The Elusive Beach Body and the Problem with Goals

I saw a health club advertisement that started with, “Goals are meant to be crushed.” Can you hear the growling?  Another says, “Commit to something.”  Uh … no thanks.

I need less commitments.  The Oxford dictionary defines a commitment as “an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.”  Where do I sign? 

“Lose weight like crazy!” “Discover your dream body.” “Are you the next face of fitness?”

Who are they talking to? 

And it’s not just gyms.  How about martial arts schools where they don’t actually say anything, but list things in a vacuum: “Self-defense, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline and self-control.”  Sounds like I’ll be spending a lot of time alone.  By myself.

Yoga too: “Alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression.”  “Cure insomnia, feel relaxed, calm, and empowered.” “Boost immunity, heal relationships, better libido, and therapeutic for infertility and sinusitis.”

I … wow.

Disclaimer:  I’m not busting on health clubs, martial arts, or yoga.  I was in the health club industry for sixteen years, I’m a 40-year martial artist with three black belts, and I’m a registered yoga teacher.  What I’m saying is, the approach is all wrong.  The marketing is funny, because it’s absurd.   

It’s not so much the claims as it is the presentation of them.  It’s like they need a disclaimer, “Results not typical.”  Curing insomnia is an individual possibility and “cure” is a strong word.  It can happen, sure; but what works for that guy may not happen for me.  And that’s okay.  It may have other effects that I love.  Effects that happen as a byproduct of doing yoga, because we love practicing yoga. 

Let’s talk about “crushing goals”.  It sounds like a lot of work that requires willpower every step of the way.  And willpower is unsustainable.  It will break down.  “This is what you can achieve, if you put yourself through hell and once you get there, you’ll still have to put yourself through hell to hold onto it.”  Now, who wants to sign that contract?

Realized goals are only a result of the doing.  A byproduct of the process; the way.  The goal then, if we want to call it that, is the way.  Forget about the goal and be the way and to be the way, we have to love it. It’s not the pursuit of happiness, but being happy in our pursuit.  Happiness is not a goal.  It’s a way of being.  Now, happiness doesn’t need to be a goal, because we’re already happy.     

If going to the gym is something we have to make ourselves do and complain about it, then that goal is a daunting and elusive destination that we probably will never reach.  In this case, the gym is not our way. 

Maybe its jujitsu.  Maybe its yoga.  It could be tennis, walking, pickleball, cross-fit, dancing, or hiking.  When we love the process or the journey, goals happen as a byproduct of the doing. 

When we love going to the gym and getting a good workout, when we can’t wait to get on the judo mat, put our ear buds in and go for a hike, or play wallyball (yeah, you read that right), then we’re already where we want and need to be and along the way, we realize and experience positive benefits.

But, those benefits aren’t because we’ve arrived at some goal or destination; it’s because we’re loving ourselves and doing something that we enjoy as part of our journey. 

Life isn’t something to get through; it’s to be lived. 

Love your journey.


Photo by Michael B. Luong on Unsplash

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