Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Be Your Own Critic

I often see folks asking for advice online. They get burned out on running, and ask for tips on how to stay motivated. This usually goes a few ways.

Sometimes they will shoot down the responses with various excuses.

"Crosstraining? I don't like bicycling, or swimming, or lifting, or anything else."

"New music won't help. I can only run to Metallica, and they haven't come out with a new album in years."

"I can't run before work. Or after work. Or during work. Can you suggest any other time I can run?"

Sometimes they'll just say, "thanks for all the advice!" And then not do anything.

In both of these cases, they feel guilty, and are just posting so they can feel like they're doing something, even though they're not. At all. They're just wasting people's time.

On rare occasion, they'll ask for advice and then actually follow it. Maybe they have an injury, or some other legitimate reason they can't run, and need suggestions to work around it. They read the responses and then follow what works best. This is great, but doesn't happen too often.

"Get up and do something? I'm totally
going to do that.... later."
For the folks who actually do follow through, they had been intending to do so the whole time. Even though they may have asked for advice, their drive came from within. Nobody else made them run. And here's the crux.

You have to be your own worst critic.

When you ask for help from others, you're asking them to be your critic. You can't push yourself, so you're hoping someone else will be able to push you. But no amount of astute observations, pointed advice, or inspirational words will get you off the couch. Not permanently anyway.

I don't allow myself excuses. If I don't "feel" like running, because I'm tired, or sore, or don't have a lot of time, or whatever, I immediately acknowledge that the real reason is that I'm lazy. I don't allow myself guilt, because that's a cop out. People feel guilty in lieu of action. Guilt makes you feel good, in a perverse sort of way.

There is only doing it, or not doing it. Everything else is just fluff. If you don't run, it doesn't matter what you say. That fact is you're not running. Period. You can try to make yourself feel better about it. But no matter how justified you feel about not getting out the door, the fact remains that you're not getting yourself out the door.

Maybe you just need incentive.
You have to ignore the excuses, the justifications, the guilt and all the other junk that fills up your mind. Instead you have to be critical of yourself. What is the real reason I'm not willing to run? Or lift. Or go to class. Is it a good reason? No? Well then I just have to go and do it.

And that's hard. Doing something when you really don't want to is hard. And that's why you have to be such a harsh critic. You have to see through your own bullshit. You can't wait for someone else to come look at your bullshit and then tell you that it's bullshit. Nobody cares. If you want to be strong, healthy, happy, or successful, you have to do it for yourself.

It requires brutal honesty. All the time. It requires that you not allow yourself to quit. Ever. It requires that you push through all the lame excuses and just force yourself to work, no matter how trashed you feel. It requires you to be better than you are.

That's what a critic does. A critic points out all the flaws, ostensibly so you can fix them. Some critics are just a$$holes, and only want to cut things down. Don't be that kind of critic. Be the kind of critic who's harsh on yourself because you want to be better. And that's the goal.

Just treat yourself like a heavybag.

Be careful not to get into the trap of constantly abusing yourself without actually accomplishing anything. This is similar to guilt. Some folks will beat themselves up in order to make themselves feel better. This is just a recipe for low self-esteem. If you're criticizing yourself, but it's not helping your work harder, then you're not doing it right.

Being a good critic means giving honest and meaningful feedback. If I have the time to run, but I'm just tired, then that's not a good excuse to not run. I'll kick myself in the butt and get myself out the door. But if I pull a muscle and need a couple days to heal, then criticizing myself won't help. It'll just make me feel shitty. If I need to rest and heal, then that's OK. If I'm able to lift instead, that's even better.

Be your own worst critic. But also be your own best critic.

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