Mind over Muscle: Choosing Choice

The other day I received my new health insurance card in the mail, my high-priced ticket to medical care, all brand spanking new. When I pulled it free from the envelope, I noticed the name of my plan, Managed Choice, emblazoned across the top of my card. I smirked. The insurance company gets to poorly manage a seriies of inadequate and limited choices, and I get to be confused about what my choices are. It’s kind of like your mother giving you a choice or spinach and okra, then insisting you be grateful that you only have to eat one vegetable.

Sometimes, as with mothers and insurance companies, we can’t do anything about the choices that are put before us. But we do have the freedom to manage our own choices when it comes to maintaining our physical and emotional health. Commitment to a total fitness plan takes a lot of work. We’re socialized for quick fixes and instant results, so the idea of long-term commitment, especially to ourselves, is foreign. Rewards always come more slowly than we would like, and the actual effort takes time, money, and energy. And, I don’t know about you, but i need pats on the back and continual encouragement from people who are important to me in order to keep going.

Success at our fitness goals requires a series of managed choices. Choices about how to use time, what to eat or not, when to do cardio, when to rest, and how to ask for help. In fact, we are bombarded by choice points daily when it comes to health. And making promises to ourselves is different from making choices. For instance, the moment I tell myself I’ll exercise three times this week, that’s no the same moment I make the actual choice. I make the choice when I arrive at the gym and get on the treadmill. The doing moment is the choosing moment. There’s no getting around this.

Stephen Covey, the author of many books about lifestyle management, called this “exercising integrity in the moment of choice.” So, it’s important to recognize and reward your choosing in the moment, the very instance in which you are true to your goals. “Look what I just did, I said no to that second helping of grease.” Or, “I’m so glad I pushed myself to do my cardio today.” This is self-talk that works.

The traditional concept of “will power” assumes some kind of battle for power. When there is a battle, there always has to be a loser. Why be at war with oneself? Instead, adopt a mindset of “choice management” as a vehicle for advancing steadily toward your goals.

And don’t forget to eat your vegetables.

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