I recently took up weightlifting. The whys and wherefores aren’t relevant here, but just know that this is highly out of character—fitness and I have never really been friends.
And yet here I am, in an unfinished, unheated outbuilding, trying to squat down and stand up again with forty kilos balanced on my back.
The thing with weightlifting is it’s a raw example of deliberate practice in action—you get stronger by continually working at the edges of what you’re capable of.
The logical part of me understands that this is the way you grow the quickest; deliberately pushing your boundaries to force your body and brain to adapt.
The trouble is, it’s not that much fun. And it always feels hard. (It’s supposed to!) Maybe if you’re motivated by the reps and the weights and hitting a PR then that’s ok. Me? I’m more about finding contentment in the journey.
In my teens I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and stopped one base camp away from the summit because I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore. I decided I’d rather hang out with a new friend and watch the stars above the cloud level than push through the oxygen depletion to reach the peak.
To this day I stand by that choice. I don’t mind doing hard things that have to be done, and I can appreciate the challenge of solving a tricky problem. But hard stuff for the sake of it being hard? Not so much.
The flip side of that, though, is spending your life at the same level, and still finding it hard. And that’s not great either.
Then one day during a warm-up, thinking with trepidation of the weight to come, I realized the weight I was now lifting, easily, was the difficult work set just a couple of months ago. And it hit me.
Don’t judge yourself by what’s still difficult. Judge by what’s now easy.
It sounds simple now I’ve thought of it, but this one principle has made a massive difference in my outlook, not just in the relatively straightforward world of weights, but in other areas too.
I’ve stopped looking at the new recipe gone wrong and thinking: Why is this still so difficult? Instead I think of the fact we have a different meal every day of the week, and that used to seem impossible. Now it’s a baseline.
So when I find myself in the midst of the difficult conversation, the new technique, or that last rep, my brain still screams: “This is hard! Why am I doing this to myself?” But now I can reply: “Yep. This is the one that makes the rest of it easy.”
The edges are still difficult; that’s ok. I’m working on making more things easy. Now that’s a goal I can get behind.
Katie Finlayson left behind the world of software development for the rather more unpredictable world of home educating her four children. She lives in rural mid-Wales and blogs at learnwhatyoulive.com.