You can do anything you want in life, you just can’t do everything all at once.
~ Bobbi LaBelle
Hanging above my desk on a bright red ribbon, is a large heavy square bronze medal. It is one of my most treasured possessions. Engraved on it are the words:
24th Columbus Marathon
October 19th 2003
FLAT FAST FUN
It was fun. It was one of the funnest days of my life.
Note the date: 2003.
I ask myself, “Self? If that was one of the funnest days of your life, why exactly is it that the marathon medal is hanging up there all by itself without a gaggle of others to keep it company?”
Self answers, “Well, you see Wendi, Life keeps getting in the way. There was this thing and that thing and you already know about that major one thing and then after that…”
So I still run…sorta…now and then…well…I can run…I mean I could…I mean…I’m gonna start again…probably tomorrow……..
My son has his Black belt in karate. For four years, four days a week, I took him to class and sat on a bench. I always joke that I have my black belt in karate sitting. One day I got tired of sitting there so I joined myself. By the time he graduated with his black belt, I was an orange belt. I loved Karate. It made me feel strong, invincible. It played to my strength of being singularly focused and in the zone. As a past attack victim, it made me feel empowered and It was a perfect sport for me. Yet, somehow, though I was motivated to take him every single day for four years, after he didn’t go anymore, life got in the way for me. I missed one class then two. Then the kids had to go somewhere so I took them to that. When it was time to sign up again in the summer I told myself I would come back in the fall, that summers were too busy. I have been an orange belt for six years. The belt hangs in the closet staring at me every day wondering what the heck I am waiting for. I tell it to shut up– I’m too busy.
Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes you have to let it. Sometimes life moves on and what you wanted to be a priority has to go by the wayside for awhile. As much as we would like to have life be exactly what we want, exactly the moment that we want it, the timing isn’t right and we have to stop flailing our arms and legs in the water and just catch the drift. Sit back and see where it is we are SUPPOSED to be. Stop fighting the current.
Other times, it is exactly the OPPOSITE. We know exactly what our dreams and goals are, the timing IS perfect, serendipity is upon us and the only one we have to blame for not getting where we want to be is us. We start out all pumped up, excited full of the dream, eyes on the target, plan in hand and set out to go. Like a runner you start running toward the goal. It feels great. The next day too. The third day- a little sore. The fourth day, you press on… The fifth day your brain has several excuses and is arguing with you all the way out the door. A little voice sits on your shoulder, explaning the value of a rest day. You tell it to shut up and press on again. If you make it through days seven, eight and nine, you’ve warmed up the water nice and slow and you start to feel pretty good. You are in the groove and the habit starts to form. If you can make it to the thirtieth day, you are golden.
But one day, you just don’t do it. Maybe you get a cold. A week stretches out in front of you. The week after that is vacation. So that week is gone too. When you come home the week after, you promised to paint the siding all week long. You promise yourself you will get up first thing Monday morning…but when the time comes…you smack the snooze button. Maybe tomorrow…
Habits are like slow cooking frogs. They say that if you put a frog in pot of boiling water it will jump right out. But if you warm up the water slowly, it will just stay there until it dies. The frog won’t even notice that the water is heating up. It is almost painless. It happens just a little at a time, slowly but surely.
You can grow a habit the same way. It doesn’t happen in a day or the next. But day by day if you stick with it, a little at a time, you can slowly grow your habit almost painlessly. By the time you have reached 30 days, your subconscious mind will believe you have been doing it forever and propel you to continue. It will seem strange to you NOT to do your habit. The trick is to do just a little bit. Just a tiny little bit, slowly so you hardly notice, and build from there. Like cooking frogs.
The bad news is you can kill a habit the same way. So you have to be careful with your habits. You have to focus on them. You have to keep them in review and pay attention to them. You have to stay committed to them.
I didn’t stop running over night after my marathon. I loved running. It was a joy. I never stopped on purpose. I never even NOTICED that I wasn’t running any more. Just like the frogs who didn’t notice their water warming up, I didn’t notice my water getting cold. But it did. Slowly over time, my frog water got cold because I stopped paying attention to it. It wasn’t boiling anymore. If I want to get back to being a marathon runner, I have to heat it up again. I have to focus on it. It needs to be a priority and I need to be willing to commit to it and put it at the top of the list. I have to be able to say, “Self, we are going to become a runner again. In order to do that, we have to heat up the water a little each day. Are you with me?”
And Self has to agree. If Self can’t make a commitment…there is no point in boiling up those frogs. There are too many other things on the list that have to get done.
This is an important point. You can do anything you want in life, you just can’t do everything all at once.
The person that taught me that is my mother, Bobbi LaBelle, one of the smartest women I ever met. She raised three young kids as a single mother while working double shifts in a glass jar factory. She saved up enough money, and had enough guts to get out of there and open her own Beauty Shop. The place was tiny but so successful that people were waiting outside to get in. She bought a new place four times the size and has been there for 30 years. She is one of the most creative, resourceful, talented and amazing people I have ever met. But one of the first things she ever taught me was to focus. Be committed to what you are doing. Give it 110 percent of your energy and you will have an excellent chance of success. Keep at it and don’t give up.
So, somewhere along the line I lost my focus on both my running and my karate. The water got cold and I got no cooked frogs. I can honestly say that the timing still isn’t right for me to go back to karate. I know the focus that it would take for that and I am not willing to heat up that pot of water right now. I will someday, so that belt can just keep on hanging there to remind me.
As I examine my priorities, I see that I have several pots on the stove going at the same time.
The Mom Pot
The Wife Pot
The Writer Pot
The Wendi Pot
The Director Pot
I open the lid of the Wendi pot and I take a peek inside. Hmmm. It looks like the area of *maintain personal health and exercise* is cooling down a bit and those frogs are getting a bit jumpy. I ask Self if it’s with me and Self says YES.
It looks like running just got moved back up the priority list again.
What’s cooking in your frog pots?