“I don’t much feel like going to the gym,” she said.
“It matters not what you feel,” I replied.
This, of course, did not promote a warm response from my dear wife.
But it was true nonetheless.
Once we’ve made a commitment, what we feel is immaterial.
Of course it matters how we feel. And of course, we need to respect the feelings of those around us as much as we respect our own. But if we’re driven by our feelings, we become rudderless and rear off course.
Feelings arise and pass away like the wind. They’re ephemeral, transitory, without substance. By themselves, they are an unreliable guide for how we should conduct ourselves in the world.
Once we’ve made a commitment to a goal, an objective, a relationship, what we feel becomes secondary.
It’s a lesson I seem to keep learning as we go through our training program for the ultra marathon. Some days, I feel like running. A lot of days I don’t. If my actions were dictated by my feelings, I’d stay in bed most days. But having committed to the goal, I go out and train no matter what, no matter what I feel.
It’s the same thing with diet and nutrition. Most days, I don’t feel like eating broccoli. But because I’ve made a commitment to good health, I do. There are a lot of days that I don’t feel like writing. But I’ve made a commitment to finish the book. And so I do. So far I haven’t discovered there to be any month in which I feel like writing the tuition check. But having made the commitment as a parent, I do it anyway.
How we feel is inherently unreliable. Our feelings fool us.
Sometimes therapists working with couples in faltering relationships will suggest that their clients act “as if” they feel warm and loving, act “as if” they are interested in the activities of the other, act “as if” they are fully invested in the relationship. It’s interesting to find that many times, actions drive feelings. Not the other way around.
I find that feelings are nearly always unreliable in my training program. Days on which I feel like running sometimes turn into death marches. And I have had some of my most magnificent runs on days that I have had to pry myself out the door with a crow bar.
Some days I don’t feel like writing and it flows. Some days I sit down at my computer to write with great anticipation and instead find myself checking my wall on Facebook a dozen times an hour.
I can never really predict how anything will go based on how or what I feel when I start out.
So the key is this: Just do it.
I guess Nike was onto something. It is the key: Just do it. Just start out. And see what happens.
- It’s important to set small manageable goals. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Sometimes I have to focus on a single mile, or a single city block.
- It’s important to take small steps. I know that when I look up at a big mountain objective, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine standing on the summit. But we can accomplish magnificent things when we take one small step at a time.
- It’s important to reward ourselves. I’m bad at this. We need to learn to acknowledge our incremental progress and celebrate even our smallest victories.
So get going, get started, go do it.
And I’d love to know what you feel about all of this. But it really matters not.