But alas, Thanksgiving is upon us once again. Apparently time flies when you are having fun… or doing kettlebell swings… or super slow tempo pushups… or burpees… but I digress.
While I have made gratitude an intentional practice for two years now – specifically, keeping a daily gratitude journal and finding little moments to be thankful for throughout each day – this time of year always provides a much needed opportunity for some focused reflection on the things that we are most grateful for.
1. Gratitude Forces Us to Recognize Our Little Wins
Progress in our #healthandhotness journeys is almost never linear. Sure, when we zoom out to see the big picture at the “macro” level, we find that if we are consistently showing up and chugging away to get 1% better every day, things do indeed trend upward.
Proper habits and actions done consistently over time are what lead to results that are noticeable (macro level), and yet these habits and actions occur within the context of the “every day” (micro level). Things like meal prep, prioritizing workouts, and carving out time for recovery and sleep all require planning, logistics, and time management. In other words, details.
Reaching our #healthandhotness goals requires being aware of – and living in – the details. Everyday life occurs within the context of the “zoomed in” lens.
While this is all good (and necessary!), when we consistently live in the “micro” it can be easy to become myopic and get discouraged by what feels like slow progress or no progress. Practicing gratitude positions us to actively seek out the good around us that we can appreciate. More specifically, gratitude helps us “zoom out” and keep our eyes peeled for the little wins.
Have you gone up in weight in any of your exercises? Can you lift the same weight from a month ago but with better form and much more ease? Has your consistency improved over time? Do grocery shopping and food prep feel like much more of a breeze compared to how they used to? Maybe your sleep still isn’t perfect, but did you sleep for 7+ hours four nights this week instead of two?
All of these matter.
Take inventory of your little wins. Our little wins add up over time. And recognizing and being thankful for those wins prevents us from being myopic as we live our daily lives in the context of the “micro.” These wins are what fuel us to show up again and again. And again… And again… And with time, we see those results. Gratitude helps us see the big picture.
2. Gratitude Reminds Us of All the Things That Are Within Our Control
These low points can be a number of different things. Maybe it’s an injury. Maybe it’s chronic pain. Maybe it’s work or family or life circumstances that are so stressful that they start to affect your training. Or maybe it’s just the normal fluctuations in strength or performance that can nonetheless be discouraging at times.
These valleys, if left unchecked, can leave us feeling powerless if we let them. And this sense of powerlessness can often be enough to prevent us from simply showing up and doing the work. This is where the power of gratitude comes in.
When I was a senior in college, I sprained my ankle and fractured my foot during the most stressful part of the semester. I was also co-director and a choreographer for my dance team at the time, and the injury put me out of commission for a little bit.
The night of the injury, I went to bed discouraged and depressed thinking about what the next few months would look like. Nonetheless, I challenged myself to remain committed to the practice of gratitude.
And as I did (it was hard at times), my mindset slowly evolved from, “Man, this sucks,” into, “Wait a minute… I have a working leg that I can train! And an upper body that I can train as well because it’s capable of moving just fine. I have eyes that can watch the choreographer during practice and ears that can stay attentive to the details in the music. I have the ability to visualize myself doing this choreography. I have the opportunity to choose joy by intentionally finding little moments of joy on the days that are rough.” And so on and so forth.
My recovery was no doubt speedier because I remained active (intelligently, without aggravating the injury) compared to if I had just sulked around and focused on the things that sucked about the situation.
When I was able to dance again, I picked up the choreography in no time because I had stayed attentive during practice and was running through it in my head instead of feeling sorry for myself and tuning out. Executing it physically was simply just the last piece in that puzzle. And I minimized the degree of de-conditioning that would have occurred otherwise.
Through the power of gratitude, a disempowering situation became an empowering one. It was almost as if the situation turned into a game. A game whose challenge to me was, “How can you take each negative thing here and flip it on its head? What are specific ways that you can find the good in this situation?”
What low points or valleys are you currently going through that feel disempowering? And what would it look like to reframe those circumstances? To recognize full-stop that yes, this thing that lies outside of your control does suck, AND to also be thankful for the fact that there are still many things that do lie within your control?
Ryan Holiday, in his book The Obstacle Is The Way, says, “We can see opportunity in every disaster, and transform that negative situation into an education, a skill set, or a fortune. Seen properly, everything that happens – be it an economic crash or a personal tragedy – is a chance to move forward.”
A lens of gratitude allows us to see those dips and valleys as conduits for growth that we wouldn’t experience otherwise. With gratitude and the right perspective, the obstacle is no longer in the way – the obstacle becomes the way.
3. Gratitude Helps Us Find New Meaning in Our Journeys to #healthandhotness
I partially tore my ACL playing soccer as a freshman in high school, and I distinctly remember being devastated over the injury and also frustrated at myself. How could I have been so stupid to take my body for granted when it was performing perfectly fine before this injury!?
Nothing irked me more than being sidelined and watching my teammates lollygagging or complaining about practice, completely underappreciating the fact that they had the opportunity to do something that others would’ve loved to do.
Obviously, because I’m human, I’ve broken this promise many times. But the promise that freshman-in-high-school-Tim made to never take this body for granted is something that I often think about when I have a hard time getting myself to do my breathing and mobility work, when I finish the last few reps of an exercise that I hate (ahem, split squats…), or when I simply show up on a day that I don’t feel like it.
On the days when it feels difficult to show up for yourself, think: can you show up in honor of someone in your life who would love to be able to do what you’re doing? In honor of a previous version of yourself who would be proud of where you are today? In honor of a previous version of yourself who would marvel at the things that you are capable of now?
Practicing gratitude can be the push that we need to just show up – not out of a place of guilt, but out of a place of love and appreciation for the incredible things that our bodies are capable of.
Y’all, our bodies are resilient as F*CK. When we realize this, our mindset shifts from “Ugh, I have to do this” to “Whoa, I get to do this!”
Wanna be part of a grateful as f*ck fitness Ninja Army?
Click here to sign up for a free Health & Hotness Strategy Session at Mark Fisher Fitness.