Hope is toxic
“I really want to lose weight but I’ve failed so many times in the past. I hope with all my heart that I can make it work this time.”
I can’t tell you the number of emails I get that start like this.
It’s totally natural and normal to hope and dream and wish and pray for success with a new effort to get healthy. It’s also toxic and it holds us back.
A couple of years ago I ran a marathon with no training. I decided on Thursday night and I did the race on Sunday morning. Not the best idea I’ve ever had and I certainly don’t recommend this to anyone! It turned out to be one of the most difficult, painful and also rewarding experiences of my life.
Before the race started I hoped I’d be ok but I had serious doubts about my ability to get to the finish line. When my knee locked up at the 28km mark and I had 14km left to go with a knee that refused to bend I thought my chances had reduced to zero and I gave up hope all together. I stopped for a short stretch and a little self massage that made no difference at all, then I had a little conversation with myself.
“Can I finish this race?”
“If you stop now, what will you do with the next few hours?”
“Probably sit around being pissed off that I didn’t keep going”
“Can you keep going? Can you take another step?”
“Yes I can, but what’s the point if I can’t finish?”
“What’s important is that you know beyond a doubt that you went as far as you could, it doesn’t matter if you get a finishers medal or not. So can you take another step?”
“Then do it.”
Over the next 2 or 3 hours I hobbled my way through the streets of Melbourne. I had no hope or belief that finishing was possible but I constantly kept telling myself, “if you can take another step then you owe it to yourself to do that.” I didn’t believe I could make it to the end until I stepped on to the hallowed turf of the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground and the finish line was only 100m away. At no point did hope play a part in getting me there, it was all about taking the next step, the next positive action.
Hope is nice sometimes but we need to reserve it for things that we have no control over. I hope I win the lottery one day and I hope the conditions are good for an ocean swim this afternoon. I don’t waste my time on hope for a clean car though, I just get up and clean it. If you place any stock in hope being a factor in your success then you’re barking up the wrong tree. At the end of the day all that matters is what you actually did. Your internal audience will judge you on the steps you took, not the hopes you had. Action is all that matters.
Can you eat healthy for the next full year of your life? Maybe. Can you make the next food that passes your lips a healthy choice? Of course you can, no problem at all. Don’t let hope hold you back. Take the next step.
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