With a theme like “exercise” and a headline like “just do it,” you probably think you know what this month’s intention is all about. But you might be surprised. Forget about your Nikes and yoga pants for a minute, and let’s talk about a more fundamental definition.
At its core, “exercise” simply means to put into action. To apply. To practice or use. When we exercise physically, we are putting our bodies into action. But there’s much more to this word than sweating it out on a treadmill.
We can also exercise our minds. We can exercise our rights and privileges. We can center ourselves with breathing exercises (remember February’s theme?). We can listen to our kids complain about the typing exercises they do at school. I personally remember complaining about the piano exercises I had to do as a child—the endless scales to warm up my fingers and improve my dexterity.
With any skill, ability, or attribute we want to develop, it’s not enough to intellectually understand it. We have to act. We have to put it to use. What if you have the right to vote but you never exercise that privilege? Your voice will be drowned out by those who are willing to engage. What if you spend hours learning music theory but never practice? You’ll be able to appreciate music, but you won’t be able to play it.
I want you to think of one area of your life that you’d like to improve this month, whether it’s a physical goal, a creative pursuit, a relationship, a challenge at home or at the office, or a virtue you want to develop. Join with me, and together we’ll intentionally “exercise” that area. We’ll put in the reps, the hours of practice we need to make progress. Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote about the 10,000-hour rule in his book, Outliers, arguing that’s how many hours it takes to become a true expert at something. When we watch excellence in action (a gymnast, a dancer, a musician, an artist), we are only seeing the end result. We don’t see the 10,000 hours of hard, repetitive work that led up to that moment. Every minute we devote to a pursuit that we love counts toward that total and will help us reach the expert threshold.
Interested in being a better writer? Read more. Write more.
Wishing you could run a marathon? Start by running around the block, and build from there.
Hoping to increase your creativity? Pull out your favorite tools and supplies, and PLAY more.
To add an extra challenge to this month’s intention, I’d like to encourage you to pick something you’re not already good at, in the spirit of a teenager named Gerald Hodges. I recently saw this inspiring story on CBS’s On the Road. Gerald was a gifted athlete. Many sports came easily to him. But he didn’t know how to swim. Like at all. So, he decided to join his high school swim team, which was one of the worst in the area. For this team, just finishing the race without getting disqualified counted as a victory. Why would a teenage boy join a losing team, spending hours practicing a sport he knew nothing about? In Gerald’s words, “If I can’t handle not being good at something, then how could I consider myself a successful person?” Wow. If you want to know how the story turns out,
just watch the video.
I don’t know about you, but I’m with Gerald. I want to put some time into exercising those areas of my life that don’t come easily to me. Wanna join me?
Here’s how I plan to apply my Exercise intention to the four pillars of memory keeping for 2018ex:
Experiences— I’m going to use my Desktop Calendar to record each time I practice or exercise my area of intention this month. (Full disclosure: I have way too many goals and passions always competing for my attention. I haven’t quite decided which thing I want to personally “practice” this month, but I’ll reveal what I’m up to on Instagram!)
Exceptional moments— To be honest, practicing piano scales isn’t exciting to listen to. Going to drill practice at the crack of dawn (like my Quincy does) is not glamorous. The repetitive activity itself isn’t where the magic happens. But with time and discipline, all of the practicing gets us where we want to be. I’m going to capture and share some exceptional moments that happened because I put the time in.
Expressions— One way to stay committed to any kind of regular exercise (physical, mental, creative) is to write down how you felt before and after, so you can recognize the immediate benefits—like an energy boost, a sense of accomplishment, a lift in your mood—which increases your motivation to stay the course. My Memory Planner is a great place to do that.
Expectations— I’m going to work on not having expectations for the immediate outcome of any time spent practicing or exercising this month. It’s not about getting somewhere specific by a certain deadline; it’s about participating, putting my skills to use, and just doing it over and over again.
What area of your life are you going to Exercise this month?
Here are five photos to take to decorate your planner or calendar this month.
1. Take or download a motivational photo that represents the eventual outcome you hope to achieve with all of the practicing you’ll be doing this month.
2. Get a photo of yourself engaging in the regular practice of whatever you’re trying to improve.
3. Photograph your favorite way to exercise your body, whether it’s a shot of you engaging in physical activity, a photo of your shoes or equipment, or a pic of where you work out.
4. Take a photo of something you do to exercise your mind—reading, online Scrabble, Sudoku, a project at work.
5. Snap a pic that represents your favorite way to exercise your spirit or soul—taking a walk in nature, attending religious services, listening to a motivational talk or sermon, praying or meditating.
“Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire.”
“The joy of life consists in the exercise of one’s energies, continual growth, constant change, the enjoyment of every new experience.”
“Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”
“Anyone’s life truly lived consists of work, sunshine, exercise, soap, plenty of fresh air, and a happy contented spirit.”
“It’s our hearts and brains that we should exercise more often. You can put on all the makeup you want, but it won’t make your soul pretty.”