where you support and invest in others as they do at times for you. In my work as a therapist, I see people struggling with depression and anxiety. In many if not most cases, these individuals lack an adequate community for social and emotional support. It's always a goal to help them develop that.
Acknowledging weaknesses leads to improvement. When I started exercising, I informed my coach that I had a number of weaknesses. Bad knees, back and a set of the most pathetic chicken legs you ever saw. Without acknowledging these weaknesses, my coach would not have known what exercises I needed to concentrate on and which ones I needed to stay away from to not injure myself. As I made progress, I was able to increase weight and add in movements that I was ready for. Most people I see in my office are there because they realize they have a weakness and are asking for help. These people generally tend to be motivated toward change. From time to time, I will have a teen or a spouse who come because they are appeasing the requests and demands of someone else. Often, they don't acknowledge problems or the need to make changes and therefore progress is stunted.
Working at things during times of low stress helps with times of high stress. A number of my fellow gym rats are competitors. They take their workouts seriously and spend their time in the gym working toward the goal of doing well in the next competition. The day to day work is focused on building the skill and strength necessary for when they are put to the test. Much like this, I help couples develop conflict resolution skills when they are not in conflict so that when conflict comes, they know how to deal with it more effectively. In addictions work, I help individuals with skills and strategies so that when they are under pressure they know how to react. Performing a repeated action over again develops muscle memory, we can execute precise movements without even thinking about it.
Working through adversity creates positive change and growth. The common saying is "No pain, No gain". As difficult as it is to consistently press yourself beyond what is comfortable, everyone knows it is necessary in order to achieve a positive benefit. This is a principle that is true in all areas of life. Pain is something that most people avoid. We live in a day and age where there is a pill you can take to deal with many of the pains you may experience. A question I ask people is, "Is what you are experiencing the pain of harm or the pain of growth"? When you have an injury you should be resting but work out anyway you cause pain that leads to harm. The pain of growth is the pain you feel from sore muscles you worked out or the gasping for air after a hard run. The same is true in many scenarios of life. I often tell couples who are dealing with adversity and differences that working it out together affords them the opportunity to grow as a couple. A parent who sticks to their boundaries in parenting and has to listen to their child throw a tantrum is affording that child an opportunity to internalize boundaries and be able to accept no. It all creates growth!
If some of the pain in your life has caused you to consider getting help, I encourage you to act on it. Often our experience of emotional or relational pain ebbs and flows. During those times when things seem ok, we often dismiss that nagging sense that all is not well and we need help. As always, my services are at your disposal to help facilitate growth in your life. If you have ever considered prioritizing your health and fitness and are ready to commit, may I recommend Crossfit Palm Beach. Their friendly staff and highly competent coaches would be happy to assist you on your journey.