Lessons from Black Widow on Creating A Better Life

Throughout all of the Avenger movies, we learn that Black Widow is forever haunted by what she calls the “red” in her ledger

Her “red” represents her life as a Russian spy before the Avengers and all the awful things she did to accrue the moral debt she carries in her mind.

Whether or not we realize it, many of us carry around a ledger of our own to keep a mental checklist of our good and bad choices.

No matter how many good Black Widow does, no matter how many lives she saves, she still had difficulty acknowledging that she’s worthy of being an Avenger.

Like Black Widow, you might wince when you think about your ledger, thinking only about your mistakes instead of your progress. Only about how far in the hole you are. How you can never get out.

Today we’re going to dive into the red in our own ledgers, come to terms with where we are in our journey, and prepare to balance it once and for all.

Acknowledging The Red in Your Ledger

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Photo from: https://pixabay.com/en/notepad-pen-paper-writing-business-926046/

“Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor!” – Odin

During Avengers: Age of Ultron, there is a moment between all of the Avengers where they each try to lift Thor’s hammer (the Mjolnir) after a party.

The rule is, whoever can lift the hammer is worthy of ruling Thor’s realm of Asgard.

Hawkeye can’t move it at all.

Iron Man and War Machine make an attempt to no avail.

The hammer shifts ever so slightly when Captain America tries (giving Thor an incredibly worried look).

But when it’s Black Widow’s turn, she passes on any attempts to lift the hammer.

Something about that short hammer scene always stuck with me. Like there was so much more going on than just a few friends having fun.

Then, one day, I was at the gym surrounded by these beasts who were performing moves I’m still far off from achieving when that scene came to my mind.

I realized it’s easy feel like Black Widow when you’re around these demi-gods and think you’re so far behind on your journey.

The problem with Black Widow is that she doesn’t think she’s worthy of the hammer. She thinks of her own ledger and deems herself unworthy without even giving herself a chance.

This is Black Widow’s constant problem: she’s haunted by her past and won’t allow herself to fully embrace the new person she’s become. And here she is, just like Hawkeye (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsdk-AnkVks), a mortal amongst these super-humans.

We all have symbolic red in our ledger. The things we think are holding us back from achieving our goals.

Some possible red includes past injuries, unhealthy habits, lack of confidence, comparisons to other people, food addictions, self-sabotage, or trying to break up with your previously-held beliefs.

Think about the past year of your life.
Which way did your ledger move?

Did you add more red, or did you start to balance it out? Did you already give up on trying to make progress this year?

The red in your ledger probably isn’t as big as being an assassin for Russia (I hope), but it stands for who you used to be; the things you work hard to change.

Moving Past Your Red

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Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/126293860@N05/15225676088

The red in our ledger is real – we have to correct our past mistakes and move forward with our lives. But so many of us, like Black Widow, can’t get out of our own heads and actually do it.

So what can you actually do now that you’ve acknowledged the red in your ledger and you want to continue to move forward?

1. Focus on your progress and your goals.

Black Widow brings a unique and badass skillset to the Avengers team. If she compared herself to others, that would defeat the point of what she brings to the table.

In our lives, we may not be on a superhero squad, but with social media, it’s easier than ever to compare yourself to the people around you.

Take the time to think about what you want from your health and fitness journey. You bring your own unique perspective, advantages, and disadvantages to the table. You’re your own character. You can’t choose where you are right now – you’re already here. But you can choose how you move forward.

Write out each goal you’ve had in the back of your mind. Yes, write all of them. Then actually go through all of them and ask yourself if it’s something that would enhance your life or something that you think you “should” want.

You don’t have to run a marathon, deadlift 600 pounds, or climb a mountain to be the best version of yourself. Instead, just focus on being a little bit better tomorrow than you were today.

Make progress toward the goals that actually matter in your life.

It boils down to you being better than you were, not better than anyone else.

2. Be Prepared Like an Assasin

It’s when setbacks happen that most people want to (and actually do) quit.

But guess what: everyone slips, even superheroes.

The difference is, the superheroes correct their mistakes. They get back up and move on.

