This summer I’ve been riding my bike to work for the most part. It’s a 3-mile trip, and it barely takes me longer to bike than it does to drive (it’s fun blowing past cars lined up at the stop signs). I rarely get the chance to work out these days with having two small kids at home, so it’s a nice opportunity for some exercise, and I get to feel like I’m being helpful for the environment. But every night before a work day, and even the morning of, I find myself starting to look for excuses. Is it supposed to rain today? Don’t I have errands to run I need the car for?
I’m looking for a way out of riding up this one hill. It is fairly steep, lasts for several blocks, and just sucks. I dread it every time, and nearly skip biking to work because of it. And yet, every morning that I make the decision to go ahead and ride, and I conquer the hill again, I feel such a sense of accomplishment! It feels great to have it behind me, and to have done something hard and succeeded. And then, of course, I get the prize of getting to fly DOWN the hill on the way home at the end of the day.
I think it is important that we do hard things in life for practice. Little, simple things like biking up a long hill when you could just drive instead. Because, at least for me, it seems like there’s a natural tendency to avoid discomfort, to look for the easy way out or the comfortable path in life. I am an Enneagram 7, so avoiding pain is pretty much my mojo. But there are important things that we need to deal with in life that are painful, difficult, or uncomfortable.
It is difficult to truly listen to someone else talk when all I want to do is break in with my own point or idea. It is difficult to be fully present in the moment with my little kids at all times. It is difficult to keep caring about social injustice when we see it ALL. THE. TIME. and it’s easier to turn a blind eye. It is difficult to consistently make the healthy choice with regards to food / drink / screen time. It’s difficult to confront that family member, friend, or coworker who says something racist, sexist, etc-ist. It’s difficult to keep taking the initiative and reaching out to friends who don’t always reciprocate. It is difficult to acknowledge that something I’ve believed all my life may be wrong, or at least missing the point. It is difficult to realize that that person I cannot stand or that group of people I find easy to write off contain some goodness and nuance.
Our character is like a muscle, and the more practice we get at doing the difficult thing, at sticking to something hard, at showing up when we want to go home and chill, the easier it does become. We create some muscle memory; we build some endurance. And then when the TRULY difficult thing comes around – caring for a sick family member, dealing with a scary diagnosis yourself, losing a job, struggling in a relationship – we’re a little bit stronger and more prepared.
Let’s conquer the hill, folks. Let’s keep doing hard things, knowing that we are better for it and, hopefully, that we are making the world better because of it.