Most mornings, I go to the gym. I say “hi” to Casey at the front desk and several of the other regulars who work out at the same time. We complete our routines with as little thought as possible, doing what needs to be done in order to stay in shape, and hopefully getting strong and toned in the process.
On most days, you’ll see a newbie being taken through the beginners’ circuit by one of the trainers. Last week, it was an overweight middle-aged woman who was stretching and groaning, dressed in a yellow-flowered t-shirt rather than the sleek colorless wear the serious athletes affect. She had obviously not been to the gym enough to have started enjoying it.
Her trainer was having her do reps on the Inner Thigh Extender. “I don’t like this one,” she said, pouting.
I laughed out loud and smiled with her and Trevor, the trainer. “What difference does that make?” I asked. We shared a chuckle, commiserating. Those of us who are already in shape lost interest long ago in whether we like an exercise or not. We just do it because it needs to be done.
The same is true of food. People who are slim and healthy don’t focus much on whether or not they like the foods they are eating; instead, they eat foods that will keep them that way. They’ll dine on egg whites and chicken breasts and more vegetables daily than most people eat in a week. And it’s not because they particularly like it — they like the results.
Some of my patients have trouble because they won’t do what they don’t want to do. With them, I share one of my definitions of adulthood: adults are people who are willing to do what they don’t want to do. They’ve accepted that life requires the performance of seemingly endless irksome tasks: housework, paperwork, paying taxes, picking up socks off the floor where we left them. Life works better when we get over our childish belief that life should unfold according to our preferences.
Some people have been spoiled by phrases such as “Follow Your Bliss” taken out of context to suppose that you should only do what gives you pleasure. If you’re a person whose life is not working, it might help to stop paying so much attention to your personal likes and dislikes and get on with what needs to be done. You’ll like the results.
© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth