When you watch the Olympics, does your jaw drop in awe of Michele Kwan’s double axles or Carl Lewis’ seemingly impossible finish times?
Do you feel a hint of jealousy over how easy they make it look? Do you secretly wish you were capable of such feats but think there’s no way your body could do that?
It’s easy to judge other people’s achievements without acknowledging all of the work it took to get to that point. As a society, we tend to focus on the outcome more than the process it takes to get there. But by the time those athletes compete for the gold medal, they’ve rehearsed their routine over and over again. They’ve run the track hundreds or even thousands of times. Even beyond their physical practices, Olympians paint mental images of future victories.
“When I get there, I’ve already pictured what’s going to happen a million times,” said Missy Franklin, four-time gold medalist. 
As you continue to reach new heights and accomplish great things, you may find yourself zoning in on the end results. We can give so much attention to our achievements or failures that we forget how much work we put into the process itself. In reality, it’s all those steps along the way that get us where we want to go.
While focusing on those small steps is important, we know it can be easier said than done. This was especially true for one Hinge Health participant in particular, who was open to sharing her story with us.
Prima started feeling pain shortly after her move from Japan to New York City. The physical and emotional stress that comes with moving across the world seemed related to how she was feeling in her body. “My pain hurt more when I was going through hard, emotional things.”
But Prima’s pain was not constant. Some weeks it showed up as a sharp or throbbing sensation, while other weeks she felt no pain at all. The challenge for Prima was creating a regular routine for herself that led to gradual change.
At the first sign of relief, Prima would return to the same level of activity she was at before her move to New York City. She would go right back to her advanced yoga classes four to five times a week.
But as she learned, that wasn’t what her body needed.
“My pain would go from 0-100. It was way too much. It was disheartening to feel good and then immediately start hurting again.”
When Prima joined Hinge Health she learned how to set small behavior change goals. Over time, she slowly built on her routine and established a new set of health habits.
Prima kept her worries about her pain to herself and found it hard to talk about with others. “Pain is not a part of the conversation when I talk to my friends or family. I tend to worry a lot and I was nervous to do the exercises. But my health coach was extremely kind and gave me the confidence to not overworry.”
Part of her process was understanding persistent pain and what she needed to do to retrain her pain system.
“I had to learn about my pain and how to manage it. My coach sent me modifications to exercises and made me feel supported.”
With a boost in her self-confidence and someone to help hold her accountable, Prima learned how to take gradual steps towards returning to her yoga practice. In addition to her exercise therapy, she started by attending a beginner yoga class instead of an advanced one, and went once or twice a week instead of four or five times.
“Now, I’m more aware. I wasn’t understanding my body. I wasn’t respecting my body. Even if I have some days where I’m pain-free, I needed to slowly build back up to my level of physical activity. I can get back to everything and I must move, but I also need to listen to my body. And I need to continue with my exercise therapy and my daily habits because they really do add up over time.”
For Prima and Olympians alike, building a sustainable movement routine and focusing on one day at a time is the key to long-term changes.
So, the next time you feel a pang of jealousy toward someone who does something better than you, or you notice yourself judging your outcomes over your progress, remember to reflect on the process. If you relate to Prima and have a tendency to go from 0-100 without setting smaller goals for yourself along the way, what is one step can you take today to change that? And what can you do tomorrow and the next day? Little changes add up to big changes, it just takes time.
The outcome is only one aspect of things when it comes to achieving your goals. It’s really important to focus on the process of getting there, as well.
You may notice that your pain is worse when you are emotional or upset. This is normal!
You are taking active steps to gain tools that will allow you to control your pain, as opposed to allowing your pain to control you.
Maese, R. (2016, July 28). For Olympians, seeing (in their minds) is believing (it can happen). Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/for-olympians-seeing-in-their-minds-is-believing-it-can-happen/2016/07/28/6966709c-532e-11e6-bbf5-957ad17b4385_story.html