“The way that you do anything is the way that you do everything.”-Anonymous
I’ve grown up in New England, and lived my entire life in Massachusetts. September is that month that gets a lot of us who live in the Northeast to question our place in the world. Literally, our place in the world. We know that, within three months, temperatures will plummet, there definitely will be a lot of snow, crawling commutes, and a lot of work. It’s a rare New Englander who doesn’t ask themselves, at least a few times between December and April, “Why do I live here?” I began to think about shoveling snow, scraping car windows, and trying to navigate yet another long winter. As I thought about this question yesterday, I thought of the great motivational quote cited above from some anonymous thinker. If you live in an environment like New England, then you know what it’s like to suck it up for 4 to 5 months of every year. My thoughts drifted to getting motivated and how to sustain effort.
“If you cheat in sprints, you’ll cheat in life.”-Ron Reardon
The quote above did not come from a noted thinker, rather it came from a statement made many years ago by a college teammate. It was shouted out during a football practice by one of my teammates, a hard-working tackle, who was one of the more motivated guys that I played with during my glory days. At the time, I remember a lot of us breaking out laughing, finishing our sprints with 100% effort, and heading into the locker room. It was enough to break the tension,you know, those silent times when athletes are pushing themselves and there’s no talking because no one has anything left to give. In retrospect, what was a spontaneous and enthusiastic thought from a teammate still provides a lot of food for thought for all of us. There we were, 40 or so 18 to 24-year-old athletes who thought we wanted to be winners. The Zen koan in all of this is that, if we really wanted to be winners, why would we cheat in sprints anyway? Why would we not do whatever it took to become winners? Years later, it still brings up the question: Why would we take shortcuts with goals that we are trying to achieve? If we’re honest with ourselves, we can probably find far too many examples of self sabotage and self defeating behaviors that prevent us from achieving what we say we want for ourselves. Why do we do this? Human nature? Fear of success? Fear of giving 100% and still failing? Who knows, but if we’re brutally honest most of us do this. Why do we give less than our best in pursuit of our goals?
“I’d give anything to look like that.”-Anonymous newcomer at a gym admiring the fit members
A lot of people over this next few months will put on approximately 10 to 15 pounds. If you’re not careful, it’s impossible not to. Our bodies sense the coming of winter, we begin to crave “comfort foods,” enter hibernation mode and hunkered down for the season. Come January many of us will decide to “get back into shape,” and that anonymous quote from the newcomer at the gym might come from our mouths or at least enter our thoughts. Ask yourself, “Really? Anything?” Be sure you don’t fool yourself. Notice how long it takes before you come up with some rationalization for why “anything” is no longer possible. Be aware of the “Curse of the Toos,” i.e. too early, too cold, too tired, too busy. If you really would do “anything,” then why aren’t you doing it?
“Quality is what happens when no one’s looking.”-Henry Ford
Henry Ford certainly knew little something about motivation and quality. If you read any biographical information about him, you’ll realize he was a pretty quirky guy, but he certainly knew a lot about quality and quality of effort. A good test of your motivation and commitment is asking yourself “What do I do when no one’s looking?” How do I conduct myself at my job, as a parent, as a husband, wife, or partner, as a teammate, etc. when no one is looking? How much better would I be in all of these roles if I just pushed a little bit more? While you may not invent the next Model T, you’re probably capable of much more than you’re getting from yourself right now.
“Effort is between you, and you. No one can take away effort.”-Ray Lewis
This quote is one of my favorites. While Ray Lewis is not a philosopher by any means, he certainly knows a fair amount about giving a best effort. And, effort is something that cannot be taken from you. When you have given 100% to your efforts, that’s it, that’s all. No second guessing, no woulda, coulda, shoulda, yeah buts, or any other type of excuses. If one can honestly say I have given my best, then even defeat and failure can be sources of personal pride and self-esteem.
Written goals, pursued doggedly, are the way to make your life’s dreams your life’s realities. In pursuing your goals, just be careful to give yourself a gut check now and again. “Am I really giving my best?”
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