How often are we told to “enjoy the process”?
We’re often given this advice when we’re feeling frustrated or impatient with our progress to improve how we look and feel.
Most often, we hear this when we aren’t reaching our goals at the pace we’d expected or prefer, if at all.
The intent behind this advice, that we should seek to find satisfaction from our labors just as much as – if not more than – from their fruits is reasonable.
However, this advice might not always be the most appropriate, and has some flaws we might consider.
For starters, we can’t often will ourselves to enjoy anything that we don’t inherently enjoy.
This isn’t always necessary, either.
There countless ways to eat, move, and live that move us towards our health and fitness goals.
While there are fundamental principles that apply to us all, these principles can be applied in a nearly infinite number of ways.
If we absolutely hate everything we’re doing to work towards our health and fitness goals, we might just consider doing something else.
There are plenty of other ways to condition our cardiovascular systems.
Think brussels sprouts taste like trash?
You’re wrong, they’re delicious, but you don’t have to eat them.
There are plenty of other ways to get the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients they offer.
There’s no single exercise that we all have to do.
There’s no single food that we all have to eat.
Rather than slog our way through misery because we think there’s something wrong with us if we don’t, we might be better off seeking out alternatives.
Despite what popular fitness advice might suggest, masochism is not a virtue.
Rather than telling ourselves to enjoy the process, we might be better off seeking our processes we enjoy.
Second, outcomes matter and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating progress.
“Enjoy the process” is often suggested when we’re not moving towards our goals.
What if our process sucks?
Should we still try to enjoy it?
Obviously, if we’re training or eating a certain way because we’ve determined that the tradeoff between the pleasure of doing so is worth missing out on the progress we’d see if we focused our efforts elsewhere, then we might be fine just sticking to what we’re doing.
Many of us, though, aren’t enjoying what we’re doing or making any noticeable progress.
How many of us hop on the treadmill day in and day out but don’t see the physical change we desire?
How many of us eat in a way that we think should be making us look and feel better, but we still look and feel out of shape?
If nobody ever lost fat, got stronger, improved how they felt, or saw any other benefit from eating well, training consistently, and prioritizing recovery, what would be the point of all that effort?
These efforts won’t always be fun but they should at least be moving us towards our goals.
Outcomes (or lack thereof) are often the strongest predictor of whether our process is appropriate for our goals.
If our process isn’t something we naturally enjoy and we’re not making any progress, we might reconsider our approach, not deludedly tell ourselves to “enjoy the process” over and over again.
If we’re not making any progress, there is no process to enjoy.
Finally, sometimes what we have to do to improve how we look and feel just isn’t “enjoyable”.
Our workouts won’t always be fun
Our meals won’t always be tasty.
Netflix will nearly always be more pleasurable than going to bed.
Do we have to think “boy, this is so much fun” every training session?
Do we have to think “OMFG, this is so good” every bit we take?
What if instead we appreciated the satisfaction of overcoming challenges?
What if instead we appreciated the payoff of delayed gratification?
What if instead we appreciated the simplicity of an established routine?
What if instead we celebrated the small “wins” that come along with small steps towards a larger goal, each and every day?
Our efforts aren’t necessarily meant for us to enjoy them.
They offer the possibility of a different, deeper, long-term satisfaction.
In some ways, we might just want to remove the word “enjoy” from the phrase altogether.
Want to know why most folks who get super healthy and fit are so pleased with their results?
They worked for it.
This doesn’t mean they were miserable or that they punished themselves.
This only means they worked for it.
Working for something is not inherently a bad thing.
To the contrary, working towards a meaningful end is one of the most fulfilling things we can do with our time and effort.
We shouldn’t default to seeing concepts like “effort” or “sacrifice” as dirty words.
We all put forth effort.
We all make sacrifices.
How many of us make sacrifices for our careers or our families?
How many of us put effort towards our hobbies?
Yet for some reason we don’t expect the same when it comes to our pursuit of better health and fitness?
We don’t need to buy in to the often counterproductive “no pain, no gain” fitness messages out there, although at times such an outlook is appropriate.
However, we might start to shift our expectations, at least in part, from “pleasure” to “satisfaction” and from “enjoy” to “appreciate”.
We might also reassess our goals to make sure that they really matter to us.
Do we really care that much about a number on the scale or how many plates we put on the bar, or do we care more about how we look and feel?
What’s the goal behind our goal?
What’s the underlying, driving desire behind our efforts?
Is it simply to achieve some arbitrary metric, or is it to feel strong, confident, and comfortable in our own skin?
Find a goal you determine to be worthy.
Find a reason that drives you to keep going when you want to quit.
Find ways to achieve these ends that work for you.
Don’t force yourself to work for something that has no meaning.
Don’t force yourself to do something that makes you miserable.
Accept, however, that you might not always find your efforts exciting.
Accept that you might not always feel motivated.
Accept that this might always be “fun”.
This might not always be easy or enjoyable.
Achievements of great worth often aren’t.
But they are worth it.
You’re worth it.
You’ve got this.