January 23, 2016

Day 23: I Can Do Hard Things

There's a mantra that my wife, Heather, told me one day, "I Can Do Hard Things." I was 30 years old and had never heard it before, but I immediately felt the power of it. Heather told me that she wanted it to be a value that she instilled in our children and I readily agreed. 

To some of you this may sound easy, like second nature, like "of course." That's great. I am glad that you have obtained the gift of determination. But to others of you, the thought of saying that phrase, much less really believing it, sounds too hard to even be considered a goal. It's in the realm of hopes and dreams, but not quite possibilities or probabilities. And you know what, that's ok. 

Several years ago I was looking at my lists of goals from years past and I noticed a pattern. I would set dozens of goals for the year and after 52 weeks I had only accomplished about 30% of them. I would place many of the unaccomplished goals on the following year's list. And to my surprise, about half the time I accomplished them that year. And many of the ones that took into year 3 were also accomplished. That was a huge ah-hah moment to me. Some goals take years to accomplish, and that's ok. 

That's when I started dividing my lists of ambitions into several areas. First of all, there are the Dreams. These are goals that might take 10-20 years, or a whole-lifetime to accomplish. Maybe you call those your bucket list, or "it would be cool", "it would be awesome" or "it would be nice" list. For example, it would be nice to learn to play a musical instrument at some point in my life. I dream of competing in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii (a dream I've had for 25 years). It would be awesome to move around the world with my wife and serve people of diverse cultures. I want to accomplish these things, but they may take me well into retirement to accomplish. Hopefully sooner, but they are pretty lofty and I acknowledge that.

Next I have what I would call my Goals. You might think of this as your "I want to", "I would like to" or "I need to" list. These have become more urgent than just hopes and dreams. They are moving up in priority. These are things that I need to have written down and review before myself on a weekly basis if I want to accomplish them. They are reminders of my inmost desires. They are often intermediate steps to accomplishing my lifelong dreams. These are the tasks and challenges that I know may take me 1-5 years to accomplish with steady work. And that's ok.

Then we have what I call Resolutions. Resolute means you are strong, confident, unmovable, determined, adamant, steadfast, tenacious. You have moved into the realm of "I Will" and "I Am". When you have resolved, that's how you naturally phrase them. It's funny that I find it super hard to set any real resolutions at the start of the year. I just set goals. And then I work and I see what happens. Life happens. "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." 

But resolutions, they come out of nowhere. These are things that just tend to bubble up at the right time. I go through an experience, I hear or read a story, something happens to a friend or family member, I face a trial, or the last straw finally breaks the camel's back, and suddenly a resolution is born. 

They come to the surface, like an underwater volcano that has been building for years, finally erupting in surprising confidence. "I am not going to eat dessert for an entire year." It was something that just burst from my subconscious while watching the Kona Ironman Triathlon on TV in 2014. And it was done. There was no hemming on hawing. I didn't even need to write it down on paper. Why? It was engraved in my heart. 

Or the day that I told Heather I was going to ride my bike to work 20 miles away. Resolutions are absurd. They sound crazy. They can be quite shocking. This is where you really appreciate an understanding and patient spouse who bears with all your crazy resolutions and isn't a buzz-kill. "If it's important to you, then it's important to me and I will support you." I have heard this sentiment from my dear wife on so many occasions and it has meant the world to me. And it makes me want to support her when she says she wants to give our pantry, or fridge, or menu a makeover. Or when she wants to take guitar lessons or buy a house or try essential oils. "If it's important to you, then it's important to me, and I will support you."

That, my friends is the essence of "I can do hard things." Hard things take years of patience. Hard things take years of hard work. Hard things take love and support from the entire family. But hard things are possible! Hard things are probable! And hard things are soul-satisfying. You can do hard things. You can!

Let me conclude with the story of two of my heroes. In the spring of 1977, Rick Hoyt, who was born with cerebral palsy, told his father, Dick Hoyt, that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Far from being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push his son Rick in his wheelchair. They finished all 5 miles, coming in second to last. That night, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.” This realization was the beginning of what would become over 1,000 races completed, including marathons, duathlons, and triathlons as a father-son team. Their website is teamhoyt.com and my favorite video of theirs is below. 

You can.

 #TeamHoyt #MoreFoodLessCrap @MorFoodLessCrap #NewYear #Goals #Resolutions #Health #Fitness #Exercise

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