A couple of weeks ago, I found this 28-Day Squat Challenge and decided I was going to do it. I actually really like squats, probably because my legs are by far the strongest part of my body and it’s easier to squat than to do a push-up. The added benefit of strengthening my lower body is that I might have better luck shopping for shorts and pants in the future, when I actually have something to fill the butt section of the item.
I’ve started other challenges before; there was a 30-day ab challenge that I tried for a little while before I gave up, and a “sexy legs workout” I did a few times. I did stick with the ab challenge for a while, but I couldn’t keep up with the pace it demanded so I had to cut back and take it more slowly, and I can’t do sit-ups at all without something to hold my feet down, which was a problem at the time (I’ve fractured the same bones in the same foot a few separate times over the last decade, and it was still healing from the most recent injury).
Part of this squat challenge is total dedication to getting the form right before moving on. If you don’t complete the full number of squats on any particular day, or if you do all of the squats but you don’t do them properly, you have to start back at the beginning of that 7-day period. I like that, and I figured that stipulation would be beneficial to stick to when doing the challenge on my own.
I expected the physical strain, and the feelings of procrastination I sometimes get, but these challenges have forced me to acknowledge something else that I wasn’t expecting to have to face: I am a very inconsistent human being. I have had to start week 2 of the challenge on two separate occasions because I forgot to do my squats on one of the days. Last night, I remembered I needed to do them after I was already in bed. I sat for a few minutes that felt like hours, debating on whether I should get up and get them done, or just start the week over tomorrow. And I chose to go to sleep. It bothered me that I was in that position.
I think we as a species inherently need routine and structure, and I imagine those things are present in everyone’s lives, to some extent. Some people are more routine-oriented than others, and in my experience they value the comfort of the familiar more than the excitement of novelty. Others are thrill-seekers, or are bored by normal routines, and they crave variety. Is it because they seek something they have yet to find? Or is it simply that there’s so much to experience in this world and they inherently understand that standing still isn’t the best way to learn and grow?
While everyone tends more toward one or the other, I think a balance of the two is healthiest. Structures and routines, good habits and behaviors, are important for efficiently managing the limited time we each have to spend on earth. But becoming too entrenched in the familiar, too focused on “day in and day out,” can desensitize us to the benefits of what we’re doing. It becomes meaningless drudgery, or if nothing else precludes the possibility of growth and learning through the experiencing of new things.
Having said all that, why is it so hard to be consistent when it comes to daily things? Why is it often easier to say one thing and do another, or to forget to do something that, honestly, you really believe you should be doing?
Personally, I think it’s lack of self-control. I have known for several years that discipline is an area in which I struggle terribly. I imagine it’s a muscle, like a second language, mathematics, or patience. A muscle that atrophies if left unused and forgotten. I imagine, to be honest, that I should engage in some form of physical therapy for my self-control. For my willpower. Because motivation has always been a weak point for me. My mom has often emphasized how impossible it was for her to truly discipline me because I simply didn’t care about anything if it didn’t suit me to do so. Somehow, I learned early on how to bury my desires and motivations deep enough to convince myself they were no longer there.
Was it a defense mechanism? I’m not sure. But as an adult it’s something I hate in myself. There are things that I want to do, that I know I should do and I want to be the person who does them, but I simply…can’t make myself want to do them badly enough. It’s harder to care than it is to just drift. Just let life carry you where it will, don’t bother trying to aim anywhere.
But that’s not true. It’s more painful wanting things that you’re not willing to work to obtain. It’s more painful knowing you can be more than who you are right now, that you could be there already…. It’s hard work to change, to grow, to DO things, but it’s deadly to sit on your heels and refuse to move.
I’ve done a lot of that in my life. I’ve damaged relationships by making promises I never kept. I’ve let so many people down. I’ve let myself down. I’ve started projects I never finished, I’ve made lists I never looked at again. I’ve said I believe one thing, and let myself start believing another the next day.
It’s not right, and I hate who I am right now. I am looking to push forward, I am looking for ways to inch in the right direction. And it’s really tough. I’m in a difficult place right now, where most of my life seems hopeless and too much of a mess to ever get out of. It’s the time of year when I get more depressed than usual, when I sleep all the time, and I feel bad when I wake up and it’s 5:30 pm and I’ve accomplished nothing for the day. I see people doing workout challenges and eating healthy foods and hanging out with friends and I wish I was that person.
What I keep telling myself is that each time I act like that person, I get closer to being that person. As with a muscle strengthening exercise, maybe you’re not strong enough to hold the position consistently at first. Maybe you’re too shaky, maybe you have to take a break. But the more you do it, the stronger you get, and the longer you can hold the position. Eventually you’ll be able to do more repetitions, and more difficult moves. Each time I exercise control over myself, it becomes just a little bit easier to do again. The more often I’m consistent in what I do, the longer I’ll be able to keep the stretch going.
Accept your weaknesses for what they are. Acknowledge that they’re there. Some days, you may not feel like it matters if you ever get stronger or not. That’s okay. Because those days will get fewer and farther between as time goes by, as you do what you can do and celebrate your successes. Strengthen those muscles. Soon, it won’t matter if you care or not, because you’ll be able to do it without having to try.