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A doctor in the US gave me an amazing statistic when I met up with him some time ago. He told me he sees 300 patients every month and asks each of them the same question: “Have you been having any fun recently?”

He faithfully records an answer scoreboard … 299 times a month so far, he receives the same answer. “Nah, just working.”

Just one out of 300 is having fun. How did we get it all so wrong? Seemingly, it’s the same with exercise? I met another man who was really fit. He had a great well-sculpted body but he didn’t look that happy. I was chatting with him about his training regime and here’s what he said: “I don’t really like lifting weights but I love the results of doing those things.”

He didn’t enjoy doing the workouts; he endured them. He was totally missing the point that the real joy is in the journey, in every step of the journey, not the destination. It’s in not succumbing to destination addiction.

That evening while in the US I got an email from a lady who also seemed to be missing the fun and the joy on her exercise journey.

When I explained to her that self-acceptance comes before self-improvement, then she got it. She kept postponing happiness until she got to this ideal picture of herself that she had in her mind

She wrote: “Three months ago I joined a gym and was doing quite well with the treadmill and weights. Then I decided that for some variety I would go to classes – kettlebells, Pilates, step aerobics and spinning.

The classes are full of extremely fit people who make me feel bad about myself. In every class I go to I’m the worst in it, even after attending them consistently for a number of weeks. The difference between me and the others is so vast I’m close to giving up.”

First of all comparisons are odious. We should never compare, because we usually compare ourselves negatively with other people. The problem with comparison is that you always feel either better than someone else or worthless in comparison. If we compare, we should only do it to model someone else’s good points.

“Be yourself,” Oscar Wilde said, “because everyone else is already taken anyway.”

But to be yourself in a world where everyone else is hell-bent on making you somebody else is one of the toughest battles you’ll ever fight. You don’t want to be better than anyone else. You just want to be better today than you were yesterday. Compare yourself with your previous self. It’s not how good you are compared to anyone else; it’s how good you are compared to how good you could be. It’s a case of finding your unique hidden untapped potential.

Secondly, the key to any form of self-improvement comes with self-acceptance first. The Green Platform formula is: Acceptance + Positive Action Now (PAN). Without the positive action, acceptance could easily degenerate into indifference or apathy.

Self-acceptance comes before self-improvement. First and foremost, you must accept and love yourself as you are.

Another woman had a question for me recently: “I get up at five every morning, I go for a half hour jog down by the river, I come back and I do 15 minutes Pilates, then I meditate for 20 minutes. Next I have a very healthy breakfast … now why am I not happy?”

When I explained to her that self-acceptance comes before self-improvement, then she got it. She kept postponing happiness until she got to this ideal picture of herself that she had in her mind.

If you don’t love yourself when you are 180 pounds, there isn’t a chance you’ll love yourself when you are 150 pounds. Most of us live one of the commandments back-ways. “Love your neighbour instead of yourself.”

There’s a huge difference between taking good care of yourself, accepting yourself and being selfish. Change the story in your head. Your energy will follow your story. Why are you making up a story that makes you feel bad when you can make up a story that makes you feel good?

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change. It’s an inside job. If an egg is broken from the outside, life ends; but if an egg is broken from the inside, then life begins. All real and lasting change comes from the inside and works its way out. Go back to the gym and have fun. If you go for a run, make sure it’s a fun run.

And if you really want to have fun exercising, remember what Mark Twain once said: “Comparison is the death of joy.”

Declan Coyle is an international motivational speaker and author of two best-selling books – The Green Platform and Living The Green Platform.