“Put the work in now. You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t.”
A quote by a friend about three weeks ago in a spin class I haven’t been able to shake. She meant it for biking. She meant it for sweating. She meant it for burning legs and lungs. But I can’t help thinking there was a bigger purpose to those words rattling inside my head these weeks.
Work is good. I love work. I really do. It’s a word that never really scared or felt painful to me. It’s a word that I appreciated. Like I could see the end result of my work before I ever started and that was my motivation to put time, energy, and effort into working toward that THING whatever it was.
Growing up, school was my greatest work and feat, but I always made it through those nine months of school and got to live the achievement with each new grade. Then college and grad school. Both rough, but so good for different reasons. Work in finding and starting some sort of career, still discovering what that means, but I love the journey more each year!
What I really want to talk about though is sports. I’ve always loved sports. My parents were big on getting my siblings and I plugged into sports teams growing up. Kids and adolescents have the potential to learn life changing lessons for the good because of sports. Character, stick-to-itiveness, losing, winning, boundaries (what are they, why are they there?), cheating, teamwork, sometimes being in the spotlight, and sometimes giving that spotlight to others, and lastly showing up to practice even when you don’t want to. When athletes reach a level of skill and honing in on their sports that they can be a leader in their community, or even reaching the highest levels of sports by going pro is a great aim for many kids that carry them through to adulthood. Sports are a powerful part of society and I know I’m a way stronger person because of sports.
I learned to push through physical and mental pain and stress, knowing that if I don’t, I’ll be left behind or won’t reach my goals. And this could be goals in anything! Goals pertaining to relationships, my career, finishing my first triathlon, and being able to run a certain distance, but being able to drop the time.
The key is: part of putting in the work is knowing your “why” as I hear so many coaches talk about. Why the days alone training? Why the early mornings and rigid schedules for your career or athletics? Is it for being the best, so recognition? Is it for more money, so maybe financial security? Is it for staying in good health, so as to live your best quality of life? (Your why should be something meaningful and fulfilling; recognition and fame can be flimsy “whys.” They can be easily taken away. Choose your why wisely.)
Once you know your why, then putting in the work to get there is the next step. My friend/spin instructor said it best that day in the spin room: Put the work in now! You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t. In the moment, though I was on my bike with the music blaring and lights dimmed as most spin rooms are, my mind was on relationships. I’ve definitely missed the mark in relationships for not putting in the proper amount of work. Whether for good reasons or not in the moment, the fact is I and I alone was the one cheated for not putting in the work. I’ve missed opportunities by not putting in the work to have hard conversations and mending frayed relationships with friends and co-workers.
Putting in the work doesn’t always look like getting sweaty and “swoll” in an obvious way on the outside. It might look like internal exhaustion and setbacks, but still trekking forward because your goals and dreams matter and you’re standing on your “WHY.” Your why puts those hard days in perspective.
Maybe your goal is to be the top sales person where you work or to earn the title of manager, what do you need to learn and do to get there? Maybe it means saying “no” to late night shows so that you can go to bed on time and wake up ready for a new work day refreshed. If you have actual #relationshipgoals as the trending hashtag circled around the world got posted, what work do you need to put into that relationship now, so that you reach the goal? In some cases the “work” might just simply be stating a prayer to the One Above to guide you in your marriage when things seem to be falling apart.
I’ve learned the lesson of not putting in the work when it comes to various facets of life. On the other hand, I’ve seen the fruit of putting in the work, and the latter is WAY more fulfilling.
I’m not suggesting that work is all that life is about. It’s not. Life is also about enjoying the good days before you and learning to love the people around you well; it’s about practicing the true art of self-care because you are worthy of love yourself.
However, what I do know is that work is good and when it comes to work, the goals and dreams we hold onto (athletic goals, career goals, travel goals, marriage goals, community goals…) won’t magically appear without effort. And as my friend said that day as I huffed and puffed my way through a 26-mile ride in the studio—if you don’t put in the work now, no matter what your goals are, you’re only cheating yourself.