When does empathy and understanding matter?

When is it important to try and see things from another person’s perspective and subsequently gain a deeper sense of that person’s story?

The answer is “always.”

But stepping into someone else’s shoes is hard work.

Gaining understanding is hard work.

It’s much simpler to make up your mind about something or someone with a quick ill-informed judgement instead of stepping out of the comfort zone of your own opinions.

True progress and growth, however, does not happen in the safe places.  One doesn’t expand his or her limits by talking to like-minded people or by performing the same kinds of exercises in the gym.

It happens outside the edges of comfort.

Openness to new ideas is one of the Three Key Values of Steelworks Strength Systems.  This value as well as Simplicity and Accountability drives me to be a successful coach.  I use these values to continually guide and improve my ability to empathize and understand my clients.  With a deeper understanding of the hopes and fears that motivate all of us, I can help provide perspective when success stalls or the right type of motivation when training seems to be the last thing on people’s minds.

In today’s day and age, the value of empathy and understanding is paramount.  We are all capable of cultivating these sorely needed social and emotional resources.  A really simple thing we can do to jumpstart this process is through reading.  Challenge yourself to read a book that might not conform to your worldview or whose subject matter deals with something that you might not normally encounter.

For example:

Recently, I read J.D. Vance’s beautiful memoir, Hillbilly Elegy:  A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.

Long story, short:  Vance discusses his life and circumstances growing up as poor white working class kid from Kentucky.  He recounts stories of his rocky family life, observations about problems ravaging poor white America, and offers a blueprint on social mobility.  It is a touching story and is very easy to read.   I walked away from the book with greater insight into into a group of people about whom I knew very little.

What does this have to do with Fitness?

Absolutely nothing.  Fitness, however, is not everything.

While it is important to improve one’s health and it is pretty damn fun to move fast and lift heavy, the time it takes a person to run a mile or the amount of weight he or she can snatch doesn’t really translate to the “heavy lifting” of really getting to know someone and building a peaceful community/society.

Be open to new ideas.  Be vulnerable with other people.  Be willing to grow in all aspects of your life.

It starts with empathy.

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