What would happen if you took the same training approach day after day– if you lifted the same weights, did the same number of reps, or ran the same mileage? Initially, depending on your fitness level and what you were doing before, your body would respond. But as it became accustomed to the routine, your progress would stall out. It’s no mystery that you have to keep upping the challenge if you want to see growth. And like so many fitness truths, the same can be said for life in general.
So many people manage their day-to-day life as if they are a programmed machine. They rise, eat the same breakfast, go to work, have the same conversations, clock-out, do the same tired workout, watch the same television shows, and go to bed at the same time every night. Routine is comforting, isn’t it? But when something happens to shake things up – car trouble, a lay-off, the cable goes out – their whole world can come tumbling down. I’m exaggerating just a little to make a point here. The point is: we have to not only accept change but to embrace and welcome it if we truly want to live a satisfying life. When we are caught up in the routine of things, change seems forced upon us, and we are left reacting. But when we actively seek change, we are the ones at the wheel.
I was never an athlete. I would fake sick on P.E. days in high school. I didn’t like exercise and absolutely abhorred running. I did a little yoga in my teens, but for whatever reason all other exercise was a nightmare for me. In my twenties, it got worse. I stopped doing yoga and continued avoiding exercise. It wasn’t until I hit my thirties that I tried to give fitness a shot. And of all things to test the waters with, I tried running. Disclaimer: While running may conjure images of long strides and graceful bounding—that’s not me. I’m slow. But I’m not walking. And you might even catch me plodding along with a smile on my face.
Yes, I found out I loved to run. I loved it so much that last year I ran my first half-marathon. I ran the entire thing, no walking. And the level of satisfaction I felt after training so hard and achieving my goal was like nothing I had ever felt before. The only problem was, I didn’t plan anything after the race. For the following weeks I would run 7 miles here or 5 there, but those runs dwindled until the only running-associated thing I was doing was carrying my Runners World magazines from the mailbox to the coffee table. I fell back into the comfort of my routine. After years of running and feeling good about myself, I fell back into doing almost nothing for about four months. It was almost scary how easy it was.
I know I’m not the only one who’s been here before, who has just let their training slide for a few months. I would like to think it’s more common than I know (I wouldn’t feel so bad about it then). But it’s the knowledge that everyone has to fight this strange urge to do nothing that has once again motivated me to get back off the couch and training again.
As human beings I really think it’s in our DNA to take the path of least resistance. Maybe it’s an evolutionary thing—that if we can have our needs met with minimal exertion, there’s no need to rock the boat. But it’s the rocking of the boat that makes life worth living!
I try to live my life by challenging myself each day, professionally and spiritually. I try to go beyond what’s average and normal by pushing myself to achieve more, to be a better person, and to reach for that unlimited potential that we all have. I realize now that this same level of tenacity must be applied to my physical as it is to the other areas of my life. We all have the potential to have the life of our dreams, to achieve our wildest goals, and to feel more joy and satisfaction each day than we did the last. But in order to do that—we have to pursue constant change and evolution.
Can we be satisfied with mediocrity? Sure, millions of people are. They are content with merely being content. But I don’t want content, I want extreme joy and satisfaction. I want that just-crossed-the-finish-line feeling every single day. The next time you are tempted to get into the routine of things, to merely go through the motions of life or of training, remember that the changes we seek, those that we have chased down and trained for, are those that really make life worth living.
Elizabeth Renter is a freelance writer, editor, runner, gardener, and homeschooling mother of one. You can see more of her work at http://www.elizabeththewriter.com and follow her at Twitter.com/ElizabethRenter.