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If you know these tips, you don’t need a drill sergeant to get yourself going.
It was early in the morning, ungodly early, my first week in boot camp. I was in my rack wondering how I could be this tired and still not asleep. The door of the barracks flew open, and my division commander (think “drill instructor”) stormed in with what I considered to be an unwarranted sense of urgency at that hour.
When he got to the middle of the barracks, he just stood there, which we all found just a bit unnerving. Then he began:
“Every morning in Africa, the lion awakes. He knows that if he does not run faster than the slowest gazelle, he will not survive. Every morning in Africa, the gazelle awakes. He knows that if he does not run faster than even the fastest lion, he will not survive. No matter who you think you are in this life, the lion or the gazelle, the lesson is the same … when the sun comes up, you better be running.”
We were either too tired, too intimidated or perhaps too young to really understand what he meant. All we knew was that straight after that rather succinct motivational speech, we were indeed all running, far in fact!
Looking back, I don’t think my recruit division commander was admonishing any of us to be a lion or a gazelle but rather was making a point that in situations in which the stakes are high, urgency is nonnegotiable for the following three reasons:
Things that matter most
Times only constant is that it is limited. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe said that “things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things that matter the least.” In this sense, there are two uses of time: the uses of time that support what we value most in our lives and the uses of time that distract us from it. Being that time is a continually depleted resource slipping from our lives like sand through an hourglass, what better way to spend our time engaged in movement? When I say “movement,” I am not just referring to how we move but what moves us. Some people say “family,” others say “health” or “their work,” etc.—none of which get to the heart of the matter. Family, exercise and our careers are all environmental constructs that we create to have more of what we value, show up in our lives.
Think of any one of these that resonates most with you, assuming any of them do? What is the single most impactful memory involving, let’s say, “family”? That memory and its corresponding emotion, let’s say “love,” is what you truly value. So when you get clear on what you value, what moves you, to the point that experiencing it is intoxicating, the more you get drunk on it, the more enriched life becomes. So for a more intoxicating life, find what moves you and get drunk on it with urgency.
Motion generates emotion
How we move not only affects how we feel but also how we think, perhaps even how we perceive the world. Your ability to nurture what you value most in your outer world is directly dependent on your ability to continually evolve into the best version of yourself in your inner world. John Ratey in his book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” (Little, Brown and Co.; reprint edition 2013) points out that as little as 10 to 30 minutes of daily exercise, even a brisk walk, can benefit not just our heart but also our brain.
“Starting with evidence that the trunk of nerve cells connecting the cerebellum to the prefrontal cortex are proportionately thicker in humans than in monkeys, it now appears that this motor center also coordinates thoughts, attention, emotions and even social skills. …When we exercise, particularly if the exercise requires complex motor movement, we’re also exercising the areas of the brain involved in the full suite of cognitive functions. We’re causing the brain to fire signals along the same network of cells, which solidifies their connections.”
So in essence, by challenging ourselves with types of movement that include walking or running every day, we make ourselves better in every way.
Momentum is the antidote for tiresome
There are not many people who would disagree that consistency is an essential prerequisite for the successful achievement of any goal. Yet every one of us, if we are honest, has struggled with procrastination, hesitation and rationalization, contributing to our inconsistency. Exercise is one endeavor that has no shortage of internal resistance to contend with.
Most exercise enthusiasts became that way because their labor was not only rewarded with results, but eventually exercise in itself also became enjoyable, something they looked forward to doing. However, every one of us, especially when getting started, will experience discouragement, fear and doubt; it’s a part of any important change we make in any area of our lives, no one is exempt. These insidious feelings usually show up as people, events and things that demand our time, conflict with us doing the work, and often become the justifications we need to “just do it … tomorrow.”
Yet the athlete doesn’t play only when she feels like it. Nor does the salesman sell only when he first overcomes his fear. Both these individuals perform, regardless of how they feel. Some days they perform better than others, and some days they are just “on” and it feels like magic; the main thing is the willingness to show up regardless. Outcomes are the products of process. Often, you do your part and the results take care of themselves.
You can’t always eliminate your conflicting priorities or feelings of reluctance, but you can outrun them! By engaging in even a 15-minute run, you release serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, endorphins and brain-derived neurotrophic factors that change the way you feel. You don’t always have to feel great to get going, but getting going can help you feel great.
Photo credit: Gajus, AdobeStock