Letting Yourself Off the Hook

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I was in the gym yesterday on my fourth set of back squats (I won’t embarrass myself by letting you know how much weight I was lifting). Four sets into my intended six, I was just about to call it quits. Due to some knee issues, I hadn’t squatted for two to three weeks prior. I thought to myself, “Being able to squat pain-free was enough of a win for the day. Wasn’t it?” After all, this particular workout represented huge strides from where I was just a few months back when just thinking of squatting made me cringe.

Compounding my lack of desire to continue lifting was the atmosphere of the gym. For starters, I was only one of two folks working out at the time (it was 4pm on a Friday). Normally, I would count that as a blessing, but an empty gym doesn’t exactly work in your favor when you’re lacking motivation and would rather be downing a few beers and relaxing at the end of a week. The radio was unfortunately blaring Miley Cyrus, and I had neglected to wear workout shorts with pockets so using my phone to play music was a bit tricky.

Giving Yourself Slack

We’ve all been in a situation before where we wanted to follow through with a personal promise we made to ourselves. Maybe you promised yourself you would hold off on buying any new clothes until you paid off your credit card. Maybe you told yourself you weren’t going to have that extra drink so you could get up and workout early the next morning.

Then, when it came down to the buzzer, you caved. You had that extra drink. You bought the shirt you’ve were eyeing for months. Looking back, you likely have no idea how you caved so easily. You were so set on not disappointing yourself this time.

A few weeks back, I was listening to an episode of Shawn Blanc’s The Weekly Briefly where he touched on the topic of deep personal integrity. The idea is that when you make promises to yourself, you hold yourself accountable. He used other examples that we’re likely all familiar with like setting your alarm an hour early so you can workout or make breakfast but smashing the snooze button when the alarm goes off or promising yourself that you’re going to workout after you get off from work but heading to the bar with your coworkers instead to celebrate a hard day.

Our natural inclination is to take the easy way out in literally ever circumstance. Our bodies are trained to avoid pain (both emotional and physical). So, we gravitate to doing things that we find unchallenging instead. It’s easy to talk yourself out of doing something difficult. After all, you know all of your own weaknesses.

This is the exact situation I found myself in on Friday, staring down the squat rack and congratulating myself on a job well done so far. I was trying to let myself off the hook.

The problem with letting yourself off the hook is that it breeds failure. After you cave the first time, mentally, it’s easier to give up in the future. In essence, constantly letting yourself down has a snowball effect that eventually makes you your own worst enemy when it comes to accomplishing something down the road. You’re slowly moving towards a quitters mentality. Rather than being someone that pushes through hard times to accomplish a goal, you slowly become someone that gives up. The quitter mentality is a hard one to work yourself out of.

As for those sets of squats, I ended up finishing out all six of them. It was rough. Today, my legs were so sore that I could hardly walk when I got out of bed. Still, I promised myself I would go out on a hike with the dogs, which I did. Don’t let yourself fall short. Be your own biggest champion when it comes to sticking to your guns.

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