Capability …

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Hello Dear Reader,

Welcome to Blog 6 which is coming to you 10 weeks after my well-received Blog1 in which I prematurely made a weekly commitment to the upkeep of this new habit, having never done it before. Do you ever do that? That is, commit to Perfect having no real understanding of your capability. It probably hurts to admit it if you have perfectionist tendencies like me but my guess is, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Still, 6 out of 10 is daycent. It’s a result that either stifles you or spurs you on depending on your likelihood to focus on the 6 positives or the 4 negatives.

This wasn’t actually the blog I planned on writing today by the way, but I’m going to continue with this train of thought because:

(1) I’m on a train right now and I like word-plays.

(2) I think it follows on nicely from Blog 5 where I spoke about lack of Time, Energy & Motivation.

(3) I’m constantly hearing people say things like: “I just can’t stay motivated” | “I need to find my willpower (again)” | “It’s just too hard cause of _____”.

(4) I’m still seeing uneducated, irritating Fitspo content say things like: “You mustn’t want it bad enough” | “You need to be more dedicated” | “Everyone has the same 24 hours”.

Nobody ever wants to admit that capability is the reason they are not adhering to healthful behaviours because it feels depressing and defeatist. We prefer to do one of three things:

  1. Clutch hold of that Must-Work-Harder, Beat-Myself-With-A-Stick mentality.
  2. Use somebody else’s success as a benchmark without really knowing much about their reality at all.
  3. Press the “Fuck It Button” and proclaim you will pick up where you left off when things calm down.

Ultimately, the only progress you make here is worsening health in the form of anxiety, guilt, shame, binge behaviours and burn out.

Maybe we succeed with goals like Fat Loss in the very short term because we are highly capable of grinding things out for a few weeks, but fail longer term because we mistakenly believe the behaviours needed to Diet are the same ones needed for Maintenance.

Ironically, our refusal to admit to a lack of capability is what keeps us stuck in dieting cycles, stuffing the pockets of restrictive, transformation programmes. I’m struggling to think of another industry whereby an unsatisfactory customer experience results in repeat purchases as opposed to returns, product recalls & negative Google Reviews. These companies have somehow taught us to blame ourselves when the product doesn’t work, feel shame so we don’t spread the word, AND convince us to repurchase, perhaps even opt for an upsell. Clever!

Here’s what you don’t realise: we can build Capability if we swallow some humble pie and admit that it’s the thing that’s holding us back – don’t worry I’ll go first.

Let’s take my goal of creating a Regular, Enjoyable Exercise Routine.

(Side Bar: I know I started this blog talking about capability to adhere to a weekly blog but being honest, this example is going to be more helpful to the people who patiently read through this average-at-best compilation of words.)

Values: Firstly, I’ve identified how this goal helps me live in line with some of my personal values.

Evoking Change: Next, I’ve written out both superficial and deep reasons as to WHY this goal is important. This is how you improve the quality of your motivation.

Physical Capability: This pertains to my skills, knowledge and competence in carrying out this new behaviour. Not to blow my own trumpet, but considering my body is in decent nick and I’ve made a career in Body Positive Strength & Fitness, I think I’m all G here. Now if I don’t “mind the gap” getting off this train, I could sprain an ankle (example) which would compromise my competence. Or, if I didn’t understand Energy Balance, I could be at risk of under fuelling myself which could also impact my ability to exercise so physical capability can change – and that may increase your need to understand this next part….

Psychological Capability: This refers to knowledge, memory, attention, decision processes and behavioural regulation. THIS is where our egos take a knock!

If you struggle with All or Nothing thinking, you need to develop the skill of Cognitive Flexibility.

>>All or Nothing: I must exercise intensively 3 times per week at the gym for 60 minutes or else I’m failing.

>>Cognitive Flexibility: When my week isn’t going to plan, I can change the frequency, intensity, location and duration of any (and every) workout to cater to my needs.

If you struggle with Self-Criticism, you need to develop the skill of Self Compassion.

>> Self Criticism: I’m so pathetic for not being able to get to the gym 3 times this week. Everyone else can do it, what is wrong with me? I should just give up, I’m such an embarrassment, I can’t go back there. Everybody else will have progressed so much and I’ll be so weak.

>> Self Compassion: I’m under a lot of pressure this week, 3 trips to the gym feels overwhelming. I know that my gym are super supportive. I will reach out for support this week, aim to go in twice and go for a short walk to release some of this anxiety. Regular exercise can vary in intensity depending on the type of week I’m having. If I recover well this week, maybe I can try 4 sessions on another week.

If you struggle with Perfectionism, you need to develop the skill of Self Acceptance.

>> Perfectionism: I cannot drop my standards or fail at this goal because that impacts my character; how I perceive myself and how I fear others will perceive me. I cannot be a gym coach who fails to exercise consistently. If things are not going to plan, I’ll “pause” because then I’m not failing.

>> Self Acceptance: I am not my accomplishments. My value is not based on my function. I have both strengths and weaknesses which means there are always things that I can discover about myself and improve upon. I can put myself out there, set a high bar and take risks because I will still accept myself no matter the outcome. I give myself space and permission to learn and grow. I recognise that I cannot fulfil every demand I put on myself – and neither can anybody else. You can read more about these concepts in Shannon Beer’s article l (The BIG I exercise is taken from same).

Before I let you go, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Psychological Capabilities part of this blog! Please let me know if one of the three in particular spoke to you. A huge downfall in our culture is our reluctance to share our discomforts in real time, opting to wait until we have things all figured out so that we can appear Whole or Non-Defective.

That’s bollocks.

You don’t need to be fixed. You need to be supported and SEE that you are not alone in your struggles.

Be the person to step up and say “I need help” and maybe I can be the person who provides a safe space for you to do so.

Train is almost back in Wexford so that’s me for tonight.

Lots of love,

Bye, bye-bye, bye, bye …. bye!

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