Yes You Can

All of us are challenged to change at one time or another - to run faster or longer, lift a heavier weight, eat better, lose weight, learn something new, or perform better at work.

In the past week, this issue of ability to change seemed to come up again and again. In one case, it was someone struggling to lose weight. In another, it was someone trying, but failing, to stick to an exercise program. For these folks, not being able to change had no dire implications, at least not yet, because they are both young.

But in the third case, lack of ability to change resulted in a person's death. I was talking to a doc who seemed a little down and asked her what was the matter. She said one of her patients had died - a 35 year old woman, 3 kids, husband, obese, smoker, drank a six pack a day of pop, on pain medications because of a car accident a few years ago. She had gone to bed after a couple of glasses of wine and never woke up. The doctor, frustrated and sad, said how hard and repeatedly she had tried to get the woman to change her lifestyle, but couldn't.

What is it that enables some people to change and others not? You'll find some of the answers in the most recent issue of Runner's World, in which there's a story about a guy named Ben Davis, a 25 year old who lost 120 pounds by taking up running. He made an inspiring short video about his journey that's well worth watching.

Reading his story, there are revealing clues as to how he was able to drop from 365 pounds.  As always, it started with his own strong desire, but there were other key elements which helped him succeed:
  • He did not let early failures get in his way. The first time he tried to run, he didn't last 8 minutes. But he kept running.
  • He started slowly, running a little, then more. A 5K, then a 10K, then a marathon. Small steps.
  • He had a social network of family members and friends that supported his efforts, and participated with him.
  • He started to hang out with runners from whom he could learn to model a new behavior - how to live like a runner.
Ben is a textbook case of self-efficacy, the magic key to motivation that has been studied and described so well by psychologist Albert Bandura. 

And his story has powerful lessons that we can all learn from, whether fit or fat.

1 comment:

Donald Moore said...

Re: "Yes You Can," the mindset to which TOJ alludes that is necessary to embrace this work ethic is applicable to injury recovery. While healthy, wieght loss, PRs, and improving overall fitness are goals. Incrementally building your body to perform better is the ideal. I would add that recovering and healing from an injury or spiritual loss embodies the "Yes You Can" philosophy. I love reading about the running programs for the homeless (in Philly), incarcerated (in Kansas) and high achieving atheletes wickedly injured in "fluke" accidents working harder than ever just to return to their sport. "Yes You Can" is why we get out on the trail or sign up for a race. Thanks, TOJ, for a great reminder!