A couple of years ago, I was training a regular client of mine, a woman named “Jane,” who spent several hours with me each week working on improving her fitness capacity. Beautiful with a figure most would die for she was in her late fifties, and could figuratively and literally run circles around women half her age.
Despite these facts, however, Jane was rarely satisfied, often lamenting about her lack of progress or inability to accomplish certain tasks. So, in an attempt to streamline her focus and prove to her just what she was made of, I challenged her to set a goal for us. If she named it and dedicated herself to it, I would do what I had to to get her there.
Thankfully, Jane knew me well enough to bypass any goal that had to do with a number on the scale, sharing with me instead that she had this particular article of clothing she used to love to wear but that no longer fit. When I asked her what it was, her face lit up as she described a once-beloved purple skirt. Even though this approach still involved an aesthetic component, I was sold. Right then and there, Operation Purple Skirt began.
Together, Jane and I dedicated the next month to fine-tuning her routine, tweaking her diet where it needed tweaking, and further buckling down an already rather rigorous workout regime. As expected, her body responded quickly. I watched satisfied as her strength soared and her already trim waist whittled away.
But after one particularly rough workout at the end of that first month, Jane’s body language told me she was deflated. When I asked her what was up, frustration streamed like a waterfall from her lips. Turns out that despite all of her efforts of the past few weeks, the purple skirt still did not fit.
And it was at this point that it dawned on me to ask Jane when the last time was that she wore the purple skirt. And, to this day, I can remember the shade of red I saw when she responded by saying that it had been 10 years earlier.
With that, Operation Purple Skirt came to a screeching halt. I immediately asked Jane to throw out the damn thing, not because it was impractical to get her now decade-older self into it (we were likely another week away from getting it to zip), but because it represented a time and a version of her life that no longer existed. She was to buy a new skirt – purple or not – and it would signify her current successes. And along with it would come pride and ownership for the body she was living in right now, today.
There are, of course, so many lessons to take away from my experience with Jane, not the least of which is that you then and you now are not legitimate factors to compare. Not only do you embody a different physical vessel than you did 5 years, 1 year or even 6 months ago, but you are also surrounded by a completely different set of circumstances. It’s impossible to make an apples to apples comparison, so don’t even dare.
Furthermore, ask yourself what progress you might be sabotaging – or even hiding – by being distracted by your own personal version of Jane’s purple skirt. Are you hung up on aspects of yourself from yesteryear? Aspects that just like fashion statements have gone out of style? Stop wasting your time. Design a new version of yourself and rock it. Walk down the runway with flare.