I'm not sure if it's really a secret or not. But it's true.
I'm learning persistence. I am convinced that persistence is a skill that needs to be developed just like every other skill. It's a skill I didn't have and I am currently developing it.
I've been blessed with a quick mind, good health, and comfortable circumstances. As such...I easily accomplished most of what I decided to do. I could get really good grades without much effort. That led to a full-ride academic scholarship without putting a lot of sweat into it. I have been able to pick up on hobbies quite easily. I didn't have a need to learn persistence. So I never was persistent.
This hurt me occasionally. When I didn't like an activity I had committed to, quitting was my first inclination. I quit a lot.
One thing I have never had a natural talent for or desire for is anything relating to physical exertion. I don't care for sports. I hated P.E. I had my doctor sign a note so I didn't have to go to P.E. for all of high school. Spurred by vanity, I wanted a better body and I would start running in the morning or doing yoga poses at night in my room. These things lasted for a week tops.
Even last summer I challenged myself to do a five minute daily physical challenge for a month. If I completed this tiny challenge, I would reward myself with a new set of pots and pans, which I desperately wanted. I did not complete my challenge.
What really taught me persistence was my desire to write a novel. I have started so many novels - I can't even count them all. But I had never finished. I had never even gotten to the middle. Then one day, I started writing and I didn't stop. I became obsessed. I wrote my first complete novel in exactly three weeks. I was scared to lose momentum and I don't think I even skipped a day until I typed out "The End."
I'm not sure if you can consider that persistence because I feel persistence takes place over a long period of time...but it gave me a taste of success. It gave me a sense of accomplishing something I thought was too big for me.
And then I wrote another novel. It took me about two and a half years. It was a struggle. I wanted to walk away from it. At times I did, thinking that my previously completed novel was just a fluke. I didn't have it in me to repeat that feat. But I forced myself to go back to the keyboard time and again. I finished it. It took persistence.
And then there was a third novel. I completed that one too. It has took me a more realistic time period of six months. My persistence was, well, more persistent. Instead of intermittent bursts of dedication, it was constant. I worked on it whether I felt like it or not. And the funniest thing happened - I suddenly felt like working on my book all the time. Something switched in my brain that said, I want this and I am willing to do the work.
It goes back to a quote by my friend Keith once told me: There are only two questions in life. What do you want? And how bad do you want it?
I found out that I wanted to write a book badly enough to sit down at the keyboard and plunk out the words.
I had a passion for writing. And learning persistence for something I was passionate about took me effort and years.
Now it was time to hone my new skill by using it to accomplish something I wasn't passionate about - exercise.
I was okay with my weight. I managed it pretty well through dieting. And I would much prefer to go on a strict diet than burn calories. But I knew the benefits of exercise on the body's aesthetics as well as overall health. I signed up for gym memberships on about four separate occasions but was really inconsistent about going and wasted a lot of money. I knew I needed more motivation than I gave myself. I signed up for a 5k. I trained for it and ran it. My goal was to run it in under 45 minutes and did. Barely. Mostly I was glad I finished it.
Last fall, a coworker somehow talked me into joining a boot camp class. I was so unfit. Boot camp was a crazy idea. Shouldn't I start out with Jogging Slow 101? But I went. I was extremely sore. The obligation to be there, the friend to go with, and the guys in the class who assumed I was a weakling all worked as heavy motivators. I signed up for two months of boot camp. I initially wanted to sign up for one, just to give it a try. But I knew I would quit. And I knew I needed 6-8 weeks to see any changes, right? My two months was interrupted by my mom's death and Christmas, so it wasn't a solid 8 weeks. While I could do deeper push ups and run faster, I was highly disappointed that I hadn't lost weight (I had gained, in fact) and I couldn't see any changes in my body.
I took a few months off exercising to have heart surgery but I returned, ready to practice my persistence. After really studying things, I knew 8 weeks wasn't long enough to see changes. In truth, I needed double that at least. I needed to focus on other types of progress - like the increased strength and stamina.
I started in the beginning of April and told myself to not even bother looking for results until the end of July. I go to the gym three days a week. Two days of boot camp and one day of spinning. After eight weeks, guess what I noticed? I had a bit of definition on my bicep. About ten weeks I noticed that my calf muscles were starting to show. My legs are really starting to look hot in heels!
I have been going to the gym about 14 weeks now. My weight went up eight pounds from when I wasn't exercising. But I have lost three inches from my waist, an inch on my hips, an inch on my thighs, and a half inch on my arms. And an inch on my chest - can't have it all, can you?
Today I fit quite comfortably in a tight shirt that I generally have to suck in all day to wear. I weigh 8 more pounds than when I bought it. (I am super short waisted so even a couple pounds can change my clothing size). I was so happy. I have been trying to make smarter eating choices but I haven't been very strict or faithful about what I eat. I am building muscle, burning calories, and accelerating my metabolism. I am finally seeing it. It took persistence. No miracle diet. No quick 30-day crazy exercise course. And the thing is, I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life, which is exactly what I need to do.
By no accounts am I done. Health is a lifelong thing, so there's that. But I still have many inches to lose and many muscles to develop. But I am seeing progress.
If you've read this entire post, thank you. It got a lot more long-winded than expected. I am beyond proud of myself. I still don't like exercise. My instructor will tell you about all the mean things I say to him and all the crusty looks I give him. But I feel so proud when I am done. I feel proud that I have kept with it. I feel proud that I am doing it for real reasons, not just to drop a quick pound. I am proud to be a gym rat! So to thank you for reading this long post, enjoy this sweet picture of Noelle's cake smash taken by Mystic Memories Photography. Food is no laughing matter for Noelle. She takes it seriously!
The moral of the story is be persistent!