Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by a setback? It might have been with your health, career, finances, or relationships. While I will focus on fitness setbacks here, the takeaways can be applied to just about any situation.
Some people are fortunate enough to emerge from a health condition or injury unscathed, but most of us retain physical and/or psychological scars from the experience. Are you scarred? You’re in good company.
It stinks to have setbacks. I’ve had my share of them…injuries, surgeries, disease, crushing fatigue, broken metabolism, surgeries. Oh, and did I mention surgeries?
When I first got in shape and became a trainer, I had a plan in mind about how my “fit life” would progress…the workouts I would be able to do…the races I would be able to run…the body I would achieve. Then, life happened…
In the thick of my struggle, it was hard to see the big picture. I wondered if my situation would improve or if I would have to say goodbye forever to my definition of a fit lifestyle.
There were physical scars that taunted me: will this inflammation go away or will I always have a belly like this? I can play connect-the-dots with the incision scars on my abdomen. My neck looks like the laces of a football. I’m too exhausted and in too much pain to exercise.
The psychological scars were really tough, too: What will it mean for me if I can’t exercise like I used to? What if I have to go up a jeans size (or two) for good? I may not ever have the body that I hoped for.
These scars can be dream-killers. But what happens when we tuck them into our stories and press on to more meaningful goals?
Perhaps the lessons I have learned will resonate with you:
- We have plans for our lives, but they may not be God’s plans for us. If anyone is guilty of over-planning and “control-freaking,” it’s me. I have to continually remind myself of this teaching…
James 4:13-15 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.
Perhaps if I ran all of my goals by God first, allowing him to edit them as needed, I wouldn’t have been so devastated by life’s setbacks.
- My goals – vs – living a full life: do these concepts complement or compete? When you are forced to re-examine your goals during a setback, it could be a gift of perspective. My goals of achieving a certain size or look were limiting my potential and had little to do with living a full life. I was given this gift of perspective during an 18-month ordeal:
Thyroid-related fatigue, my nemesis, threw a giant wrench in my goals several years ago. It was crushing and incapacitating. I could barely care for my family, my memory and decision-making skills suffered, my body ached constantly and exercise was extremely difficult. Despite sleeping 14 hours a day, I never felt rested. I was living half of a life, barely keeping my head above water.
During that season, I yearned for the energy to be a fully engaged mother, wife, friend, and trainer. My goals of achieving a flat stomach and toned legs suddenly paled in comparison. Ironically, certain exercises were making my condition worse, and in order to get well, my fitness goals HAD to change.
I adopted a new perspective. What can I do fitness-wise to improve my health in a way that will help me to live a full life? I wanted to be “fit to serve” those around me: my family, friends, clients, church family, and even strangers.
Investing in relationships, intentionally loving others, living in the moment, and being God’s hands and feet—this perspective suddenly became more important than having less cellulite and being able to do unassisted pull-ups. I’m not saying that you should never have these goals…just don’t stop there!
- Having eternal impact. Our lives are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14). Every once in a while we get a reminder that life is fleeting, that there is a bigger picture. We have such a short time on this planet and time’s a wastin’. What enduring legacy do you want to leave? How can your goals maximize eternal impact?
The physical and emotional pain from setbacks is real. Acknowledge it. Give it a voice. Tuck it into your story, but don’t let it define you. When you are ready, take your next step with renewed purpose.