I watch as another drop of sweat falls from my forehead and lands on the mat beneath my feet. I feel gross. My face is radiating heat and my legs have a small but undisputable shake to them. I move “in-tune” with the video, only the instructor seems to be sweating a lot less than me. She still has control of her limbs. Why is her pony tail bouncing like that? My hair is stuck to my forehead, neck and any other part of me that makes contact. I’m grateful no one can see me.
Each rep questions my resolve. These weights are too heavy for me. My form’s not right. If, by some miracle I survive, I’ll have a bigger breakfast to get me through the day.
My limiting beliefs, subtle insults and strategic bargaining tools are a beautiful poetry that I tell myself each day as I put myself through another gruelling session of weighted HIIT routines on YouTube.
Despite the self-induced pain, there is a point in each session where I manage to push past the cycled thoughts and suddenly feel free. I am still sweating, I am still shaking, I am still glad to be in my home where no one can see me, but I am hopeful.
There is a slight shift and it makes all the difference.
I’ve done this session before; I made it then, I’ll make it now. I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been. Once I get through this, stretching will feel good.
It’s the same every time. I feel pain, I question everything about myself, I endure, I survive, I feel better.
Pushing our limits is a funny thing. We hate the discomfort in the moment but once we’ve done it, there’s no better feeling.
But what can get us past that point of feeling pain and questioning ourselves? How can we have the resolve to keep going?
For me, it’s intention and habit. It’s setting a purposeful goal. One that really means something (see my article New Year’s Resolution: How to Set the Goals That Matter). Once you have that goal with intention, it’s all about habit. Setting a goal each day and achieving it.
If it’s exercise, it might be as simple as starting with a 5 minute video or a 10 minute jog but whatever it is, decide you’re going to do it and actually do it. The next day, do it again. And again. And again. Until you’re no longer satisfied by a 5 minute video. You want to do more, you need to do more. That’s how habits work. They train your brain to expect and eventually desire what you’re doing. So don’t give in to the temptation of quitting before you’ve given yourself a chance to set a habit.
This isn’t just a good method for exercise. I’ve found this habit-forming and endurance is great for every aspect of my life where I want to improve something.
For meditation, I started at 5 minutes. I did this for years. 5 minutes felt like an eternity. I told myself every day that I wasn’t doing it right, I wasn’t making progress, I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t do more than 5 minutes. But despite all the negativity, another voice reminded me that my life was calmer. Something was working. Even if I didn’t understand it or it wasn’t tangible, things were getting better. So my intention kept me going. I formed the habit. It took years but eventually I learnt that the painful moments were just as important as the brilliant moments. I was re-wiring my brain for endurance and acceptance. Now I check the time after 15 to 20 minutes and want more.
If you really want to achieve a goal, set the habit. Move through the discomfort. Pay attention to the thoughts you tell yourself. Learn to let them go. Learn to push yourself. Learn to accept every step of the process. You may find a new and deep love for something that once felt like a chore. It is in this place that you can look back and know that you’ve made real change in your life. Sometimes with as little as 5 minutes a day.