Just like courage cannot exist but in the face of fear, heroism cannot exist but in the face of difficulty and missteps.

All is not lost for the day because you had a bad meal.
All is not lost for the week because you missed a workout or two.
All is not lost for the month because you were sick for a week.

When a mistake happens, it’s easy to think of the red in our ledger and give up. But Black Widow doesn’t. She knows life is full of ups and downs with new surprises every single day.

Just like Black Widow, you need to be prepared for what life throws at you.

Now that you have your goals from the first action step, it’s time to make sure we’re prepared. Create your plan of attack for all the things that come your way.

Here’s mine:

  • When your coworker brings in donuts, you will say no.
  • When your workout partner skips a workout, you will show up to the gym anyway.
  • When you sleep in, you will fit in your workout at lunch or dinner.
  • When you miss a meal, you’ll be sure to meal prep tonight so you are prepared tomorrow.
  • When your coworkers ask you out for happy hour, you’ll either be prepared for this in your diet or you simply won’t go.
  • When your significant other buys snacks to fill the cupboards, you’ll maintain your discipline.
  • When it’s time to workout, you’ll be there.

If any of the items in your list fail, simply acknowledge you added more red to your ledger and immediately get to work to balance it out.

At no point does Black Widow say, “This isn’t going as planned, I quit.”

She stays adaptable, and so should you. At no point should you quit, no matter what life decides to surprise you with.

3. Be a part of something larger

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Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tales2astonish/6976086600

There’s a great scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron where Captain America is doing what he does best: Preparing to save everyone knowing he might die in the process

And Black Widow doesn’t hesitate to join him on the floating rock and sacrifice her life to save others. She knows she’s part of something larger than herself.

She’s an Avenger. She can’t put herself first, and her teammates aren’t just there for her sake. The Avengers have saved the world many times, and Black Widow is a central part of this heroism.

Coming together to help others is the ultimate push to confront the red in your ledger.

We’re all part of our own Avengers team, whether we know it or not.

Your family, friends, community, city, country, team, or any other group you feel a part of needs you to step up.

But we don’t always act like it.

Black Widow was the same way. Sure, she has always been prepared for her demise, but she never was prepared to sacrifice herself for the good of the world. By joining the Avengers she can help herself and move past the red on her ledger by helping others. She has an extra piece of motivation to be better each day – one that isn’t selfish and that helps her to overcome the guilt she had.

Your journey isn’t just about you. There are people around you that need you to start putting your best foot forward. We really are the average of the five people we associate most with.

So be a positive influence on the people who associate with you. Bring out the best in yourself for others. Be better to yourself, and help people directly:

  • Checking in with them to see how their progress is going
  • Cooking paleo meals together
  • Going on group hikes
  • Signing up for a new fitness class
  • Or just supporting their journey in general

You might not be able to fly, but you can change our life and others around you.

There are multiple Avengers for a reason. You may not have Thor’s strength, like Black Widow, you have your own set of skills.

Celebrating Your Progress

Most of the Avengers went from good people to great people.

Thor was a cocky, successful warrior and had to be humbled.
Captain America needed the strong body to match the mental determination.
Tony is still Tony, just with better technology at his disposal.

But Black Widow’s past is, well, darker than the other Avengers. None of the other Avengers were “bad” before they were “good.”

Black Widow transformed everything, especially how she was living her life.

She doesn’t acknowledge this, though. Just like how many of us do not take the time to look at our lives and say, “Wow, I’m making completely different choices than I did in the past.”

In the real world, most of us have transformations that look and feel a lot more like Black Widow than Tony Stark.

Your journey to a better life is sometimes a tweak here and there, and sometimes it adds up to an entire lifestyle transformation. It’s important we stop to take a moment to acknowledge our progress. Because if we don’t, we might believe that we simply can’t balance our ledger, when we may already have!

Have you…

  • Losing a few pounds
  • Put on some muscle
  • Tried a few new exercises
  • Avoided eating that extra cupcake even though it looked delicious
  • Started sleeping or resting properly.
  • Packing your lunch for work
  • Tried a new vegetable
  • Committed to a new adventure
  • Started walking or a new active hobby

Let’s learn from Black Widow’s struggle and acknowledge what we’ve done, no matter how big or small.

