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Phillip's First Bike Ride

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again Differently

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: johntrainor

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

— Mary Anne Radmacher

We’ve all heard the old saw about – If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  The part that they leave out is that if you just keep doing the same thing over and over, in most cases, it’s not going to lead to success.  It’s going to lead to frustration.

I find myself falling into this mistake every once in a while.  Usually, I do it with physical tasks – something requiring manual dexterity.  You may find this hard to believe, but I was born without any manual dexterity at all.  Most days, I’m lucky to walk down the street without tripping over my own feet – not to mention tripping on a bit of raised sidewalk.

For some reason, my spatial orientation gene was either munched in the womb or just forgotten entirely.  It causes me to struggle any time I have to figure out something even slightly mechanical.  And while I believe that we can all learn to do better at most everything, I definitely have learned helplessness around putting things together, parallel parking and a million other little tasks that the average person does without thinking.  It takes no time at all for me to start whining and then, shortly after, burst into tears and give up.

For me, this whole idea of try, try again showed up when I was talking with a friend.  Like me, this friend has been trying to get on the exercise band wagon.  He really wants to get into shape but there are so many conflicting priorities that he literally freezes because he can’t figure out how to fit exercise into an already overloaded day.  With unlimited time and energy, it wouldn’t be a problem, but he feels guilty because there are so many other things that need to get done as well.

He feels trapped.  He feels guilty.  He feels out of shape – he imagines that soon he won’t be able to move at all.

Sound familiar?  When we get ourselves into a thinking rut, sometimes we think ourselves into a logical conclusion – with a compressed timeframe.  As we continue along this thought trail, we visualize a catastrophe instead of a solution.  The more we “think”, the more we circle through the same attempts and the same failures – not necessarily in reality, but in our thoughts.  We start to visualize the same failure, over and over and unless we break this train of thought, we’ll never try again.

Trying Again – Differently

I’ve been struggling with the same problem – a more than eight-hour workday, a long commute, cold and dark mornings and evenings.  It’s a recipe for weight gain, feeling more and more out of shape. and feeling hopeless – which is the worst part.  Added to all this are the annual spring allergies which leave me struggling to breath and I can feel as if nothing is ever going to change.  (Every year, I also worry that it’s not allergies, I’m actually really sick.  Then I talk to the people around me and find out that they’re struggling too.  We can’t all be dying, so I have to accept that it’s just allergies.)

Thursday was a beautifully sunny and warm day.  It wasn’t too cold.  It wasn’t too hot.  It was just right – a Goldilocks day.  The office was freezing – and that was with my coat on.  (When I’m cold, I clench up so that when I do try and move I’m really, really stiff.  Talk about feeling out of shape!)  At lunch, I went outside to warm up.  It was wonderful, sitting in the sun, thawing out.

Then, one of my co-workers walked by at a brisk pace.  He disappeared into the parking lot and I sat.  A few minutes later, he came back.  He was exercising – at work, in his work clothes, he was walking.  He told me it gave him a second wind.

Now, I felt guilty.  I know that little changes can make a big difference.  I know that my daily average steps have fallen from almost 10,000 per day to around 5,000 per day.  (I still keep track, hoping it will change.)  I know I feel crummy.  I know I’m getting more and more depressed about it.  But the key thing is that I just keep thinking about it, following the same rabbit trail about why I can’t fix it – when I just have to get up and walk.  So, I got up and walked around the parking lot.

It’s not that easy you say?  Well, you’re probably right.  I didn’t walk the next day.

The thing is, I’m a problem solver.  For me, it’s about progress – learning more, trying more – making progress.  Yet, for this, I just sit there, like a slug, convincing myself that there’s nothing I can do.  It will take some effort – and at the beginning, it will be hard.  It’s so much easier to sit here and feel sorry for myself than it is to take action.  But, if I want to live whatever life I have as a healthy, involved person, I have to get off my butt.

For this, only I can do it.  Only I can come up with a plan that works for me.  Only I can remind myself every day that walking is better than sitting.  Stretching is better than tightening up until I can’t move.  Feeling young isn’t all in my head, it’s in my body, and if I want to feel young, I’ve got to move – whatever it takes.

So, I’m going to try again – differently.  I’m going to count steps, not the “quality” of the steps.  The first thing is to get the count up.  I’m going to encourage myself for each little improvement, because even little things add up.  I’m going to consciously think differently and try again.

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