I want to do amazing things, when I don’t have time. Planning. Tomorrow. Later. Future-tense. I will get this cleaned up, weed-whack the yard, wake up early and run. I’ll finish making the brochures, design a booklet, work on a project, search for caterers.
Starting next week, I’m off carbs! Going to sit down and write up a schedule for home-gym workouts. It’s going to be life-changing. It will be amazing.
Someday, I’ll call the library and see about reading to little kids. That would be fun. I’ll raise money to fight cancer.
But right now, I’m at work and I don’t have time. Worse, I won’t feel like doing anything when I do have time. I’ll buffer with alcohol, entertainment, food.. anything to while away the hours so I can go to sleep too late, dehydrated.
Still dreaming about what I will do, tomorrow.
I’m probably the worst person at taking my own advice, except, I’m not.
Fact is, we all seem to be born with the innate ability to give free advice for any number of situations, whether we have experience with it, or not. I think men are worse at this in that we don’t necessarily want to discuss things all the time or just listen; we just want to fix it. Then there’s a whole new level of misogyny where men feel the need to explain things in simple language to women – ‘mansplaining’ – because they otherwise ‘wouldn’t understand’. That’s dumb, but not really where I’m going with this blog post.
What I’m talking about is how easily I slip into lifting-someone-up mode; trying to high-light positives, thinking through all the strategies to suppress negative thoughts – even true ones – and focus on the positive thoughts, but then I go on a run today and it’s a torrent of negative, frustrated, self-critical thoughts that seem to win the day.
Maybe seeing the positive when you’re in a hard place or doing a hard workout – when you have some big event coming up that scares the hell out of you – maybe when you’re in that, you can’t really find the positive all that easy. When you’re in it. When you’re knee-deep in it, maybe you just have to keep hearing it from the outside as you build that muscle through practicing a way of thinking that doesn’t come very naturally.
Maybe we can get better at it through practice – but until then, relying on your friends for the positive reinforcement you refuse to give yourself? Well, maybe that’s not such a horrible band-aid in the meantime.
Do new things, think new thoughts.
Five years ago, it never would have crossed my mind that I would be training for a Boston Marathon qualifying time. My life then was filled with daily trips to Jack in the Box, a pack a day of American Spirit cigarettes and lots of raiding in World of Warcraft.
However, fairly early in my running, I came up with my three goals, and there it was – my “Super Bowl” goal – to qualify and run the Boston Marathon.
When I made a life-change, the things that ‘occurred’ to me changed as well.
I never thought about it before, because that’s not where I was. It’s a strong lesson and really exciting, if you think about it. Imagine! You don’t know how many fulfilling things will just occur to you, seemingly out of the blue, until you put yourself in that sphere and experience it. Until I put myself on the path to fitness through running, nothing about achieving such an audacious goal would ever find purchase in my soul.
If you overlap your life into fitness in general, it might occur to you that you could use your fitness to motivate and inspire others in some previously unknown meaningful way. As you think about nutrition, you might come up with the idea of writing your own cookbook, or blog your daily meals. You could end up inventing your own line of nutritional bars to fill some previously unknown niche. Maybe you’ll invent a multi-purpose pack once you realize the one you have doesn’t have a feature you would find really useful – and it doesn’t even exist yet.
But it all starts with putting yourself out there, somewhere, anywhere.. into some previously unappealing endeavor or new activity. Overcoming fears and discomforts to tackle something to help you reach your new goals can lead to doors you didn’t know existed.
And here’s the thing – the more audacious the goal, the better the odds that you will find something truly amazing about yourself and your capacity for thinking bigger and better.
You can still make a wrong turn, when all the signs are pointing the other way!
Last night, I told a group of new runners that the thing that ended up being my prime motivation was a bulging waist-line. It’s true, to a degree. There were a hundred little things going on at the time that pushed the issue to the foreground; I began experiencing gout for the first time in my life, my mother had breast cancer and beat it, my cousin had cancer and beat it, it had always been one of those little things I told myself I would do.. someday, I just wasn’t happy, and all of my activities were geared around either pleasure and comfort or escape from anything challenging, stressful or difficult. But maybe the waist-line was the final straw – I’m not sure.
But I could have kept kicking even that can down the road. I could have made the wrong turn, for all that!
When you have some motivating thought to do something good for yourself, or a warning in your life to stop what you’re doing immediately, there’s still no guarantee you still won’t choose to go one way, when everything in your life is telling you to go the other way. We’ve all seen it – Diabetics who begin suffering from degenerative circulation in their feet, so much so that they have to get toes amputated, or the whole foot – and they still persist with the same diet that is literally destroying them. Drug addicts and alcoholics who continue to double-down on a new high, or the next high, while their lives go down the tubes; each new drug and each new drink a cross-roads; an explicit choice made.
