Moving the Goalposts


By Michelle Bunt Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport: it consists of two teams of fifteen players, and a 100-metre playing field. Points are scored by kicking the ball through the goalposts, or dotting the ball down over the goal line. For most of my life, I have approached health and fitness as though as it were a rugby game. I tried to get the ball (myself) through these very narrow goalposts, and when I failed to do so, I assumed the blame. What I have come to realise though is kicking between the goal posts is great in sport, but not so good as a guiding principle for life. Rugby is concrete, and ordered by the rules of the game, whereas life and people operate by a far more nebulous playbook.

Several years ago, after being on different medications that had the unfortunate side effect of weight gain, I decided I needed to get into shape, and exercise. My motivation was simple: I wanted to lose weight. My goalposts were the people around me. I desired to look how they looked, in order to be more acceptable. Fortunately for me, fitness derailed that rather shallow path early on, and opened me up to a much broader, more expansive way of being. After exercising for several months, and finding it a chore---yet another task to be ticked off my to-do list---I suddenly woke up one day to the discovery that I actually liked it: the sweating, the puffing, the burning muscles, the challenge. It was no longer just a means to an end, but actually something life-giving and affirming in and of itself. This was when I started to realise that my goalposts needed shifting; that squeezing myself to fit between the expectations of others could only lead to despair.

So my focus changed.  I spent some time figuring out what was important to me, and there in my heart was the answer, in all of its beautiful simplicity. I wanted to be happy and healthy. Luckily for me, exercise is a significant part of the equation for both of these. I am still not a super-fit, super-slim athlete, and it is possible that I may never be, but no longer do I allow that to determine my view of myself.

Recently, I have just discovered a new exercise obsession. It’s called CrossFit, and is a military-inspired type of group fitness training. On Sunday mornings, I turn up to CrossFit, look at the board for the workout of the day, and try and contain my panic. The workouts are daunting, and they bring my every fear about not being good enough right back up to the surface.

The Dalai Lama gives a brilliant talk about how one finger is only longer than another if you look at two fingers together.  However, if you look at one finger by itself, it just is, and is perfect in its own uniqueness. This is what CrossFit is teaching me. Michelle, in relation to all to the other people in the CrossFit class may be slower and not as strong, but this doesn’t matter. In the moment all that matters is me: Michelle---perfect in her Michelle-ness. Now that I am able to grasp this knowledge, the goalposts no longer matter.

All I see is wide open space, and the freedom to play my own game.