I’m fond of mantras. Often I find myself frustrated at my inability to consistently finish what I set out to do. It drives me crazy that what feels effortless in one moment turns intimidating and near-impossible the next. I wake up different every day.
Spoiler Alert: This frustration is part of being a human and not at all specific to me. But I do wish I could bottle the motivated, sunshiny positivity of uber-productive days for the ones that feel so very gray, the days when I find myself unbearable.
I use mantras from time to time to motivate myself on those gray days. I find them especially helpful during runs:
- Problem: Can’t get out the door. Mantra: “Suck it up, buttercup!” or “You never regret a workout.”
- Problem: Don’t feel like running up a particular hill. Mantra: “Dig deep!”
- Problem: Feel like giving up when I’m almost done with my run. Mantra: “You’re not done yet!”
Yes, I actually say these things aloud. To myself. It works! This past weekend, I completed my first 15K. That’s 9.3 miles, farther than I have ever run before. And I felt awesome. As I crossed the finish line, reveling in disbelief at what I had just accomplished, I had a small but powerful thought: “I might not be where I want with my weight, but anyone who can run 9.3 miles is not in bad shape.” A huge smile erupted across my face. I felt proud. I had just completed something I could not have done a few months ago. I will carry that thought around with me forever now, for anyone who might look at me and assume I never workout and eat junk food all the time.
Before setting out to run a half marathon, I assumed that because I’m not a natural runner and have very little athletic ability, I simply could not run long distances. I’m still not a natural runner and never will be; I will have to fight for every step. But I’ve realized it’s about making the commitment and simply muscling through. If I tell myself I have to run seven miles, even if I have to walk for a bit, I will get it done. I will fight for every step and get it done.
Recently, I’ve been working on adopting a new mantra: “Do what you should do.” It comes in handy when making food decisions. Yesterday, while running errands on my lunch break, I found myself parked outside Panda Express seriously contemplating going inside. I Googled “healthy options at Panda Express,” soon learning that statement is an oxymoron. But I told myself to do what I should do instead and picked up my favorite salad at the little deli down the block from my office. It tasted amazing, and I felt wonderful afterward.
So that’s my big insight: Do what you should do. Do what your future self would thank you for, what you tell people you are going to do. I’m finding so many decisions over which I used to agonize are much easier to make when I remove the option of screwing myself over. You’re welcome, Future Lauren.