“If you are always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one you’re in?”Nanette Mathews
During the early and uncertain days of the pandemic, I formed a habit of taking long walks and listening to podcasts. It was such a great escape to walk and walk, listening to an amazing new world of ideas. I became hooked on podcasts about unsolved mysteries, beauty tips, and – of course – fitness.
At first there were a handful that I followed such as All About Fitness with Pete McCall, Supernatural with Ashley Flowers, and The Art of Charm. Then I discovered more and began adding in podcasts that offered tips for working more effectively and building success like The Fitness Business Podcast, Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik, Growth Minds, and the Dr. Greg Wells Podcast. They are all excellent podcasts with great ideas for improving health and living a better life.
Until recently, I was enthusiastically embracing so many new ideas for all the areas of my life that I hoped to enhance – tips for creating engagement in fitness classes, new workout ideas, best practices for building focus and memory, and how to eat for better energy and skin (I’m ALWAYS on the hunt for tips on improving skin health through nutrition haha!)
And then over the last few weeks, I felt exhausted by it all. Life-hacked out.
It isn’t that the content has changed or stopped working. There are still just as many appealing topics and on-point pieces of advice as ever before. What has changed is that I’m beginning to realize how I’m constantly hunting for the next perfect idea and never reflecting on what I’ve already added in or, worse, always looking outside myself for the answers.
For a while I have had some niggling thoughts about the compulsion to constantly improve myself, something that I think many of us struggle with these days. We are surrounded by tools, tips, apps and an abundance of well-meaning advice for making ourselves stronger, prettier, healthier, and more efficient. What does this say about me and what does this practice say to my 10 year old daughter, who is starting to feel ‘not’ enough?
Discovering the work of Kate Bowler similarly made me reflect on the control we try to exert over our lives. She has written extensively about the pressure to be perfect and the notion that if we strive or pray hard enough we can avoid all the bad things in life. She has a beautiful way of unravelling the pressure of perfection and the belief that we can control every outcome:
"When life goes off the rails, we can begin believe that we are the problem. But sometimes circumstances out of our control rob us of the shiny, perfect life that we had so carefully planned. A diagnosis. A broken heart. A lost opportunity. We have to learn to live inside of a life that may not be perfectible."
As I began to scroll through my growing collection of self-improvement themed podcasts, I’ve accepted that it’s perhaps the right time to take a break. I’m ready to walk without lining up a podcast and let my mind drift…maybe even find my own solutions to problems. Ready to read a novel and resist the urge to pile up self-help books beside my bed!
I think for anyone involved in the fitness industry, it’s unrealistic to completely disengage from the self-improvement culture. I still believe that it is possible to have a huge impact on our own lives through nutrition, exercise and a whole range of initiatives EVEN if we don’t have control over every outcome.
Personally, I just hope to find a balance between a desire to learn shiny new ideas and being happy with where I am at this moment in time.
Where do you sit on the self-improvement industry? I would love to hear your thoughts!