Dream Grounded in Reality

How to Be Disciplined Part 4: Embracing the Reality of Where You Are

Wow, dreaming about where we want to go is fun! There’s only one problem… the way to that goal isn’t clear. The goal may seem impossible without that clarity. In a very short time, that can get pretty frustrating. The good news is there’s a simple way to get that clarity and soothe the frustration. It starts with getting real with where you are at right now relative to your dream outcome.

Embracing Reality

I want to be clear right off the bat, the process of getting real with where you’re at right now is not meant to be a shaming process, but an empowering one. Acknowledging your present state is simply establishing a starting point so that you can set a path toward the amazing land of bad-assed-dom. 

In his book, Principles, Ray Dalio provides the mathematical equation for success: “Dreams + Reality + Determination = A Successful Life”. Without being grounded in reality, our dreams remain just that. Dreams. Dreams that are not grounded in reality (and supplemented with action) lead to nothing but frustration.

By meeting yourself where you are at right now relative to your dream outcome, you are acknowledging and accepting reality and creating a starting point on your journey toward your ultimate goal. When you have these two data points – the starting line and the finish line – you can begin creating a path to success.

Why the Fitness Industry Fails Us

When it comes to our fitness, this is where the gimmicky infomercial fitness programs fail us. Instead of meeting us where we’re at as beginners (helping us acknowledge our current reality), they sell us only on the dream (where we want to be). Without first acknowledging our starting point, we risk pushing too hard and burning out. 

Every time I got started in a new fitness program, I wanted to be a good student. I wanted to crush every workout, because that’s what was being instructed. The language being used – “no pain no gain!”, “go hard or go home!”, “you have to suffer to succeed!” all reinforced the feeling that I was doing the right thing by pushing myself too hard. My ego driven desire to push beyond the pain along with the reinforcement given by my two dimensional coach led to disastrous results. 

This was also true when I first started thinking about triathlon. The difference was that I was super intimidated because I couldn’t hide behind the safety of a television set, as was the case with the 90 day fitness program du jur. I had to actually get outside and swim, ride a bike, and run. 

What if people saw me? They might actually see that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing! They might laugh at me, or worse… tell me in a super condescending voice that maybe I should try aqua aerobics instead.

This was more ego driven self-shame.

Subconsciously, I didn’t want to be a beginner. I wanted to pole vault right over that step and land right at expert. In retrospect, I should have had the humility and vulnerability to embrace my beginner spirit. It would have made the beginning part of my journey much more rewarding.

By dumb luck – or by stupidity, depending on how you look at it – I had happened to be recovering from an injury when I started contemplating triathlon so I was forced to embrace my current reality. That’s when I truly embraced the level of humility necessary to meet myself where I was at. It’s when I truly became a beginner that I began to make dramatic progress. 

When I did that, the doors to opportunity opened. It was a liberating moment of acceptance and excitement as I looked forward to all the opportunity to improve. People within the triathlon community didn’t laugh at me. They didn’t discourage me. Instead, they welcomed me. They supported me. They lifted me up on the path toward my goals. 

Embrace the Beginner Mindset

This is an important step, and many people need to know it. It’s okay to be a beginner. In fact it’s necessary to be a beginner! Do not skip that step. Most of what we learn comes at the vital beginning stages. The most important progress comes when we first get started. It is the most rewarding time in our journey because we keep checking off the wins – as long as we accept the reality of where we are. 

Having the humility to accept that fact, and then move past whatever embarrassment or intimidation we feel with sharing our goals with others, hiring coaches or mentors, or whatever the case may be is such a valuable experience for the beginner, because that opens up the door to immense growth.

Yes, it’s important to have a clear outlook into the future, with regard to who you want to become and the goals you want to achieve. But without embracing where you are at now with excitement and enthusiasm for the growth you can achieve, those dreams remain dreams. 

A destination without a starting point is a land of pure fantasy.

By knowing your starting point, however, a path can be forged. Once a path can be forged, your goals shift from the realm of fantasy to possibility.

Now we have the two data points necessary to create a path toward our ultimate goal: We have our destination and a starting point. Now comes the fun part. Now we forge a path to make our dream our reality.