"The stimulus for a lobster to grow, is that it feels uncomfortable…if we use adversity properly, we can grow through adversity" - Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski
It was one of my uncles back home in South Africa that first got me into running. To this day he remains one of my biggest heroes and inspirations. One of the main drivers for me pushing myself to be as fit and fast as possible is so that one day I can be as good as he is. In recent years my uncle has given away competing in triathlon, but he is still an avid runner, still entering ultra-marathons despite nearing his mid-fifties (much to my grandmother's dismay). Running is not just a sport for my uncle though. Sure he enjoys the thrill of entering races, but the mindset he enters into when he sets out for a run is more important to him and has relied on it countless times when life has become a little tough. I've looked to running and exercise as a way of keeping negative thoughts from manifesting inside my head as well. I'm a deep thinker and tend to spend a lot of time inside my own head, which for the five years since I finished high school turned out to be quite detrimental because I would get trapped in there. In the end, as good as exercise was, it was my circle of influence that had the greatest impact on essentially turning my life around.
I find it ironic that a huge part of my job as a Personal Trainer is to motivate and inspire when as little as 12 months ago I was not a motivating or inspiring person. In fact, I completely lacked motivation and inspiration myself! I had no goals. I was just drifting; I had been ever since I entered my post high school life. I have clients now who come to see me because they want to lose weight. They've been unhappy with their lifestyles and want to make a change. I've never been overweight, and have been regularly keeping fit and healthy for most of my life, so this is something I can't necessarily relate to. But I do know what it's like to look at myself in the mirror and despise the person looking back at me. Whether I was suffering from depression or not, I don't know, because I was never formally diagnosed. Like most young men I was unwilling to seek help because I saw it as a weakness and didn't want to openly admit I was struggling mentally. What I find interesting, is that it's only in hindsight that I've been able to finally admit that something was wrong inside my head. Going days, weeks even where I wouldn't get out of bed because I just didn't see the point. I had nothing to get out bed for. I skipped countless classes at uni which resulted in me failing a few subjects and dragging out a three year degree to almost five.
There were times when I wasn't eating properly because I wasn't earning much money and what money I did have, was spent on a case of beer and partying with my friends. I remember many occasions coming home from those outings with friends and being welled up with emotion from having had too much to drink that I would burst into tears, crying myself to sleep, hating the person I was and the situation I had allowed myself to end up in. For much of my time after finishing high school I lived on my own after my Mum and Step Dad moved to Queensland. I struggled desperately with loneliness and feeling of isolation. I worked nights in a call centre where I never made any effort to get to know anyone. I would spend five hours on the phone trying to convince strangers to complete surveys. I'm sure you can imagine the colourful language and comments I received during that tenure. To cut a long story short, I hated my life! But I refused to confide that in anyone out of fear that my Mum would find out. Since the day my Dad passed away when I was 9 years old, Mum had sacrificed just about everything for me. After almost ten years in which she had to overcome her own struggles she was happy again, having started a new life with my Step Dad and I wasn't prepared to compromise that. I know my Mum. She would have taken it personally and thrown everything away to come back to Melbourne to look after me. I was in my early 20s by this stage and I wasn't prepared to put her in that position after everything she had done for me. Surely it was time for me to step up and take control over my own life!
I mentioned earlier that I spent a lot of time hanging out and partying with my friends. I fear to think where I would be today without that circle of influence. It was one particular summer, last summer, spending copious amounts of time with my close friends that changed my life forever! By the time December 2015 rolled around my high achieving friends were half way through Masters degrees, had months and months of overseas travel under their belts and some were already in stable employment, doing what they always aspired to do. By December 2015 I had been unenrolled from university because the one subject I was doing (that's right! I only had 1 subject left) wasn't running and I hadn't bothered to go to a single class so I was completely unaware. My intention was to leave it to the last minute and cram like crazy in the dying weeks and just settle for a pass. After charging into uni as fast as I possibly could I managed to enrol into something for the beginning of this year and had my enrolment reinstated (I think the faculty member I spoke to took pity on me because I was shaking like a leaf, on the verge of tears, and babbled something along the lines of "how am I going to explain this to Mum"). In spite of that, the summer went off with a bang! My friends who'd been overseas had brought some of their international friends back with them.
There's something to be said about young people traveling the world. They are unmatched in their levels of positivity! Because we all of a sudden had so many people from overseas staying with us we had to tour around the state showing them around and they were just bursting with energy. I won't detail every second of that summer, but the point I'm trying to get across is that I was constantly surrounded by so much positive energy that I didn't have time to dwell in my own head with my negativity. Alas, all good things must come to an end and one by one I watched everyone return to their countries (or states) of origin, and slowly those of us in Melbourne began returning to our normal lives. There was just one problem. I wasn't prepared to return to my normal life. I can't put into words the feelings I experienced over that summer, but it was the first time I realised that something had been very wrong with me in the years prior. Like I said, it's only in hindsight that I realised I was experiencing such depressing feelings. At the time I just thought it was normal, but because it happened so gradually. I didn't really feel it happening. Sure I was unhappy, and I hated my life, and couldn't bear to look at my face in the mirror sometimes, but I didn't realise how seriously unhappy I was until I had something amazingly positive to compare it to. That probably doesn't make a lot of sense, it's a difficult sensation to describe.
It was at this point, in the spirit of New Year's resolutions that I finally decided to step up and take action. I wasn't prepared to continue living the meagre existence I had been since finishing high school, and for the first time, I aspired to be something and someone better than what I was. I was coming to the end of my personal training course, and even though I'd lost all faith in the industry by the end (but that's a story for another time) I knew of Vision Personal Training and knew they differed in many important aspects to the rest of the fitness industry and so I applied at the Hawthorn studio.
I did my first Goal Session with Ashild on the 4th of February. 9 months ago! In that time I've finished my Certificate III and IV in Fitness, graduated from university, completed four marathons (improving my time with each successive effort), took up a new sport in triathlon and completed that successfully. I'm qualified to take our nutrition seminar and have the ability to be able to stand up in front of a group of people and present the material confidently. My interpersonal skills have improved out of sight, and I successfully passed my driver's test at the age of 24 (for anyone who's known me for a while will know how big of a deal that is). In 9 months I was able to achieve all of that just from taking that first step to change my life for the better. In my last article I spoke a bit about goals and striving for your dreams. I can tell you now that after what has undoubtedly been the best year of my life, that I have set the bar pretty high for myself in the coming months and years. I'm no longer the loser of my group who was going nowhere. I've got so much more ambition and drive now. Throw in the fact that I've got such a great new circle of influence, not just in my team but within our Vision community as a whole as well. Endless encouragement from everyone that make me realise that what I'm aspiring to achieve will indeed happen if I keep working at it.
If a lonely twenty year old can identify the difference between being happy all the time and how much better that felt compared to being miserable and unhappy with himself then so can anyone. The trick is just taking that first step. Getting out of your comfort zone and making a positive change for the better. I came across a fantastic analogy recently by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, in which he talks about how a lobster is a soft vulnerable animal that uses its shell as protection. However, as the lobster grows its shell becomes increasingly more uncomfortable and confining and it is forced to remove the shell and produce a new one. As it gets bigger and continues to grow, it again experiences that discomfort and it is forced to shed the new shell and produce yet another one.
"The stimulus for the lobster to grow, is that it feels uncomfortable…if we use adversity properly, we can grow through adversity."
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.