Sign Up For The Essential Living Maine Ezine and
FREE Digital Subscription

Get our magazine delivered directly to you via email FREE!

Learn to See “What If” as a Tool

November 1, 2018

Learn to See What If as a ToolRaise your hand if you’ve ever set a New Year’s resolution.

Raise your hand if you haven’t kept it. *All hands raise*

You’re in good company. New Year’s or not, almost everyone has set a goal or an intention and lost sight of their vision. Everyone has intended on doing something and then ended up not doing that very thing. Or, doing it for a while, then giving up. Or, thinking about doing that one thing, but never following through.

Let’s break this down even further. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been really motivated and inspired to finish a project, or a report – you sit down at your laptop, furiously type for 5 minutes…only to find yourself watching the 7th in a row “dog overwhelmed with happiness when soldier dad comes home from war” video on Facebook 40 something minutes later.

We. Are. Distracted. Our brain has too many tabs open. And whether we realize it or not, it affects every area of our lives. To stay on target and to avoid writing a 16-page dissertation, I’ll keep this within the context of movement and fitness.

It’s worth it to note that when I say fitness, I don’t mean the way you look in your bathing suite or the number on your scale. I want to be clear here, that I am speaking in terms of how you feel. The physical benefit is just that, a benefit, and it will fluctuate and change with your life. The baseline is feeling strong. Everything changes after that. Exercise and movement are a celebration of what your body can do, and how good you can make yourself feel, not a punishment for something you ate.

It’s easy to get motivated and pump ourselves up for this massive change in our lives. We actually do it on a micro-level all the time. Despite our best efforts, motivation falls off, and so do we. It can become an unrelenting cycle.

Why? Stick with me here, I’ve got a couple theories.

My first theory is that it’s not our fault.

From the time we were young kids, pretty much everyone around, regardless of their age, has been consuming some form of media since they were young. Magazines and radio shows, which would later become TV shows and the internet, has turned into this constant barrage, an all-encompassing media machine designed to convince you of one thing: YOU’RE NOT LIVING UP.

Sound a little harsh? Think about this for a moment. What would happen to these huge companies if all of a sudden everyone decided they might be okay as they are and they don’t need products to like themselves? There’s a lot of talk about how people tend to only show their “highlight reel” of life – the perfect vacation photo (no shade here), or a shot of a perfectly planned and executed baby gender reveal party (so cute to see how excited everyone gets) or the “HOW do they look that good after a workout?” photo. And it leaves us on the other side of the screen in our leggings and topknots wondering why we don’t have our sh#t together like that. And then one day – we’ve had it, “That’s it. I’m done with this!”

We make a rousing promise to ourselves that we’re gonna work out, eat healthy, start drinking green tea and meditate for a half hour every night. We motivate ourselves, we start to get excited for the “after” then, we promise to grind. Crushing it for a few days, maybe even a couple of weeks, you wake up one morning and just don’t have it in you. You let something slide. That day turns into a week, turns into months and then we are back at square one. All of our motivation is gone, and we didn’t achieve any of our goals. And now, less motivated than before, we’re also guilting ourselves into oblivion.

Again, whether we even realize it or not, we’re comparing our lives to the images we consume through media every day. We consume it, we internalize it and it embeds into our belief system. We are somehow different than them, and they deserve it and we don’t.

The second theory is that it IS our fault.

Learning new information about the way our brain works is a double-edged sword.

“When you know better, you do better.”
~ Maya Angelou.

We learn these things about ourselves, so now they have context in our lives. We understand them, and can even see when we are falling into a familiar way of thinking.
Because we are such comfort-based creatures, most of us would rather stay comfy cozy in life, than make a big change because of “what if.” The two scariest words we know. So, rather than find out what if, we leverage and rationalize with ourselves, concluding that it’s just too big a risk. Because, what if.

Quite literally, our brain is wired to protect ourselves against discomfort of any kind. Even if the discomfort is healthy and helps us grow. That discomfort shows itself in our lives at various times: i.e., wanting to open your own business, committing to working out 3 days a week, going back to school, asking someone out, etc.

I am speaking from direct experience. I lived in this exact place for ten years. Shake up my ENTIRE life and change? No thanks, I’m good.

So, because we would rather not change because of the unknown, we are faced with the same dilemma every day, when we start to experience that new spark of discomfort.

Live our truth. Be authentically us. Learn to see “what if” as a tool – that maybe not for 100% of it all, but for a lot of my life, I can decide how I show up and experience it.


Don’t. Don’t change. Don’t try. Don’t dream. It’s easier, less risk. We’ll just keep doing what we were doing, and we’ll be just fine, thank you very much.

The second option serves as a much more comfortable, more immediately gratifying choice. And because we are so distracted, because we have the capacity to know and be more than ever before but don’t, because we don’t want to get uncomfortable, we don’t. We abandon our motivation. Only to feel it spark up again when the desire for a change becomes so big that it’s gotta get out somehow. You’ll see this in a collective sense on New Year’s. All. The. Resolutions.

It’s my personal conviction, that an even greater tool than motivation, is progress.

Progress is elusive and is much harder to feel than motivation. But it is the number one driver to seeing a goal through. People LOVE to make progress. It feels inherently good. You feel pride and a desire to go even further. 100% motivation, isn’t as strong as 1% progress. One is here for the long run and will grow with you, the other stays at the party for 20 minutes and then leaves without saying bye to anyone and never answers texts. Guess which one is which.

Start with 1%. Start by just showing up. That could look like many different things, but in terms of our context here, we’ll talk about fitness. Showing up is the hardest part. Everything after that is progress. Truly, nothing changes if nothing changes.

Committing to showing up comes in two parts:

See your greatness: This is the hardest part for basically everyone. To see it before you feel it. A little bit every day, in some way, choose yourself. Even if you have to fake it till you make it, choose you – even just once. Get to class. Take the nap. Say no to an elective social obligation.

Feel your greatness: This part is easier because it’s embodied, but it takes consistency to get there. Delayed gratification, is really really sweet. You’ll FEEL different. This is even more progress and can drive you even further. When you feel strong from the inside out, and supported by your own body, things start to change. It’s a magic, better experienced than explained.

Shannon Osborne is the owner and founder of Honor Movement Studio, 502 Stevens Avenue, Portland. She doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness, but she does believe in empowering others to create their own body balance. Her modern approach to holistic fitness is the result of nearly a decade of geeking out about anatomy and her unabashed belief that movement is medicine. When she’s not at the studio you can find her exploring the Maine woods with her boyfriend and their dog. She can be reached directly at: For more info, visit: