I Can't Not Do This.
-An ode to a committed life.
The greatest problem and challenge we face, as it pertains to health and fitness, is commitment.
There are certainly ingredients in the recipe of health that, if lacking or in over abundance, will screw up the recipe:
short term intensity in place of long term sustainability
aggressive caloric restriction instead of basic lifestyle guidelines (sleep, chew, and hydrate enough).
However, a lack of commitment, is like the oven in this analogy - doesn't matter what ingredients you have or don't have; if it doesn't actually get cooked it, uh, doesn't get cooked. You don't commit, no matter what program, you will fail. 100%.
If you think about it, it's the real problem, isn't it?
There is an internal dialogue that I struggle with on a regular basis. The thought process can go off like this:
"God, I'm so super special and unique. I'm such an individual. I don't need anyone or anything. I'm free to be myself. It's all about my personal happiness, man. I celebrate my independence. You know, if I want to love others, I gotta love myself FIRST"
Maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but not much. We live in a culture where it is super cool to celebrate autonomy and it's easy to internalize that hyper-individualism. The problem with this ethos is that it will be hard to commit to anything. Commitment is the enemy of independence.
The truth is we are interdependent and we rely on people all day long. We could go real zen and say that from the roof you sleep under, the food you eat, the clothes you wear and the job you have, would be nonexistent if you rejected the help and skill of others.
So if that's true, maybe the cool thing would be to celebrate how interdependent we are and therefore celebrate the relationship we need with others. If it's been so cool for so long to be noncommittal, let's make it cool to be committed and devoted to something!
But we are "supposed to be talking about fitness"...well:
There are folks who have memberships to crossfit, barry's bootcamp, soul cycle, and we yogis...at the same time
I've overheard some version of this statement for the last decade: "look, if I'm not feeling the music, I just don't know if it's the class for me"
Also, "I want to get in shape, but I'm not really looking for anything serious or, you know, like a big commitment to anything. Is there a, like, drop-in program?"
So, is it a cultural problem that has bled over into health and fitness? You tell me!
Regardless of your fitness priorities, I think we could agree that if we didn't just go down a rabbit hole of "why", anyone that wants to achieve anything has to first be committed. I'm convinced that commitment happens when you fall in love with something.
The essence of love is dedication. Dietrich and Alice von Hildebrand said "a man who would say: 'I love you now, but how long it will last I cannot tell,' does not truly love. Commitment is a promise made from love.
When the commitment almost becomes involuntary because of the deep devotion, that's when it becomes a part of your identity.
"Because 'taking care of myself' is part of who I am, I go to the gym everyday"
At this level, we have reached the point of the double negative. Somewhere along the way you realize: I can't not do this.
Now we are "supposed to be talking about fitness" and maybe that hasn't happened for you in that specific arena, but I bet that it's happened for you with something.
Because you are a parent, you can't NOT feed your children when they are hungry
Because you are a former Marine, you can't NOT feel pride when you hear "from the shores of Tripoli"
Because you are someone who values personal hygiene, you can't NOT brush your teeth
You might say, "well how do I fall in love with something that is not really that fun?!" If you look at the above examples, being a parent, a marine, or a teeth-brusher isn't inherently fun either. In most cases, it probably started slow, it wasn't 'love at first sight'. Over time, the commitment and devotion grew INTO love..into loving that part of who you are now.
Commitment is this: falling in love with something and then building a structure of behavior around it for those moments when love falters. I guess that's true, right?
You first fall in love with the idea of being healthy so you start to make decisions that are congruent with that identity
However, that love of health won't stand a chance if you don't create a structure, or set of behaviors, that you do, no matter what
When you fall in love with something it will compel you to do all sorts of things you don't want to do. As I've alluded to before (and probably will again), when you fall in love with your kids (which doesn't happen instantaneously by the way) you'll do all kinds of crap you hate - ha!
When you fall in love with the idea of being healthy, you'll do all kinds of stuff that isn't inherently 'fun', but fulfilling these 'vows' require us to perform specific activities that we become accustomed to.
So are you in love with being healthy? It's not the easiest love affair out there, you know. It can be hard. The good news is that if you agree that you don't have it all figured out, that you could use some help figuring out your 'why' and how to connect this love with your specific identity, we like that stuff.
You could even say we're in love with it.