Expectation Makeover


Have you ever noticed how much a dose of movement impacts your mood? 

If you've been sitting down all day and you go outside for a walk, you are likely to feel better. I know I do.  However, if you go to a practice session with unreasonably lofty expectations ('I'm gonna do this hard thing I saw and it'll be perfect, just like that Instagram video'), you probably won't leave feeling like a winner. And if you're not skilled at overriding and reframing your own nay-saying... you might not walk away feeling vibrant. 

You've likely heard of the research which confirms that exercise is mood boosting (it's usually accompanied by a stock image of people in bright-colors faux-grinning on a jog). While movement does provoke chemical changes that make you feel nice, your approach can amplify the positive after-effects or knock them right out of you.


Do you know anyone who fills their movement sessions with swaths of self-criticism and disappointment? 

Some individuals with this tendency have an addictive and abusive relationship with their chosen activity. It appears that the cycle of frustration and self-defeating dialogue is their motivator. It's the through-line of their choices. What they 'lack' keeps them pushing until a physical ailment forces them to change their approach. Meanwhile, people observing self-depreciation rarely know how to help since words of support don't change core beliefs. (Note: the competitive pole dance scene is a hotbed for this behavior). 

It's difficult being the negative person, and it's difficult being around that person. So, if you'd like to be less of a downer or help others tone down the poo-poo party, read on. 

It's time for an Expectation Makeover.

Yea, yea, goals are great. But they are only useful if they bring about positive change.  For the always-disappointed types, Imma crack the reality whip. 

You may need to realize that if you consistently feel bad about yourself while moving, you've set yourself up for that feeling before you've even started. 

It's worth noting that, yes, there are environments that can quickly make us feel like we suck (ask any adult who's tried learning dance in a room full of people who started as kids). But, how we react and engage with these environments is on us.

Our reactions are related to our expectations, and you create your own expectations.

So, dial down the big goals related to all that you 'lack.' Stop focusing on what you don't have. Then, redirect that energy to something you have control over, like your approach. 

Here are some approach-related guidelines to commit to:

  • Be thankful you have the opportunity and ability to move in the first place. Not thankful? Wait to move until you are. 

  • Accept that the things you did in your life up to this point largely determines what you are capable of. No blame, just acceptance.

  • Demand that you will not allow negative dialogue to run or ruin your session. No sharting on this parade.

  • Assert that you will stay focused for a set amount of time that is in-line with your capabilities. Be IN. All the way IN.

  • Be firmly willing to keep on moving even when things get unfamiliar or uneasy. Pain aside (listen to that), move through the challenges.

  • Demand that you will motivate/uplift/support the others in the room. #teamplesant #bethefunone

  • Be determined to get excited over trying things, and if you are not excited, you will find something you are excited about. Woohooo!

  • Behave like the person you want to be. You are designing your future right now.

  • Insist that if you do not succeed at any of these things, you will notice it, ponder it, and make efforts to do better, but you will not berate yourself for it. 

But what about all my goals?

You can still work towards them -- but do it incrementally and with kindness. Work in a way that FEELS right to you. Pay attention to your emotional state. 

Changing expectations doesn't lead to less 'achievement.' 

For those who have trouble with this idea, I'd ask:

What are you really achieving by being unhappy with your efforts? What are you after?  Social media engagement?  A trophy?  I've talked to plenty of 'winners' who are still disappointed in themselves. What's more important than moving in a way that works for your body long-term AND brings you joy?

In the book, Audience of One: Reclaiming creativity for Its Own Sake, Srinivas Rao says, "By reframing how we define "positive" outcomes, based on what we have control over, we increase the likelihood that our creative work will be rewarding."

I am grateful that I find the *process* of moving worth celebrating. Yes, I work on specific skills sometimes, and I too have to manage self-defeating dialogue, but I'm well practiced at re-directing that energy. I think about who I want to be, and I let that guide me.

I've realized that how I make myself feel each and every time I move matters more than what I do. There is no bubble; my training outlook shapes how I treat others and how I participate in life outside of training. 

I'd love to hear your experiences. Drop a comment below.