Today I want to talk about something I don't think I've discussed much before, and that is the subject of effort. This topic came to mind this morning while working out at the Y. When you walk into any gym, you will find two basic kinds of people. I'm not talking about the obvious differences such as age or gender. I'm talking about the effort people put into their workouts. Here I am this morning.
I lift three days a week, and in every single one of these sessions I go all out and give it 100 percent. I'm not alone of course. I'd guess that about half of the people you see in the gym put in maximum effort when they lift, while the other half doesn't. Many people are there mostly for the socialization that occurs. Others are basically happy with their bodies and simply want to maintain their current level of fitness. Still others want to make gains but only minor ones. And that's perfectly fine. You get what you give. In the gym, I want to give it my all every time I'm there. But in many other areas of life it's the opposite. In these areas I am mediocre at best. Take technology. There is no one on the planet who is more klutzy about technology than I am. I am an idiot when it comes to anything having to do with computers or technology of any kind. I have always been this way, even with household chores. Just ask my kids. I need directions on how to change a light bulb.
Or take Spanish. As you know I've been trying to teach myself Spanish for several years now. I am absolutely mediocre at it. On the one hand, I realize that if I were to put in several hours each week working on Spanish, I could probably achieve fluency in a matter of months. But honestly, I really don't care that much. I know just enough Spanish to get by in a Mexican restaurant and I am content with that. Mastering Spanish just isn't a priority for me right now.
I'm telling you this because we are on the cusp of a new semester and I will be teaching 4 Greek classes this year. As in the gym, so in the classroom -- there are two basic types of students. There are some who always give it 100 percent, who study really, really, REALLY hard, and who make an "A" on practically every quiz and exam. Then are those who obviously spend considerably less effort in learning the language, for whatever reason. When I see students trying to compare themselves with others in the class I always tell them to KNOCK IT OFF. It does absolutely no good. Your race is YOURS and nobody else's. When I run a marathon, I tell myself the only thing that matters after I cross the finish line is that I met MY goals for that race, not somebody else's. In most instances, this means knowing I gave it all my all and, if I didn't, having to live with that and it won't be pretty. But in other races, my goal that day might be to run as slowly as possible and go out of my way to stop and thank the aid station volunteers or take photos of the landscape along the course. One goal is not better than the other; they are just different.
When I was in college, I worked hard and got mostly A's in my classes. The exceptions were any classes that had to do with science. I think I had to take Algebra II twice in high school before I could pass it, such a moron I am with it comes to thinking scientifically. I just didn't have a knack for it, and I was okay with that. Likewise, if you want to get an "A" in my Greek classes, I will do everything I can to help you succeed. But if you're content with a "C," that's totally fine as long as you have no regrets about your level of effort and dedication. Get my drift? We should never let how we feel about ourselves or our performance be dictated by our need to compare ourselves with others.
So let's get real. In all the talk these days about the need for excellence -- and I talk as much about this as anyone does -- let's not pretend that all of us give 100 percent to everything we do all the time. That's impossible. In some areas of life, our goal is to excel. In other areas, our goal is to get by. Just be sure you know which is which.
To return to my original thought. There are countless reasons people love to hang out at the gym.
Some do it simply for the company of other people. Some feel that, since they paid a bucket load of money to join the gym, they might as well try and get their money's worth out of it. (Why pay for a membership you never use, right?) Others are gym rats who love to work out and who, for the most part, have some pretty ambitious health and fitness goals. I am thankful and consider myself blessed to have a gym nearby and one that I can afford. Unless your goal is to look like a top-tier professional bodybuilder, then I think your average gym is all you need to reach your goals. My goals have changed over time, but I've always tried to ensure that I know where I'm going and why. Chances are you will greatly benefit by doing the same.