I had a disheartening moment the other day when the clock turned from 11:59 PM to midnight. Now, I feel I need to preface this by saying I am glad these are the disheartening moments in my life now, as I’ve experienced much challenge, struggle and shittiness in my day, and this is quite the definition of a trivial thing. What happened, you ask? My Fitbit reset from 53,559 steps to a bit fat ZERO.
For those of you unfamiliar, a Fitbit is a pedometer, it tracks your steps and miles throughout the day and lets you set activity goals. I had over 50,000 steps because I had done a LOOOOoooooonnnnnnngggG training run over the river & through the woods that morning (actually, through the river, which I have to say felt REALLY good:). I had earned those steps! Another acknowledgement here – I am ridiculously addicted to my dear little Fitbit. I haven’t named her yet, but I should.
Why was I so disappointed? Because it felt like all of that effort had been lost. One minute ago I’d had a sweet little – well, big – number to make me feel proud of having stuck through the heat, the tired legs, and the deep breathing necessary to run so damn far. I LIKED having that 53,000 in my face to show me what I had accomplished. And then – poof! – in a matter of seconds, it was gone.
It made me think of two sayings you often hear in the yoga and mindfulness worlds, the first derived from the Bhagavad Gita. You’ll often hear an encouraging yoga teacher say, “No effort on the path is lost,” meaning that no matter how little or how much you do today, it counts. No matter how unfathomable a goal, how overwhelming an experience, or how big of a struggle, showing up and putting in ANY amount of effort COUNTS. The efforts you have put in can never be taken from you.
Before I share the next saying, stop and think – where are you putting in effort and feeling some sense of struggle or overwhelm, or that the effort isn’t counting? Maybe you feel like something will never change, or you feel close to giving something up. Take a second and see where these feelings are in your life. Is it in your relationships – romantic, friendship, familial, parenting? Is it your work, finances, or living situation? Is it some aspect of your health or yourself? There are many places these feelings can and do sneak in, so use this moment to take inventory.
Now for the second saying, which comes from the Zen tradition: “Before enlightenment – chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment – chop wood, carry water.” This one points out that, even when you reach a lofty goal, life is still there to be lived. If I ran 30 miles then never lifted a leg again my muscles would atrophy – quickly. Parents have to get up and do their best to raise their children each and every day. Dishes get dirty, the trash needs to go out, and you’ll never stop needing to shower, clothe yourself, eat well, or drink water. Even if you have all the money in the world to hire people to do everything for you, certain aspects of life are daily truths.
There is an important layer to this – that many goals are comprised of habits. It’s not that you reach the goal and STOP, but that you find ways of being that help you maintain the goal of physical health, of communication in relationship, of raising a child, etc etc. You find a rhythm that works.
Also, (and importantly!) there are times when something does get DONE that you never have to do again, if you set the right habits in place. Once you clean out the garage, it is clean, and you can keep it clean by developing the habits to maintain the space. Chop wood, carry water.
Knowing that no effort on the path is lost and that there are things you will likely need to do for the rest of your life (even if you win the lotto or become spontaneously enlightened!), lets bring back to mind those points of overwhelm you identified earlier.
Okay, Here are a few key tips to keep perspective:
1. Decide what you want. What, to you, is worth working toward? Maybe you never want to run a race, maybe your goal is to have your own business, or to maintain a relationship. Decide what is important to you today, and what you would like to have in your future.
2. Break it down – what do you see yourself doing daily to maintain your beautiful life?
3. Take it one day at a time. I can feel some of you (and part of me) hit the floor when you think about doing something EVERY DAY for the rest of your life. It can feel like a life sentence! Every day, choose to focus on today.
3. Dress it up! Where is the spice in forever? If you are going to do your dishes by hand for the next few years, get some f*n fancy ass dish gloves! I have a thick red rubber pair that make me feel fabulous;) Or, if exercise is your goal, maybe a FITBIT will make you eager to move (I swear they are not paying me for this:).
Lastly, balance activity and rest – remember that no effort, HOWEVER SMALL is ever lost. And, most likely, that work you do when you are tired is crappy work (sorry! A true friend will tell you:). Save your energy for those most important things, give it your best each day and then find that magic moment where you let is alllll go. Let the fitbit reset and do what you do tomorrow, celebrating each step when it comes.
Thanks y’all for being along for the ride! Now it’s your turn – what path are you on, where are you putting your effort, what nuggets will you take away with you and what do you have to share? Leave your comments in the space below and share this with anyone you think could use it.
Much love as always,