The late Gene Autry, that wonderful old movie cowboy, once said, “You know, if it was easy, everyone’d be doing it.” I’m not exactly sure what he was referring to at the time (some difficult riding trick, perhaps?), but that doesn’t really matter. I heard him and thought, “He’s right. Deciding to live a healthy lifestyle, sticking to an exercise program, accentuating the positive, are worth doing. But they’re not always easy. Why, if it were easy, then everyone would be doing it. No one would be struggling with high cholesterol or elevated blood sugar, no one would have difficulty fitting a daily workout into her schedule, and no one would ever be as much as a pound overweight!
Easy, right? Clearly not. It’s not easy. It takes work. And everyone isn’t doing it. But you can. Unlike a risky riding maneuver that takes years of practice to master, making your goal the day-to-day journey to better health is something you can tackle without a lot of training, without a hefty bankroll, without a guru to guide you—well, maybe just a grandmother with a cache of commonsense ideas about “doing it.”
But “doing it” doesn’t mean eating healthy for just one meal, or taking one energetic stroll through the nearest mall. “Doing it” takes commitment and time, and most of all it takes staying power. What’s staying power, you may wonder? Is it like the mysterious diet aid, “willpower,” that we never seem to have enough of? I think it’s something else entirely, and here’s why: Willpower always seems to be one of those “either/or” propositions—you either have it, or you don’t. You’re on your diet, or you’re off. You’re good—or you’re not. Do you see where this is leading, down that dead-end road, perfection?
But none of us is perfect.
And, when faced with our imperfections, with our weaknesses, and with our lack of willpower, we often accept defeat without a struggle.
So let’s put “willpower,” and all that it stands for, in the back of your deepest closet or under a huge pile of dirty laundry. As an old-fashioned gangster might say, “fuggedaboudit!”
Instead, let’s tackle the idea of staying power. Staying power is having the guts to stand for what you believe in when others may discourage you. Staying power is sticking by a person you love and respect even when no one else seems to be. Staying power is recognizing that, as a great philosopher once put it, “success is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Staying power proves the old adage that the most important ingredient for success is just showing up.
Okay. So you’re here and you’re feeling really motivated today. Good for you. You’re pumped up, you’re ready to roll. But what about those mornings when the sky is gray, you’re not in the mood to get up and walk, or it feels like just too much trouble to prepare a healthy meal when the telephone number for pizza delivery is looking mighty attractive there on the refrigerator?
Aha. Time to call on that old staying power. Make a little deal with yourself. Maybe say, “Get up and turn on all the lights in the house, and you can have pancakes for breakfast.” (You can, after all. It’s the piles of butter and sugary syrup that aren’t great for you.) Or, “Pull on your sweats, tie those shoelaces, and walk for just five minutes. If by then you’re still feeling crummy, you can come back.” (I’ve tried this. It’s amazing how just five minutes is enough to get you feeling more “up” about exercise!) Or you might try negotiating: “Instead of ordering pizza now when I’m home alone and might feel tempted to devour the whole pie, why not invite some friends over this weekend for a pizza party?”