This is the most crowed phrase I hear from prospective students; whether it’s Tae Kwon Do, Yoga, Running or whatever..
The interesting part for me is that this is seemingly a universal line of reasoning; in that neither gender has a clear cut lead in its use.
First I want to explore this line of thought. Physical fitness, in whatever form, is something that requires practice to improve. It’s typically not something that someone starts at the pinnacle of performance out of the gate. With that in mind, I would feel pretty safe in assuming that there is some sort of ramp up regimen which leads to better performance and skill growth.
So why would anyone ever think they needed to be “in shape” to start a new program? I understand the desire to have a baseline fitness level for activities. However, if I don’t do anything, my fitness level will never improve. And if my fitness level never improves, I will never start a new program. Wait, isn’t this where I started?
My breaking point this week came when a parent of one of the Tae Kwon Do students was watching a class and I asked why they didn’t join; they were there often enough, and had expressed interest in joining many times. This is what came up for them. They referenced the class that was going on at that time (an all adult, high rank class; students with 2-7 years of experience) and said they couldn’t see themselves doing that.
My response was not on the first day. Honestly, no one does on their first day, and this perceived external expectation that I as an instructor might expect them to boggles my mind. Okay, I think that covers my venting for today. After doing a little breathing and making space for both my reaction and their comment, I wanted to explore this seemingly reflexive statement.
What are the reasons that anyone would not do something (assuming physical and financial means aren’t an issue) that they knew was going to help them? I came up with four; fear, lack of desire, habit and time constraints. In this instance, time isn’t an issue because they are there anyway, just sitting watching class, so I’ll drop it here. Lack of desire is also off the table because they’ve expressed an interest in joining the program.
That leaves fear and habit. I’m not sure these are entirely separate here. What I mean by that is that fear becomes the habit. A fear of not measuring up, so don’t try. A fear of getting hurt, so don’t test your limits. A fear of change, so stay with what you know; and so on.
Fear for me is not something to avoid. Fear is more of an early warning system; sort of a “hey, you are about to do something stupid/dangerous/ill advised, don’t hurt yourself.” How each of us reacts to our fears determines the scope of our available choices. If I see fear as something to shy away from, I will be less inclined to take a chance and grow in ways that are challenging. But if I see fear as that early warning system, I’m left with many more options in challenging times and more opportunities for growth.
Like so many other things in life, how we each deal with our fears is a choice. We can choose to react out of habit, or we can choose to make space and time for our reactions and then we can choose to walk a different path.