This is a personal story, and a bit revealing, but I believe there are some Self-leadership lessons that we can all benefit from.
Last year, I went back to the gym with a goal to regain some lost fitness. Pleased with myself, and in a hurry to get results my ego wrote some checks that my body couldn’t cash. It was probably the bench-press, that favorite of most guys, because it’s a straight competition between you and the weight. I say probably but it was almost definitely, because afterwards I had difficulty sleeping on my left shoulder and I was experiencing an ache during the day.
I rested for a couple of days and then went back in the gym, a little more careful to warm up, but still doing the same exercises.
Lesson 1 – Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity!
My shoulder pain got worse, and I realized I had a rotator-cuff tear, with some impingement. I sought out some medical advice, which confirmed my self-diagnosis and identified my Lower Trapezius muscles (the ones that create stability for your shoulder blade) were underdeveloped. What you don’t see you don’t work on.
Lesson 2 – We all have blind spots, and we need trusted help to identify them.
With this new-found self-awareness I adapted my exercise program. No more bench-press and lots of back exercises, focusing on my weak, and out of sight, Lower Trapezius muscles.
Lesson 3 – If you face a set-back on the way to your goal, don’t give up, adapt your approach.
My adjusted exercise program started to work, my shoulders were getting stronger, I was getting generally fitter, but the night pain and day ache were persisting. At this point I should confess that whilst today I am a Motivational Speaker, my first qualification is as a physiotherapist. I was in practice for nearly 20-years and so I know my anatomy and rehabilitation protocols. Even with this knowledge and experience, I was baffled and so began to research.
Lesson 4 – Don’t let what you know get in the way of what you need to know.
Several people suggested surgery. This is an option for shoulder pain and It seemed seductive to just hand over the solution to someone else and hope that it got fixed. Now in many cases this would be the right thing to do, but my research showed that surgery was not always the best option and the recovery could take 6 to 12 months. If this was the case I would be back to square one, in terms of fitness and with only a 50% chance of full recovery.
Lesson 5 – The easy solution is not always the best solution, check your options.
I continued my research – searching the internet, watching YouTube videos and testing out the exercises and stretches. In the meantime, you would often see me with a bag of ice on my shoulder as certain workouts gave me immediate feedback that I had pushed too hard in the wrong direction.
Lesson 6 – Pushing the edges of your comfort zone is going to cause discomfort, but it’s worth it if you are moving towards your goal.
Through testing and evaluating various exercises and stretches, I finally found the perfect combination. I won’t bore you with the details, but when I finally found how to release the posterior capsule of my shoulder it was exquisitely painful followed by ecstatic relief. I’m now well on the road to full recovery.
Lesson 7 – When you find the solution for your problem yourself, you will achieve your goal.
For me this was a classic Self-leadership journey – Have Self-awareness, take responsibility, Self-regulate by taking feedback and adjusting behavior, Self-learning and integration of what works and ultimately goal achievement. I imagine you have your own story of a setback, feel free to share in the comments.