For a lot of reasons, I don’t think everyone is equipped mentally, or perhaps emotionally, to even make good choices and ‘right’ decisions. I know I’m not – not always – but I’m working on it.
I think it’s the same with fitness. We get warnings and we get motivations to be healthier, make better life-style choices, take better care of ourselves, quit eating sugar, quit smoking or drinking – and suddenly, we’re at a cross-roads and there will be a decision, one way or the other.
And as you think about this, you might start to become more aware of all the little choices we make and the compounding effect they have on our lives. Each little ‘cheat’, each little skipped workout – the seductive destruction of our best laid plans, bit by bit, as we keep making those tiny turns on those tiny cross-roads throughout the day; going the wrong way.
It is not flashy to those who are in it. Who live with themselves from day to day. The incremental changes are soul-grindingly slow and imperceptible.
There needs to be a more earnest expression of the word ‘patience’.
Still, the course is charted and the journey may be long, but with consistency, the months and years will see us all through if we remain forever focused on the big picture as we yawn through slow minutes; never failing to take the daily steps that seem so vain and barren.
And then someone says, “you look like you’ve lost weight!”, or you notice one day that your clothes aren’t squeezing you anymore. You hear the chirp of your Garmin mark off a mile, or three, and you get an exhilirating little thrill because that wasn’t so bad or that was the first time you ran that far!
There is joy in the slow quiet crawl to success.
..but you can put the odds in your favor.
This is the obligatory New Years post. A little late, I know, but since punctuality wasn’t my resolution, I’m going to let it slide. As such, for anyone out there who has made a resolution be it very specific or very general, I can tell you one thing that you all have in common; in order to do or not do the thing that you resolve to do or not do, you will have to do it, or, not do it.
You are the doer. At this point, I’m going to drop the counter, or the ‘not doer’, so please consider it implied if that is your specific situation; i.e. – not smoking anymore, not eating jelly-filled glazed donuts, not listening to Radiohead, etc.
Anyway, you are the doer and what it is you want done in your life will not happen unless you are the one doing it. You just have to do it. You have to get out of bed when you don’t feel like it, you have to weigh whatever it is that is standing in your way against what you said you were going to do, and do it anyway. Even if the balance is tipped in favor of not doing it, you still have to do it. When some surprise comes up, or life throws you a curve ball, you have to be ready to deal with it so you can get back to the business of doing what you said you were going to do.. what you said you wanted in your life.
It’s perfectly natural to want something big in your life and then want to sabotage it with something small that you want more – in the moment. But despite all your yearnings, excuses, and well thought-out reasonings, despite all of your ‘tomorrow-promises’, you still have to make the right choice.
If it hurts and you feel discomfort or have a feeling of lost pleasure in your life, if you’re hungry and hangry, that’s a sure sign you made the right choice and you’re doing the right thing. I would go even further than that to say that it’s a sign that your body is making gains in the right direction. I’m not going to put a “Don’t starve yourself!” disclaimer here, you’re not going to starve.
So that’s one way to stay motivated. Beyond just discipline, knowing that changing that habit, not reaching for that thing automatically, or pushing yourself out the door for a workout at the gym or on the streets, as uncomfortable as it all is, means that you’re taking new steps you aren’t used to and beginning to form new habits and new life-styles that are scary and strange; foreign. These are all signs that you’re doing the right thing. You’re on the right track – Keep Going!
Beyond that, use the three “P”s to keep you motivated.
- Have a Partner to keep you accountable, who needs you as much as you need them, who can sit as a proxy for the nice things you should be saying about yourself and someone who you would never talk to the way you talk to yourself.
- Have a Plan. Not some wishy-washy thing where I’ll workout tomorrow or three times a week. Nail it down. ex – “I’ll work out M-W-F at 7 am – I’ll do 5 pushups, 20 jumping jacks, I’ll stretch my calves and quads with dynamic stretches I found on YouTube, I’ll jog one mile, slow and easy, and Saturday will be my cheat day!”. Find and stick to something specific to your goals.. and oh yah, speaking of which..
- Have a Purpose! Set a specific goal.
- Sign up for a race a few months in advance.
- Have a body-shape or weight goal. For me, it’s a pant-size goal.
- Be able to do X number of pushups or situps or whatever at the end of a month.
All of these can help you stay motivated but whether you’re motivated or not, you’re going to have to have an attitude that identifies excuses for what they are, overcome them, and do it.
Good luck to all of us!