Fitness is a habit -- a series of habits, actually -- and building new habits is difficult for many of us. One of the things that stand in the way is self-judgment. When we place judgments on our behaviors, they serve as barriers to feeling rewards we need to cement habits into place. But as many of us know as our own worst critics, stopping yourself from being judgmental is, to put it mildly, hard. And many of us who try, fall into the trap and vicious cycle of judging ourselves for judging ourselves.
Much has been written about the power of mindfulness but knowing where the path of mindfulness starts is key to actually making it work for you. In the case of being judgmental, the path starts with simply noticing that it’s happening in the first place. Generally, our knee-jerk reaction to failure or imperfection goes completely unnoticed, and if we do notice it we have the same knee-jerk reaction to noticing it.
So where do we go from there? How do we take that second step on the path toward avoiding judgments?
Once we’ve been able to notice a judgment, the simple act of labeling what we’ve noticed makes it easier to let it go so that we can think clearly about what we were judging. Labeling thoughts and emotions - like judgments and anger - is similar to identifying something that you’re holding in your hand as something that is “trash.”
I like thinking about it as a process of getting rid of notes that you’ve made but don’t need anymore:
Noticing that there’s an old sticky note on your desk is your first step. But until you identify what’s written on that sticky note you’re holding onto, it’s nearly impossible to drop it into the wastebasket. After all, at some point in the past, you placed a value on it and it may still be valuable. Once you identify it as something that’s worthless to you, balling it up and using it to practice your free throw is easy.
Letting go of a thought like a judgment (or an emotion like anger) is a LOT easier once you've identified it as something that isn't useful to you or the project of improving your life or situation. And with practice, even that process - notice, label, "free throw" - takes on a life and a joy of its own.
About the Author:
Adam is an OPEX CCP coach at OPEX Baltimore South with 15 years of fitness experience ranging from Yoga to CrossFit. He’s also a Certified Nutrition Coach (PN1), specializes in corrective exercise (FMSC) and is a parkour trainer/practitioner.