I’m training to run a marathon, so I run a lot of miles, and I get lots of comments on that. Mostly, people ask, “How do you do it?” (I think they really want to know why.) Yesterday, as I left for my morning run, I was pondering this question, having just run 17 miles two days before. How DO I do it? I would never have thought I could. And here I was today, wanting to go for a run again. But wait, did I really want to go for a run? It hadn’t occurred to me. I think about how far I should run, consulting my training plan and other events going on. I think about if I should run easy or hard, considering what runs I have done recently and what runs are coming up soon. But I never think about if I actually WANT to run. That’s immaterial. I’m a runner, so I run. I run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Period. Well, sometimes I run on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
When I first started working out regularly, I found that if I got up and wondered what I was going to wear, what workout I was going to do, what time I should leave to get to work, then oftentimes, I never made it to the gym. So I started pre-planning my workouts. I developed a schedule of cardio and lifting so that each day, I knew exactly what I’d do. I worked out at a set time and for a set period of time. Before I went to sleep, I laid my workout clothes next to the bed. I made working out something I no longer had to think about, so it became something I just did.
It occurs to me that this is the secret to being committed to anything. You don’t make yourself decide every day if you’re committed to something or not, as some days you might decide no, and that puts the brakes on all the days you said yes.
Think about the things you’ve been committed to. If you went to college, did you decide every day if you were going to be an engineer (or whatever)? If you did, then you are one of those people who had 4 majors and took 7 years to graduate. (Now, you might have decided each day how committed to becoming an engineer you were, depending on how good the party was the night before.) But if you actually became an engineer, you made up your mind pretty early in college, and never thought about it again. An engineering student was just what you were, until you became an engineering graduate, then an engineer.
A lot of the heartache and depression we experience in life is due to thinking about whether we want to do something rather than just doing it. How many times have you been incredibly miserable because you were thinking “I don’t want to do the dishes;” or “I don’t want to go to work;” or “I don’t want to go to the gym”? But once you actually did the thing you made yourself miserable thinking about not doing, how did you feel? You felt a sense of accomplishment that it was done and glad that you did it. (Ok, if you hate your job you might have to wait until you get your paycheck before you’re glad you went to work.)
This is one of the keys to having a long marriage. In the “old” days, people got married, and they stayed married (a vast majority of the time), because they never thought about whether they wanted to be a married person. They were a married person, therefore they would continue to be one. The only choosing they did was between things that made the marriage better and things that didn’t. And because they were staying married, most people did things that made it better. Look at the people you know who have had very long marriages. Whether they are happily married or not, they have stayed together because they were committed enough to being married people that they just decided that was what they were, and did it. If they are happily married people, then they do things that enhance their marriage, without thinking about whether they want to. It’s just an accepted part of their lives.
The important thing to think about is what you want to become. Once you decide you want to become an engineer, a married person, or even a runner, then you need to do the things, without question, that it takes to make you a good one of those. And keep doing it until, at some point, you consider the ramifications and make the decision that you don’t want to be that thing anymore. Notice I did not say until you decide you don’t want to do what it takes to be that. On any given Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, if I think about it, I might decide I don’t want to go for a run. That is different from deciding I don’t want to be a runner. So I keep not thinking about whether I want to run, and going for the runs, until I decide I no longer want to be a runner, then I give up going for a run. (I’m hopeful that will never happen!)
Frequently, we do this the other way around. We decide we don’t want to do that thing that makes us what we want to be. So we don’t do that thing, never realizing we are giving up on what we want to be. If I give up my run on Wednesday, then I might give up my run the following Monday, and then the next Friday. Pretty soon, I’m no longer a runner, and I’m sad about it. I still want to be a runner, but I just chose not to do runs long enough that I was not a runner anymore.
The next time you find yourself thinking about not wanting to do something, think instead about what doing that thing makes you, and whether or not you want to give up on being that. I don’t want to do the dishes, but I do want to live in a clean house. I don’t want to go to the gym, but I do want to be a strong, healthy person. I don’t want to be nice to my lover when I’m cranky, but I do want to be a person in a happy relationship. If that thing is something you want to be, then stop thinking about if you want to do it or not, and do it. Then think about what a great homeowner, fit person, or partner you are!
Do whatever it is that makes you a better you, my friends!