120 Days. Yes. You can.

by Paul Tripp in December 12th, 2019

I didn’t mean to – and by that, I mean both events.   They both just happened.  The only difference is that one was out of my control, and one was within my total control.  Yet, both required complete surrender and a firm belief that I would make it through. 

So, let me ask you a serious question.  What is that thing you keep telling yourself you want to do, but never actually manage to accomplish?  No guilt.  No judgment.  Just your honesty.  What has been a New Year’s Resolution theme throughout your life that has repeated itself more than three times?  When you have identified your villain, ask yourself – is this something I am still curious about resolving?  OK – so do you have it in mind?  If yes, read on.  If not – keep thinking until you find yourself curious about the one thing you haven’t been able to quit or stop or resolve.  I’m serious!

7.8 miles, 120 days after having my stomach cut open.  No, not laparoscopic. We are talking a knife right down the center of my belly.  Yes, my days as an underwear model are over. 

A shower, a nap.  A trip to the kitchen, a nap.  A walk around the driveway to get some fresh air, a nap.  I wasn’t curious about a damn thing.  Why?  Because the hurdle to get better felt so big, so overpowering, and so insurmountable that it was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning to try and act happy, so my spouse didn’t worry. 

Think about your one thing that you’ve identified.  That one circumstance/issue that you want to resolve.  How many times has it felt so big, so overpowering, and so insurmountable that after a few weeks, you start to slowly give up until you even forget you were trying in the first place?  Maybe, it’s so big - you don’t even know where to begin. Go ahead, talk some truth to yourself.  Get honest.

Three weeks after I came home from the hospital, I got on the treadmill, and 3 minutes later, I got off.  No way in hell could I walk on the treadmill.  So, I started walking my driveway.  As much as I wanted to lay in bed, I knew I needed to move to heal – and so I walked the driveway.  Slowly. 

So many times, we think we need to jump in headfirst to get traction on the struggle(s) we are trying to solve.  To do anything less would be failure……. right?  All you have to do is look at the gym on January 1st to know that everyone is holding themselves the same “all or nothing” story-line.   But what if I told you that I didn’t want you to go to the gym or start working on any kind of resolution around your circumstance/issue, until FIVE DAYS after you decided to do it?  Instead, I want you to spend five days building some mental anticipation, thinking about the outcome, and how good it will feel once you make a decision to start.  Then, once you start, I limit your participation to a narrow window of time.  If you are dieting, you can only diet for one meal.  If you are trying to lose weight through exercise, you are only allowed 10 minutes your first time doing it.  When you think about this restriction, what story runs through your head? What emotions do you feel? Go head, talk some truth to yourself. 

With my illness, I didn’t have a choice.  I HAD to start with 3 minutes of walking because it was all I could handle.  I knew two things:  1.  My stomach couldn’t take a lot of movement.  2.  I had to be within 20 seconds of a bathroom.  Trust me; I hated it.  What I didn’t realize at the time is that my illness was forcing me to become curious.  If the first day I walked for 3 minutes, I then wondered if I could walk for 5 minutes on the second day.  Day after day I added a few minutes, but I never changed my speed – and trust me – it wasn’t because I didn’t want to – I literally, couldn’t.  The gift was that I couldn’t judge myself on speed, so I just remained curious about how much time I could add. 

Did you hear that?  What would it be like to not judge yourself on how quickly you were progressing but just remained curious enough about the process that each day you found yourself wanting to do more, go more, get a little more committed?  What if you told yourself that you were going to suspend judgment on your progress and remain curious about how much further you could commit to conquering this circumstance/issue?  This would require you to limit your effort just enough to remain curious and want to do more. 

I know, I know – it sounds batshit crazy.  Us – suspend judgment of ourselves?  COME ON!  You probably think it isn’t possible…. but I am here to tell you it is.  Yes, I was forced into it by my illness, but it’s also the singular lesson I took from my illness and am consciously introducing into my life.

I didn’t go for a run until 60 days post-discharge, and when I did run, it lasted for less than two minutes.  I never intended to run, and it wasn’t even a goal.  My incremental walking had picked up to around 30 minutes a day, and one day I just thought to myself “I wonder what running would feel like” – and so I did.  It sucked, and I didn’t run again for two weeks. 

I got curious; I pushed myself a little too much, had some stomach pain and quit.  It would be great if when you pushed yourself beyond a reasonable limit you could also get a lightning bolt clap of pain across your stomach to tell you to knock it off – but that’s probably never going to happen.  However, I wonder, what could you become aware of to signal to yourself that you’re pushing too hard?  If it’s a diet, maybe your stomach cramping from hunger?  The gym; your hour on the treadmill where you can’t walk the next day?  How much effort is too much that it kills your curiosity?  When you’re no longer curious and feel nothing but dread when your eyes open in the morning ---- is that a good time to check-in with yourself?    

Two weeks later, I was out walking and got curious if running would cause the same stomach pain.  Eight minutes later, I stopped running and smiled right from my heart.  I have no idea how far I went or what I looked like running.  All I knew is that I had just run for eight minutes and it felt like I had run the Boston Marathon.  I had no intention of running for eight minutes.  I didn’t even know if I could run for two minutes.  All I knew was that I was curious enough to try – and didn’t judge myself when it was over. 

Dieting, giving up cigarettes, quit drinking, working out more; it’s the same process.  You recognize you want to change.  You plan.  You learn to get curious and hunger for change. This curiosity empowers you to start. You set small goals and continue to get more curious. You hunger for more. You achieve milestones.  And then one day, you claim victory.  Claiming victory doesn’t mean it’s over.  Claiming victory means you recognize your progress, you’re proud of yourself, and you went further than you thought possible.   The next day you still must get up and face it again. 

I had no intention to run 7.8 miles 120-days post-hospital discharge.    When I ran last week, I went out intending just to enjoy myself.  It was a beautiful fall day, my stomach felt good, my legs felt strong, and I had just found a new Spotify soundtrack.  That’s how it started.  I didn’t look at my watch once during the run.  I just ran until I felt like I needed to turn around so I could make it back to the house.  I just allowed curiosity without the expectations around time or distance or speed.  I wanted to run, and I just let myself do it.  What would it feel like for you if you just allowed yourself to get curious enough about the issue you want to resolve that you committed to the point that you could claim an unintended victory? 

How inquisitive are you about claiming your victory?  What do you need to do to get curious?