As a parent, I want to teach my children the value of being committed to your goals and not giving up. To help teach this, I like to sign up for races and run them with my kids to give them something to work towards. Plus, it gives me a reason to continually stay in shape myself, so win-win!
I recently had an experience with my daughter where we ran a sprint triathlon. During training, she was struggling to stay motivated to go running and cycling; she’s practically got gills, so getting her up early to go swim was never an issue.
Before we signed up for the race, I made it crystal clear what to expect for training and that she would need to commit to the race wholeheartedly. As we got into the training, it became apparent that my daughter really didn’t enjoy running. Watching her give up and walk on a short little run early in the training regimen was disconcerting and really hard for me! I knew that if she could push past the mental wall, she’d be just fine and start enjoying the training runs a lot more.
One morning on one of our runs, I was trying to help motivate her to just keep running, no matter how slow she goes — just so she has in her brain that she doesn’t need to stop. She opened up and asked me, “why does it even matter? I don’t like running, nor will I ever like running! Why can’t I just walk during the race? I’m just not good at sticking with things I don’t like!”
I didn’t have a good answer for her, but at that moment I did have a stroke of inspiration that I shared with her. I was completely honest and told her there isn’t any reason she can’t just walk. But, training ourselves to do hard things, including things we may not necessarily like in the moment, trains our bodies and brains for future things in life that we may not like all the time, such as:
- Hard conversations
- Unfriendly neighbors
- And so many more!
As we walked, we talked about how important it is to make a decision to do something and then to stick with it. When we stick with things, it develops in us the quality of persistence, something that is incredibly lacking in society today. Even when things get hard, when they lose their fun and excitement, when they are uncomfortable, when they bring on feelings we’d rather avoid; when we have the persistent mindset to continue, often we find that those very situations and experiences are where we grow the most.
Napoleon Hill, in his seminal work, Think and Grow Rich, reported:
Analysis of several hundred [successful] people…disclosed the fact that every one of them had the habit of reaching decisions promptly, and of changing these decisions slowly, if, and when they were changed.Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich, Chapter 8: Decisions
Leaders in life will decide quickly and change their minds slowly. They make a decision based on the best of their knowledge and stick with it. When we quickly decide to reach for a goal — to really stretch ourselves — and then persist in striving for that goal through persistence, we inevitably will reach it!
In the very next chapter where he talks about persistence, he outlines the steps to help develop persistence, which I hope to continue to teach my children:
- A definite purpose backed by burning desired for its fulfillment.
- A definite plan, expressed in continuous action.
- A mind closed tightly against all negative and discouraging influences, including negative suggestions of relatives, friends and acquaintances.
- A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose.
As my daughter and I walked home, we talked about what it means to be committed vs. being motivated, and how they are almost two sides of the same coin. Sometimes we commit ourselves before we are truly motivated, but as we stick with our commitment, we begin to gain the motivation as the process becomes easier for us! Other times, we are motivated to continue with something because we can clearly see the reward at the end of the struggle, thus we remain committed to finishing. In either case, our commitment and our motivation begin to feed one another as we persist in our efforts!
Now, in saying this, I understand that there are situations that are toxic and hurtful. In those situations, it is always better to seek change, and get out of the situation before things get worse. However, those are typically the exception to the rule, and we need to be careful to not classify our own situation as such just because we don’t like it. In doing so, we sell ourselves short and lose opportunities for great growth!