I’ll never forget the morning my dad told me the astronauts weren’t landing on the moon. Four men had already walked on the lunar surface and two more were on their way.
I was nine when Neil Armstrong’s first step made history. I watched and my imagination was captured. The second moon landing was a disappointment because one of the astronauts accidentally pointed the TV camera towards the sun and burned out the lens. All we got was the audio of them talking to each other as they bounced around.
That’s why I was so excited about this third mission. There would be TV. But, while I was asleep an oxygen tank on the spacecraft exploded. The moon landing was cancelled.
The next morning my dad told me the news. I was so disappointed. But, I had no idea of the magnitude of what was actually happening in space. All I knew was I wouldn’t have the fun of watching another moon walk.
I didn’t realize until much later how close Apollo 13 came to never returning home. The movie, starring Tom Hanks, was riveting. Like many people, I’ll never forget Flight Director Gene Krantz’s gripping statement to his team at Mission Control in Houston. After explaining what they had to do to get the astronauts back to earth safely, he said…
Failure is not an option.
What a perfect way to drive home the seriousness of their changed mission. It worked. And, that statement has since resonated with so many others because it can be applied to more than space travel.
How many times have business leaders used it to inspire and motivate their employees. Coaches and managers have likely written it on a whiteboard to underscore the importance of an upcoming big game. And, I’m guessing more than a few parents have uttered it to their children who are performing below their capabilities in school.
Except there’s a problem. It’s just not true.
Failure is always an option. It might not be a good one, but it’s always an option.
What if Gene Krantz, after explaining to his team how urgent the danger was to the astronauts instead said, “It’s late and I’m tired. I’m heading home to get some rest. Let’s meet back tomorrow morning and figure this out. Is 9 o’clock good for everybody?”
Or how about when the experts in Mission Control realized the filters for scrubbing deadly carbon dioxide out of the spacecraft needed to be replaced and they didn’t have a spare on board? Remember that scene in the movie where someone dumped a bunch of parts on a table with the mandate to improvise a solution? What if instead they decided, “We don’t have what we need. How about we call it a day and go to McDonalds?”
And, then there were the excruciating scenes of a fellow astronaut, back on earth, whose job was to figure out how to power up the dead command module using a very limited power supply. He tried so many different ways…each ending in failure. What if he had said, “Too hard. I’m done. Anybody want to grab a drink and sit by the pool?”
It sounds silly, but those were real options the people of Mission Control could have chosen. Those are also the same options we have when our pursuit of fitness gets challenging.
We’re tired. We encounter obstacles. Or, it simply gets too hard. We start to make little compromises and before long we’ve stopped doing anything.
Yes, failure is an option. And, sadly, we choose it more often than we’re willing to admit.
But, success is also an option. Several weeks ago we began rolling out a five step plan to help you Win at Fitness.
Start Small – So often when we feel ready to make a change we start BIG. Sadly, we are only setting ourselves up for another Fitness Fail. Read why HERE
Think Long – In addition to starting off in a way that is not sustainable we want results NOW. Who doesn’t? But, guess what usually happens? Read why we need to change our expectations HERE
Add Links – Once we have the right starting point and the right time frame we need to start building a chain. Each day represents a win. Each win begins to gradually tear down the shame of past failures. (Part Three HERE) You can also watch this change happen by using a unique Win Tracker. It’ll help you build a new fitness habit one link at a time…one day at a time. I’ll send it to you free right now.
And, now Part Four…
The astronauts of Apollo 13 depended on the experts in Mission Control to figure out how to get them home. Those experts were exhausted, facing obstacles that felt like mountains, and solving problems that were nearly impossible. Yet, they never quit.
To Win at Fitness you can’t quit either. This is hardest part of the journey…developing the mental and emotional strength to keep going when all you want to do is stop. Ultimately, no one can make that decision except you. But, there are some weapons you have in your arsenal when you’re fighting that battle.
The Contract – Before you begin decide exactly what you’re going to do. Maybe, that’s reaching 5,000 steps every day for 90 days. Make the decision once so you don’t have to re-decide every day based on how you feel. Essentially, you are making a contract with yourself.
Before I started my 20k One Year Step Challenge I decided my target would be at least 20,000 steps every day for a year. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, how tired I am, or if unexpected obstacles pop up. I’m reaching my target. It’s non-negotiable.
That said, I did give myself two clearly defined exemptions. If either happens I’ve already made the decision NOT to get 20,000 steps on that day. Quite frankly neither situation has occurred in years, so these are rare circumstances, but I did negotiate them into my contract before I started.
You can do the same. What’s your target? How long will you do this? What are your clearly defined exemptions for not reaching the target?
The Word NO – This is a hard one for a lot of people. It’s hard to say “no” to ourselves when we really want something. It’s even harder to say “no” to others because it feels rude. Yet, there are times when it’s exactly what we need to say to accomplish the better thing.
I’m convinced using the word “no” correctly, is a valuable skill. It’s also a valuable weapon when there’s an obstacle in your way. It may be something you’d rather do instead of pursuing your goal. It may be an opportunity someone else is putting in front of you. Use the word “no” and keep moving.
Your Team – Some people do better when they have others holding them accountable. It’s harder to quit when you know someone is going to ask how it’s going.
Is there someone in your life who would be willing to do a “progress check”? Every day they could ask, How many steps do you have? How are you going to get the remainder?
It’s harder to quit when you have people invested in your success. Get your team together and let them know what you’re doing and how they can help.
The Past – Shame is powerful. Nobody wants it. Yet, we’ve all felt it. If you have a history of fitness failure, turn the shame of your past into a powerful weapon to never quit again. Take a moment and imagine how you will feel tomorrow if you quit today. Turn those past failures into a weapon for a fitness win!
The Future – What impact will Winning at Fitness have on your life down the road? What impact will it have on the people you love? This can be the most powerful weapon you possess. This is really why you’re doing this. Allow your imagination to embrace the future and know that a win today is a gift you’re giving your future self.
Apollo 13 is a great story and a powerful movie. I recommend watching it, even if you’ve already seen it. But, when you get to the scene where Gene Krantz draws that line in the sand realize he should have added two words.
Failure is not an option we choose.
You shouldn’t either.
Part Five will help you add fuel to keep your fitness engine running a long, long time. It’s called Momentum. You can read it HERE.
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