Modifying Your Life

I’m an overachiever.  I strive to do my best at everything, at all times, at all costs.  I don’t enjoy taking the easy route and I work hard to follow directions with precision.  Which is why, when a personal trainer or group fitness instructor demonstrates a workout and then follows it with, “And if you’re modifying the movement here are a few options,” I roll my eyes and throw myself into the original option.

I’ve always told myself that modifications are for weaklings; that they’re the options you take when you’re incapable of doing the workout that was intended.  But my perception could not have been more misguided….

Here’s the truth.  No two paths in life are the same; whether at home, in the office, or even at the gym.  Despite our perception that success may look or feel a certain way, it is individualized for each of us.  Just because someone develops a plan, doesn’t mean it is intended to be carried out perfectly by everyone participating.  Even trainers understand that progress in the gym looks different for each of us.

So why have I been so stuck on doing exactly what I was told?

I was afraid of being perceived as weak, or incapable.  I was afraid that someone would think of me as “less than”.  I was afraid that I would fall out of line with everyone else and become so much of an outsider that my workout no longer looked nor felt the same.  I was afraid that others would find more success, and that I would be left behind.

And if that isn’t a metaphor for life I honestly don’t know what is.

What I wasn’t recognizing is that modifications aren’t necessarily for those who are weaker; they’re for people who simply want to flex a different muscle.  Maybe perfecting my six-pack abs (which are currently staying safe and warm beneath several layers of protection), is just not a priority right now.  Just as you might be focused on getting a raise at work, or developing a certain skill, others around you have different goals they’re working toward.

If the rest of my training group is doing burpees, I’m doing weighted squats.  If they’re going for a run, I’m hiking up a treadmill at 10% incline.  And if they’re doing split jumps, I’m doing weighted lunges.  It’s not because I can’t run or do burpees (although burpees are a form of well-designed torture so I really have no interest in them anyway), I’m just focused on building muscle rather than developing a stamina for cardio.

We should modify our lives just like our workouts; with confidence, pride, and determination.

My life is not what I would consider to be status quo for most 24 year olds.  It comes with its own defining characteristics and challenges, just as it results in unique moments of joy and satisfaction.  I have to modify constantly to keep up with my interests and passions.  And that’s okay!  I’ve made the decision to take off on a path that often isolates me from others.  It’s a little scary and sometimes lonely, but it’s incredibly rewarding and fills me with enthusiasm.

What’s so wrong about a little modification?  It’s empowering and reassuring that we can go our own way when the rest of the herd sticks together.  We are all unique and passionate creatures with a desire to improve in our own ways.  One person’s workout may not look like yours, but that’s because you’re not headed down the same path.

Be free, and modify, my friends.  Trust me, you’ll love it.


Special thanks to Judy C., Amy I., David O., and Carollynne O. for their investment in the publication of Gui Ren!  Learn how you can add your name to this list and receive exclusive content by visiting

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