Part 1– Appreciate the Easy Things
When I read a story about someone who has worked valiantly to achieve a goal, say, losing 100 pounds, or quitting smoking after 30 years, first, I am proud of them. I know what they did took hard work, persistence, consistent effort, and appropriate self-love that moved them to achieve something so difficult and worthwhile.
Next, I am grateful, relieved. I never started smoking, so I never had to quit. I find the smell repugnant, so there is no temptation whatsoever for me.
So not smoking is one thing I don’t have to work for at all, and it’s a relief, since so many things in life take effort, work, persistence, and self-control. I feel glad to not have that particularly hard struggle to add to the list.
It’s the same with the demanding task of losing large amounts of weight. I’m not model skinny, but even in middle age, I’ve never really had to put much energy into managing my weight.
And though I try to choose mostly healthy foods (does real butter count?) and have some decent habits, like my daily walk, I’m mostly just born with a trim frame and a fast metabolism. So lack of worry about weight is probably 20% decent choices, and 80 percent the way I was born. No reason to brag.
But to not have that struggle — starving myself, counting every calorie on my plate, spending all my time researching what I can and can’t eat, pushing myself to exercise beyond my limits, or wrestling with myself when I really want a cookie — that’s also a blessing, something I don’t have to work hard at or make major sacrifices for.
But let me be clear. I am neither thinking I’m superior because I’m a reasonably thin, happy non-smoker, nor am I disparaging those who do face the struggles mentioned above. What I’m saying is, (and I’ve had this thought for a long time, so I’ve got “read” and “think” covered here), is that sometimes it’s good to stop and appreciate the things that are easy for us, the things we don’t have to struggle for.
Because everyone struggles with something, and some things – usually many things — are hard for each of us. It’s just that your easy and hard are likely to be different from mine. Some things are easy and automatic for us, and take hard work and effort for others, and vice versa.
People struggling with these admirable efforts are probably naturally good at things that I’m not, like maintaining a tidy, organized home; making decisions quickly and easily; or being a great cook; whereas these are areas where I have to make a real effort, with often less than exemplary results.
And back when I was in school, reading, writing, and everything based on language and ideas came easy to me, and I found them fun. Numbers not so much. Athletics not at all.
Throughout my life the fact that reading naturally comes easy to me and I enjoy it has helped me and enriched my life in many ways. That’s my strong area. But over time, the other two have become less of a struggle for me as well.
I’ve gradually made peace — to a degree — with numbers, though I still don’t find them nearly as easy, or interesting, as words.
And though I pretty much stay away from anything that involves a ball or a team, I have learned to find joy in moving my body. My daily walks are essential to my physical and emotional well-being, as well as to nourishing my creative life. To take it further, of course after reading about the benefits of interval training, I have even started adding in a little jogging.
I took my walk earlier today, when the sun was bright and it was warmer and more inviting outside. But now I feel the pull of a little more exercise, so I might spend a few minutes bouncing on my re-bounder, inside. In fact, it’s a treat to look forward to after I finish writing. That’s a long way from when I was maybe ten and my Dad had to pay me to jump rope!
This talk of learning to love exercise, even to push myself a little, leads to my second point.
Part 2 — Build Your Confidence By Setting and Meeting New Challenges
Meeting even small challenges, taking tiny, progressive steps (literally) can help a lot. If we decide to learn or achieve something that was formerly difficult, unfamiliar, or out of our comfort zone, it can not only give us a sense of accomplishment, but it will help us build our confidence that we can meet other challenges that might now seem daunting.
I’ve read about this approach from others. They set challenges in their life, often physical ones, even large ones, like running a marathon, to help them feel empowered to meet other big goals, in their business or their life.
I definitely don’t feel the need to go that far. But my small, progressive efforts at becoming more active have given me a taste of what’s possible.
There’s a long street I walk up most days, and I often jog for part of it. Over time, I’ve enjoyed trying to stretch what I’m able to do. I’ll set landmarks. The first fire hydrant, a hedge of purple flowers, the next fire hydrant, then the corner, then the first edge of the little park. I’ve reached all these goals, a little at a time. Soon I’ll work toward running all the way to the end of the street.
I know to you real athletes out there this will sound tiny, even insignificant, but I’ve been thrilled and amazed to see how I can gradually build my stamina and stretch out what is possible for me, even feeling it become easier over time.
I’ve done the same thing in building my new business. I’m a born writer, and I have the outside-the-box mind an of entrepreneur, but the business part has required a lot of learning and stretching.
A few years ago, I didn’t know what SEO stood for, and a marketing manual would have looked like Chinese to me. Now I’ve become familiar enough with some of these concepts to be conversant in them, and even to have an opinion about methods I wouldn’t have known the name of when I started out.
So, watching myself keep learning, meeting new goals, and becoming, if not comfortable, at least more at home in these new territories, I feel confident that I can achieve other things that seem hard at first.
I’m sure it’s the same for most of us. If we look back at what used to be hard, or unfamiliar, or not really appealing, and see how far we’ve come, and how great it feels, we can have conviction that the bigger things we want are not out of reach if we keep setting goals, making progress, passing each small landmark, until we get where we want to be.
Part 3 – If You’ve Done One of the Hard Things, You’re Stronger Now and Can Do More
Let’s congratulate ourselves for the really hard things we’ve accomplished or survived, and realize that now we are stronger, more resilient, more confident to take on the next challenge.
Whether it was quitting smoking; losing a significant amount of weight; surviving an illness or a bad relationship; finally starting our dream job; or whatever it is that we’ve struggled for and achieved — even if we’re still only partway there, let’s congratulate ourselves and remember that we did it, and we can do more.
So, I hope you’ll give some thought to what’s easy for you, what comes so naturally that you take it for granted. And to what you’ve achieved, whether it was a small challenge or a major mountain to climb.