So it's been two weeks since you've been working on that New Year's Resolution. How's it going? If you're like most you've already failed at least once. Many of you are even starting to feel your resolve dwindling. You thought this year would be different. You had a revelation this time about the importance of this change in your life and swore that this year you would make it! But maybe not. Maybe you will never change. Maybe this is just who you are.
That's a lie.
But you have to get back up to prove it.
You are not the only one who struggles with this. There is a reason gyms are full in January but not May. You are not the only parent who messed up with their child...again. You are not the only one who has failed to kick that habit or pursue that dream.
Here's a deal for you...I'll share with you a little story about my struggles to complete something, but only read it if you promise to let it encourage you.
So...back when I was 38, I was hiking up a mountainside with my siblings and their spouses as we vacationed in Colorado together. (Don't let the "hiking the mountainside" phrase fool you...while I like to think of myself as outdoorsy and athletic, I was the one they had to wait on every ten steps so I could catch my breath). I had been inspired the previous summers by my children (who are outdoorsy and athletic...because they're young!) who liked competing in triathlons. They made it look so easy, I was convinced I could do it too. So during one of the hiking breaks everyone was taking on my behalf, I made the grand announcement that "I........would......like.......to.....do......a.......triathlon.......Think........I'll..........start.........training." Even though I could hardly get the words out of my pathetic lungs, I had made the announcement, thus cementing my resolve and holding myself accountable to other people who now knew my plans. (This is always an important step, by the way. Always admit your goal to someone. You deserve to have accountability, help and encouragement). My brother quickly said something like, "That sounds great. We'll do it together. Some day we'll travel the country competing in races together. We'll start next week when we get home." Which he did. Three months later he ran his first triathlon. The next year he completed a half Iron Man. Let's just say he's better than me at pretty much all this and move on. Okay, back to me....
It should be noted that I did not own a bike....or run (anywhere, ever....okay, except that one time I was chased by a bear, but that's a different story...but also took place in Colorado, as it so happens...)....and I had not swum a lap in my life (except that one time I had to as a child at summer camp in order to get the little bracelet they give you that allows you take out the canoes). So, it seemed I had my work cut out for me.
The first thing I did was buy a bike. I was, after all, committed to this goal and would need one. I bought a good helmet, but failed to buy protective padding for every inch of my body....which as it turned out, I needed. I set out on my first ride. Now, "They" say, "It's just like riding a bike", to tell you that there are some things you never forget (and bike riding is supposed to be one of them). I'm here to tell you....never trust what "They" say! I had to learn the hard way that you can't just turn a corner by turning the handles. (Just so you know, you have to be going a certain speed and lean into it. Important safety tip. Thank me later.) After a shaky ride though the neighborhood, I went onto the big road. I quickly came up to the first intersection....a big one....four lanes of traffic that are always buzzin'. Here's another important safety tip....learn how to dislodge your new special bike shoes from the pedals before hitting a major intersection. Let's just say it didn't go well. Let's just say most of the cars missed their chance to go through the light because I was in the intersection...wrecked...one foot stuck in the pedal...covered in bloody scrapes and gravel...trying to get loose from the bike...and trying to act like it wasn't a big deal. I couldn't actually tell if the honking drivers were mad, felt sorry for me, or were just having a good laugh. Either way, I came home with a messed up body, bike and spirit. Here's the point. I had to ride again. I had to get back up.
Running was next. My encouraging sister-in-law Stacy had started running the previous year, so she gave me a birthday present with all the gear I needed. I was ready to hit the road and, thanks to Stacy, I even looked good doing it! She told me an important tip. Just start running 20 minutes every other day for a while. Also, it's good for newbies to run a few minutes, then walk one, and repeat. Eventually, I wouldn't need that minute break. I was pretty sure I was in good enough shape not to need that minute of walking; after all, I did exercise in other ways all the time, but I appreciated the advice. I started out on my first run. I was feeling good. It was a beautiful morning. I was running. I had great tunes flowing. There was, dare I say, a spring in my step. After a while of course, things got harder. My breathing was getting heavier. My legs started to feel tired. My heart started pumping hard. Too hard. I was pretty sure it was about to explode. Everything hurt. My lungs burned. Something was wrong. Very, very wrong. I had overdone it! I had to stop for fear of having a heart attack...or stroke! I needed that minute walking break. I slowed to a walk just in time to prevent a total collapse. I looked at my watch to note my minute walk and almost cried. I was not even close to 20 minutes. I wasn't close to 10 minutes. I wasn't close to 5 minutes. I had run...20-something seconds. I'm not joking. Not exaggerating. It had been seconds. Here's the point. I had keep going. I had to get back up.
Then came the hard part...swimming. I went to the pool early....really early....5:00 am early...so no one would be there to see what was about to happen. Guess what. There are a group of crazy people, at least a dozen or more in my area, who like to swim that early everyday! So I kindly asked if I could join someone's lane and circle swim with them. Now I've watched a lot of swimming because my oldest daughter is a competitive swimmer. I get the jest of it. You put your face in, kick your legs, and pull with your arms....sounds easy enough. News flash... if you haven't gone under water in 25 years, just doing that is awkward and, as I found, somewhat alarming. As an adult, you think about a fact that never occurred you as a child... there is no air under there. None. And with arms and legs both flailing as fast as they can to keep you afloat, you need air! Panic sets in. You look up to see how far until you've reached the other side and realize you are getting nowhere fast. Fear takes hold. You don't want to doggie-paddle to the edge, but you are exhausted. Your heart is pounding, lungs are aching, limbs are weakening. Just in time, you reach the other side and hang onto it for dear life. This was my first 25 yards. A kind man who was swimming in my lane approached and I waved him to go on ahead, but he stopped to check on me. He didn't have to ask if this was my first time. He offered his help. He gave me some tips. He even told me he would watch me and coach me a bit. "Really? Thanks so much! I need all the help I can get!", I happily replied. I took off...he watched...then yelled, "Darling, you have to keep your ass up. KEEP YOUR ASS UP!" I'm not joking. This was what he yelled to me. I would have been completely mortified at this point, but I realized I had made it another 25 yards back to where I started. I wanted to get out. I wanted to get out more than anything I've ever wanted. But I couldn't. I had to keep swimming. I had to get back up.
I told you at the beginning...you need to tell someone...you will need help and encouragement. I was at that point. Thankfully, I was able to join a swim class and my friends Pati and Carole had me up and going. A year later, I swam my first mile.
So the day came for my first triathlon. It wasn't pretty. It was really hard. I did not set any course record. (Actually, I may have...but they don't give you a medal or draw attention to the fact that you may be the slowest person ever to complete that race). I was no longer 38. It had taken a me a while to complete this goal. In fact, I raced the month of my 40th birthday. Accomplishing my goal and giving myself the time to work towards it was my gift to myself. It's one of the best gifts I've ever given myself, by the way. And I pretty much failed all along the way. It was literally one crazy fail after another. But I never quit, so in the end, I accomplished my goal.
I don't know what goal you've set for yourself; but whether your goal is physical, spiritual, emotional, etc., the same rules apply. It's just like your parents, coaches and teachers always told you...you only really fail if you fail to get back up.