If you’re having trouble acknowledging your daily victories, you may need to do a better job tracking your progress! Whether you need to take progress photos, keep a workout log, start timing your runs, use Jerry Seinfeld’s chain technique, join an accountability group, or simply journal, you need to be sure you’re keeping track of how you are moving forward.

Don’t just assume you’ll know when you’ve made progress. Without documenting your progress, it’s hard to see how far you’ve come.

Balance Your Ledger

You can never go back in time to take things off your ledger. Those mistakes are done.

However, every day is a new day to begin the process of balancing your ledger. It is no small task, but if you feel up to it you can even list out your ledger.

Take a sheet of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On the left-hand side list out the red in your ledger.

However, instead of just listing all the red in your ledger and beating yourself up over it, for each item in your red directly across on the right-hand side, list something you could do to actively balance the red.

  • Not enough walking? Plan in a walk around your local park.
  • Forgetting to bring your lunch? Put in your calendar to meal prep.
  • Sore and stiff all the time? Sign up for a trial yoga class this weekend.
  • Want to try a paleo meal? Print out a recipe right now and buy the ingredients on your way home from work.
  • Lack of support? Find a group either online or in real life that can support you on your journey.
  • Keep cheating on your diet? Resolve to stop buying any temptations from the grocery store so they’re not in your house.

For every mistake you’ve made, there’s something you can do to make it right.

You don’t need to balance your ledger all at once. It took you years to get here. So take it slow and be proud of each step.

Every day we can work to erase the red in our ledgers. To acknowledge how far we’ve come. To deem ourselves worthy of our own personal hammer.

What mistakes did you make in the past?

How can you reach your own Level 50 and be worthy of the hammer?

 

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Setting Fitness Goals When You Don’t Have A Specific Result

When I was training clients, goal setting was one of the first things we would focus on.

Most of my clients had a specific goal in mind:
– Lose 20 lbs.
– Fit in a size 8 dress
– Gain two inches in their arms

But what do you do when you don’t have a specific result?

For many people, when they don’t have a goal, they don’t have a reason to lift. They go in and out of the gym, never really sticking to a program and constantly stuck on a yo-yo diet.

When you don’t have a why, you can’t figure out a how.

I finished Shortcut to Size, kept lifting for awhile, and with 2015 around the corner, I’ve been asking myself what I want to do with my fitness from here.

Going back and watching videos from Elliott Hulse, one of my fitness mentors, I remembered the important point that most of life is in the journey, not the destination.

The most important part is the habit, the action.

The real strength is found in the going to the gym every day. Everything else from there is just refining.

That being said, you still need to find the motivation and purpose in keeping up such a rigorous habit, so having some kind of end goal is important.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about his fitness goals for 2015 and after dancing around the question for an hour, I could tell he wasn’t telling me his real goal.

“Oh, you know, just to feel good. It would be nice to be fit…” all kinds of BS he said in this low voice where I could tell there was no passion behind it.

I started to get mad at him and told him he had to tell me his real goal no matter how embarrassing he thought it was.

“Okay only if you promise not to make fun of me.”
“I promise!”
“……….I want to feel like Captain America.”

I stared at him with a huge smile for about 30 seconds and he snickered back, “You promised! Why are you smiling?”

“Because Black Widow is like my favorite superhero of all time. So believe me when I say I get it.”

Then we geeked out for like 10 minutes and I told him it was easy from here now that he was honest about what he wanted.

The point is, no matter what your goal is, whether it is to feel like a superhero, get hit on, perform better in the bedroom, play with your kids, climb mountains, run a marathon, feel confident at the beach… It’s really important to identify how you want to feel even if you don’t have a specific number goal in mind.

I’ll develop more into goal setting and achievement this year, but before 2015 comes, start to get an ideal vision in your mind of what you want to achieve in your lifetime when it comes to your health and fitness goals.

P.S. Becoming a superhero is a completely reasonable goal. I mean, have you seen how badass Captain America: The Winter Soldier is?