When first beginning my foray into endurance sports after a lifetime as an informed spectator and “fitness athlete” I fell in love with the challenge both physical and mental. I wanted to try everything and that meant jumping into a half Ironman (70.3) in my second year of racing along with a marathon. And I was soundly criticized by strangers (at least I think they were strangers as they used pseudonyms in their blog comments) who said I should try to get better at something small first — like run a faster 5K before attempting a half marathon or marathon.
But the criticism, while harsh, was superficial. Because they didn’t care to understand my why. I wasn’t in it to get fast. I wasn’t in it to place in my age group or pour over results to see who was faster than me on this particular day on this particular course. I was in it for that challenge I fell in love with. I was in it because I needed to start showing myself that I was strong, that I was capable of more than I gave myself credit for.
A few years later, I was working with someone on strength training. To motivate me, she often would say to me, “Think about that bikini.” And it motivated me only in the sense that it made me slightly angry. I would be lying if I said that I had zero vanity, that I didn’t care about looking good. But neither is that a motivation for me. I’ve come to accept that my body was not designed to look good in a bikini. And you know what? I don’t care. Because my body was designed to do much more than that.
These stories came to my mind this morning as I thought about motivation. I whole heartedly believe the best path (at least for me) is to connect to my own reasons, my own “whys” as a way to achieve my goals. If I find the real reason why I want to do something — whether it’s running 300 meter repeats on the track or learning a new skill — then I find it easier to peel myself off my couch and get a move on.
But just as important to me is the idea of JUMPING IN. How many times have I thought to myself, “someday?” How many times have I used the sentence construction, “I’ll do _____ just as soon as I _____.” How many times has that sentiment, that philosophy, seeped into my thinking unconsciously, guiding my decision-making with a perpetual yield sign? If I wait for things to be perfect — from time to energy to money to support to logistics — I would never do anything. For real. There would always be a prerequisite. I’ll do this when I’ve mastered my ideal 5K time. This amazing thing will happen in my life after I lose 10 pounds. I’ll be happy just as soon as I find a new job/relationship/living situation.
I know what’s important to me. I know why it’s important to me. And frankly, the only person it needs to make sense to is me. Jumping in doesn’t necessarily mean go big or go home. Small hops forward still constitute progress. And once you make a few small hops, the leaps aren’t as scary as you once believed. Where might you jump in today?