Challenge: My Choice by Joe Colangelo


Originally raised in Western New York, Joe attended undergrad at the University at Buffalo.  He then earned his masters in College Student Personnel at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  Joe is entering his fourth year as a Hall Director at the University of Michigan.  An avid golfer and sports lover, he has a penchant for Starbucks and pork products.


As Student Affairs professionals, we live in a world of challenge.  We challenge students to grow, develop, and push themselves to greater things.  We spur them on with our support.  We often employ a challenge by choice model.  But when it comes to personal well-being and fitness, I have learned that my only choice is challenge.

I would feel disingenuous if I made this post out to be advice from someone who has achieved all of their fitness goals, runs a six-minute mile, and is the picture of health. That’s not me, and that’s not what this is about.  I am a work in progress, and I am still towards the beginning of my journey.  I think a lot of us are.  I also think we have a lot to share with each other.  What I want to share is about motivation, and I hope you will want to share with me as well.  In observing others along their journey it has become clear that motivation comes in many forms.  Some run for a cause, others play to win the game, and some just like to enjoy the outdoors.  This caused me to reflect on what my motivation was.  What I learned has taught me a lot about myself, and how I can continue to grow as a person.

Before I found out what my motivation was, I found out what it wasn’t.  Some people are energized just by the exercise they are engaged in.  I struggled with this.  For example, I don’t enjoy running for the fun of it.  I don’t get the sense of calm and clarity that others discuss achieving while running.  Frankly, two hundred plus pounds striking the pavement repeatedly feels less than pleasant on my knees.  So, that wasn’t it.  My motivation didn’t come through a peer group.  I don’t see others doing Zumba or Crossfit and have the need to join the group.  I tried that a few times, and it didn’t stick.  Kudos to those that rely on these kinds of networks, as they undoubtedly work for a lot of folks.  But that just wasn’t my thing.  Unfortunately, even some concerning health factors in my family and ultimately, the loss of my mother weren’t enough of a motivator to get my health habits in line.  I come from a family that has battled weight for my entire life.  For as long as I can remember, I have always been heavy.  From husky pants in grade school to self-deprecating humor in high school, this became part of my identity.  Even with these huge signs staring me in the face, and others telling me I needed to change something, I didn’t.   I think I was afraid of changing who I always was.

The wake up call for me came around a year ago at Cedar Point amusement park.  Several of my good friends and I have made a tradition out of trying to go to the park each year, and it is something I look forward to and really enjoy.  I distinctly remember getting on a roller coaster and barely being able to close the buckle on the seat belt.  My immediate reaction wasn’t concern about my weight or body image. What shocked me was the idea that I could have been told that I couldn’t ride.  When I look back on this small moment, I realized that the idea of being told I can’t or that I won’t is my motivator.  It didn’t sit well with me, and once I thought about it in this way, things made sense.  I have always been a bit obstinate.  Tell me I cant, and I will.  Give me a lofty goal, and I will work to reach it.  The light bulb had gone on for me finally.

All of my passions and interests include the pursuit of a difficult or unattainable challenge.  I certainly believe that this is why I find golf to be so appealing.  You are never finished.  You can always get better.  Perfection is unattainable.  I am just glad that thing I am most passionate about also gets me out in the fresh air, walking five or six miles a round with 25 pounds strapped to my back.   I need to be pushed to be better.  I need to be challenged at every turn.  Golf gives me that through the structure of the game.  Now, I am trying to find ways to intentionally incorporate challenge into my goals, not only in the realm of health, but in every aspect of my life.  I recently sat down and wrote out 30 goals I want to achieve before I turn 30.  All of them include an aspect of challenge.  If I have the challenge, I know I will work harder to achieve those goals.  I also found that I need others to pose the challenge.  I do need the support in that manner.  I am appreciative of friends, family and colleagues that set the bar high.

Challenge is my motivator.  Challenge will help me along my fitness journey.  Without tapping into it, I know I will not succeed.  But I am not foolish enough to think it is why everyone is motivated.  What I hope you get from this is to really sit back and reflect on what motivates you to make positive changes.  I learned it is essential to understand yourself before you can better yourself.  For me, that was a 26-year process.  Like I said before, I am at the beginning.  I still have a long way to go to reach where I want to be. But what I have going for me now is that I know myself better.  I feel confident in knowing that I have the right motivation to push me to be a better version of myself.

You know what motivates me, but I want to know what motivates you.  Tweet me what your motivation for making positive fitness changes is @jvcolangelo.  If you need support, I will do my best to help you how you need it most, as long as you promise to challenge me along the way too!

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