Today I started my routine of waking up at 5am and doing cardio before heading to work. I had stopped doing it a month before the last school year ended, and didn’t pick it up again during the summer. However, because I have certain Halloween goals (Spandex suit, anyone?), I am dusting off ye olde alarm clock (or the earlier alarm clock setting, anyways), and utilizing my brand-spankin’ new hybrid bike and exploring the roadways around my house.
When I mention that I get up at 5am, most people are surprised and feel sorry for me. When I mention WHY I get up at 5am, people make comments like “wow, really?” and “you’re really dedicated!”
Which is funny because to me, dedication sometimes seems like a chore. Something that you have to slog through and mentally grit your teeth about and put your head down and just.get.it.done.
Yet for me, because I’ve done a 5am wakeup call for so long (minus my three month haitus, of course) I was able to slip into the routine this morning without a problem.
Of course, in the beginning, my routine was nothing but a problem. I mean, waking up at 5am when it’s still dark as pitch out and only the hard-core commuters are there to share your misery is not anyone’s definition of a good time.
And yet, as I groggily opened my eyes morning after morning, it become something that I simply did. Engrained. Part of the daily grind. A habit.
In order for the hard things to reach the point where they are no longer hard, you have to struggle through the beginning stages. When you pick up your first weight at the gym, it has to give you a little bit of pain in order for your muscles to actually get stronger and be able to handle heavier weights.
Obviously, if you pick up a heavy weight one day, and then two weeks later pick it up again, that won’t do anything. That’s where the grinding comes in (and not the fun grinding on the dance floor). Pushing yourself to go headfirst into the suck day in and day out until eventually, it starts to suck a little less and pretty soon, it’s not sucking at all! In fact, you might actually find yourself enjoying it.
So, how do you find it in yourself to actually make it past the daunting gauntlet of suckage to get to the enticing, seemingly unreal goal of actually liking this thing you once hated?
Mental fortitude. You simply cannot reach this point if you don’t have the mental balls to tell yourself that you are GOING TO DO THIS, DAMMIT! Having the discipline and strength to get through the terrible times is invaluable and indeed, 100% necessary to turn your desires into a habit.
Many people let themselves have the easy way out. Catch yourself in the act, and force yourself to follow the harder (yet more satisfying) path. This will be a major bummer the first couple (or more) times, but it eventually that dedication will pay off in great habits.
Start small. If metal toughness and going all in on a goal is something that you’ve always struggled with, start small! Sometimes the easy goals to hit are overlooked.
If you eventually want to become the top salesperson at your job and know that your skills are sub-par, but just can’t make yourself concentrate on the classes or practice that will get you what you need, start with one thing. Find one small tweak that you can make that is so small it seems laughable, and challenge yourself to do that for one week.
Once you’ve accomplished this small, insignificant goal, you will feel a small ego boost. This will carry you through your next round of attainable mini-goals, and eventually, you’ll find that the target that seemed so far off before now seems, well, actually attainable!
Sometimes, we may look at someone and feel like they have their shit 100% together and they don’t struggle with anything because they are always following through with what they set out to do. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are some days where I go to the gym and my ENTIRE BRAIN is screaming at me to turn around and hightail it back home. Hell, even tonight I didn’t want to write a blog post, but because I try to post every Tuesday and Saturday (barring anything unforeseen), I opened my laptop and started typing.
You will never be at your peak in all areas of your life (unless you are super human). However, with time, you will be able to build up the different aspects of your life after a period of dedication to each one, and then you will be at a point where you are able to start optimizing rather than playing catch-up.
Plowing into the dedication stage does really pay off. You will mostly likely want to tear your hair out and quit, but if you stick with it for a while, you will be so, so glad you did. Building up to a habit is like building a house-the foundation is the dirty part, the framing is a little easier, but once you get to the point where you can decorate it, live in it, and show it off, all the blood, sweat, and tears WILL be worth it.
Just know, you CAN do it. All it takes is faith, trust, and a little bit of commitment dust. Then, friends, you are ready to fly!