Google tells me that approximately 50 percent of the U.S. population makes New Years’ resolutions. While I prefer to think I make goals rather than “resolutions,” I guess you could put me in that category. And while you’re at it, you might as well add me to the 38 percent of the resolution-makers who resolve to “get in shape.”
Now, those of you who know me might be a little puzzled right now because you know I have never completely taken a break from working out…ever. But over the last two years my desire for training has very much been replaced by a desire to drink coffee, write, and read. And while I know this is okay, I nonetheless would like to swing back to a more consistent physical fitness routine. That being said, I’ve been back in both the weight room and the pool over the last few weeks. While it had only been a few months since I had last seen the weight room, it had been a year and a half since I graced the pool.
When I think back to the kind of shape I used to be in- swimming a mile or more at a time with no problem- I am humbled to now find myself grow tired after only 100 meters. And while I’ve never been a crazy heavy lifter, I’ve definitely been able to bench more than the bar in the past. But that’s where I’m at right now. I’m taking breaks after swimming 50-100 meters and benching and squatting an embarrassing amount. And I’m mostly fine with that. The part that’s not fine is the prideful competitor, impatient to be “back” to where she once was. But the part that is fine is the part that had the gumption to start again; the part that is excited for the growth to come.
Make no mistake, even though I’ve eased back in, I’ve had my share of sore muscles- and I know there will be more to come. Many more. Because as anyone who has ever gone after a goal knows (athletic or otherwise), there is no progress without growing pains; for these two truths are certain: 1) Getting better hurts and 2) We can’t get better on our own.
As I thought about why those growing pains are so painful it occured to me that part of the growth (and therefore pain) happens when our pride takes some hits. For progress to occur we have to be willing to look foolish and to perhaps even fail a time or two; to be willing to acknowledge that we don’t know everything. That is uncomfortable with a capital U. I for one do not like to admit my shortcomings, faults, or weaknesses! But while laying down pride is difficult, it is absolutely necessary if we ever hope to achieve what we have resolved to achieve. It is the laying aside of pride that enables us to even start. And it is the attitude of humility that allows us to accept help from others.
As I said, we can’t make progress solely on our own. Sooner or later we’re going to need a coach, mentor, teacher, or friend to sharpen us. We’re going to need someone to tell us specifically where we’re falling short and what we need to do to improve.
In writing this post I couldn’t help but think of the former world record holder and two time gold medal winner of the decathlon, Ashton Eaton. The decathlon is a 2 day track and field event consisting of 10 total events: the 100 meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meter dash, 110 meter high hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and the 1500 meter run. Let me tell you: that takes a lot of coaching. While runners absolutely have to work on their form and efficiency, field events and hurdles require a tremendous amount of finesse and technique. I recall him once saying, “My entire life is people telling me what to do!” I can only imagine the amount of humility it takes to be receptive to that level of constant correction and coaching! Clearly, listening to the words of his coaches paid off.
I had my own encounter with coaching this past week. With a great amount of anxiety, I allowed a friend who is an accomplished writer and editor to read an article I wrote for simplydevoted.net. I hate to admit it, but this is something I have shied away from as a new writer…even though I know it’s what I need. My issue is two-fold: I like to be naturally good at whatever I do, and I fear being told I’m not good at the thing I want to be naturally good at! Ahhh, pride. There it is, getting in the way of progress. As it turns out, the constructive criticism I received was very helpful and will only make me a better writer. This experience combined wtih Mr. Eatons’ example will stand in my mind as encouragement to face my fears and humbly listen to honest feedback from others.
As we look forward to the coming year, I pray we will have the courage to go after our goals- be they related to fitness and health, education and career, improving a skill, or in regard to character. May we all have perseverance to withstand the growing pains of humility as we allow ourselves to be sharpened by those who make us better. I look forward to seeing our progress; the progress made one meter at a time, one word at a time, one day at a time.