Even the longest journey must begin where you stand. — Lao Tzu
I have lived much of my life in future tense. Someday I will write a novel. Someday I will have a healthier social life. Someday I will relearn French and go back to France . Someday I will lose weight and get healthy… Someday sure seems like an awesome time, but it never actually gets here. Something always gets in the way, whether it’s working twelve hour days or going to school full time in addition to working full time. While waiting for the “right” time to make of my life what I want to make, I waste time that could be spent actively doing it.
No more. I am thirty years old, almost thirty-one. With my family’s history of heart disease, if I do not make the physical changes I need to make, this could easily be the halfway mark in my life. If I do not change now, I may never get the chance to. What is life for if not to be lived? While I hesitate and plan and delay, the days that I should be squeezing the most out of are passing me by. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, indeed. I am not waiting around for Someday any longer. I have adopted a new mantra: Start Today.
So I did. On Tuesday, I finally started trying to make some changes. I started exercising and tracking what I eat (using Livestrong.com’s MyPlate tool). I am working on a schedule that will give me the time I need to work on the other changes I want to make. It’s tough to shift gears after so many years of doing the same thing day in and day out, but I find I have more motivation than ever to make a real change in my body, mind and relationships. It may not be surprising that I have found no little motivation in Taoist philosophy.
That first workout was hard and humbling, and I wanted to quit halfway through. My feet hurt. My calves burned. I was tired and ready to throw in the towel, but then I thought about the quote from Lao Tzu above, which is more commonly written as “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” When you have a goal, no matter how grand or modest, there are two universal truths: you can only start from where you are, and you can only reach the goal by starting down the path. When I started to flag, I reminded myself that this was the only way to succeed, and that waiting will just make my starting point more distant from my goal.
To a large extent, trying to make a profound change in my life starts with managing my expectations and squashing my desire for instant gratification. I have much work ahead of me. I am not going to suddenly have the energy and endurance to run a 5K, but if I want to eventually have that, I have to start where I am and I have to start now.
At the same time, every bit of that work is a move toward my goal, a gain of ground I would not have made if I did not put forth this effort now. Thinking of that, I started to think of the concept of balance and duality. While working out, I realized that every bit of effort or pain will be repaid to me with time that I can enjoy, more time to relax in the future, time where I can breathe easier and feel more comfortable. It can also pay off in terms of giving me more opportunities for things that I want to try, things that I cannot physically do right now. Every bit that I push past my boundaries now will push my boundaries out that much further for the next time.
I have no illusions about what kind of work lies ahead. I am just getting started, and I have the zeal that comes with a newfound dedication to something. I know that this will fade, and I will have to settle into the real grind. I know that my motivation will sag and that temptation will rear its many heads. I know, too, that I will not always resist it. I will have failures. But I will have more successes, and each success will build upon the last to see me through. I am looking forward to the challenge.