I once read a book titled ‘A Long Obedience in the Same Direction’. In it the author begins by highlighting a couple of points about how we think and make decisions. If something can be done it should be done quickly and efficiently. If we want something we should be able to have it now. I think that’s fairly accurate don’t you? Our attention spans have been conditioned by 30-second commercials. The speed of internet connections means our access to information is faster than ever. Advances in technology have resulted in the ability to travel further distances in shorter times. Food import and export companies provide us with access to food items all year round so we can have whatever we want without having to wait for the right season. We are driven by the principle of instant gratification. We are encouraged to be as productive and efficient as possible. We try to accomplish as much as we can in the shortest amount of time without rest. The pace of modern life prevents us from seeing that anything that’s worth something takes time.
Committing to a course of action for the long haul and waiting for that decision to bear fruit is not a popular concept in a fast and instant society. Yet as a health and fitness professional that is exactly what I try to communicate to my clients; healthy lifestyle changes are for the marathon runner, not the sprinter. Anything that’s worth something takes time. Our expectation of the time it takes for a physical injury to heal, or for a person to experience changes in their physique have been distorted by voices that promise unrealistic short cuts and quick fixes. We would do well to correct these expectations and restore a right relationship to the desire for change.
Respecting the Journey
When we cut our finger, the process of blood clotting, scab formation and skin regeneration is a journey that takes time. When a farmer plants a seed, the process of growth, stem formation, photosynthesis and fruit-bearing is a journey that takes time. When animals mate, the creation of a new life is a process and a journey that takes time. All around us we have examples which illustrate the idea that anything that’s worth something takes time; examples that help restore a more appropriate pace of life and recover an appreciation for the in-betweens in life.
In our efforts to lose weight, to become stronger, and to experience changes in how we look and how our body performs…we have lost respect for the journey and would prefer to arrive at the end-goal immediately if we could. We forget that we’re in this for the long haul, and in our short-sighted perspective we become frustrated with the lack of progress early on and lose motivation. However, when we accept that our healthier choices are now just a part of our life, something changes in our thinking. Going to the gym, preparing healthy food, and staying strong are now a part of who we are, rather than something we do. This means we can slow down without feeling the need to rush to the end; we can let go of unrealistic expectations. The journey now begins to shape our character as we gain a new appreciation for the discipline, consistency, commitment and strength it takes to achieve our goals. Anything that’s worth something takes time. Embarking on the journey of health is a life-long process, one that requires a long obedience in the same direction.
“We are quite naturally impatient in everything, to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new…Your ideas mature gradually. Don’t try to force them on as though you could be today, what time will make of you tomorrow”
Peirre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