Doing things that are hard

Jackie and I have been having a bit of back and forth via our blogs and Twitter about keeping up with our resolutions.  She writes:

Newsflash: resolutions also often involve stopping doing things that are easy, and replacing with things that are hard.

Yep, yep, yep.  Decluttering has been hard but I’ve managed to keep it up so far.  The 15-minute limit helps.  And I have missed a couple of days–yesterday, for one–but I’ve just kept it up, imagining the end goal of a house filled with less stuff that I don’t like or don’t need and more stuff that I enjoy and use.  The thought of one day walking into my house and having it feel peaceful rather than crowded is keeping me going.

But walking . . . not so much.  One, it’s cold, and two, well, I don’t know what two is.  I just don’t want to do it.  Exercise is hard for me.  I can find forty million reasons I don’t like it and only one reason I do.  The one reason is that I know I’d look and feel better if I did it.  But unlike the thought of a clean house, that’s not enough to motivate me.  With the house, I feel somewhat sure that I will achieve that goal, if not completely, at least enough to feel like I accomplished something.  With my body, I just don’t trust that adding a small bit of exercise is going to help.  And did I mention I find it hard?

This whole idea got me to thinking about my students, specifically my middle school students.  Some of them give up when things get hard.  When it takes effort for them to wrap their head around something, they will often give up.  I wrote a little about this before.  Honestly, I know how they feel.  I mean, there are things I can’t motivate myself to do.  And I’ve been frustrated by many things in the past.  As an adult, when I’m learning new things, I know that perseverance usually pays off eventually.  But even as an adult, I know that it’s more fun to watch tv than walk, even if it’s only for a little while.

So I’m struggling to figure out ways to motivate my students.  Maybe a time-limit thing.  Maybe saying, “Okay, working on the robotic arm is hard, but work on it for x minutes and then take a break.”  I don’t know.  All I know is that some students just can’t find the fire in their bellies to forge ahead and I’m not entirely sure how to ignite it.  If I figure it out, maybe it will help me as well.

5 Replies to “Doing things that are hard”

  1. Exercising is my weakest spot as well, but it really is HUGELY important for our health. Walking & running is pretty hard in the winter, are there other things that you enjoy that you could do at the gym or Y? Or would it be even harder for you to have to go to a fitness class or any place to exercise?

    just trying to brainstorm what could help. I, personally, cannot EVER do anything on my own (even doing yoga or other kinds of exercising in the Wii, which I think it’s fun, but I’m still too lazy to do)… BUT, if I sign up for fitness classes I truly enjoy exercising. Therefore, I changed my schedule so I could do yoga a couple of times a week and I’ll try to register for other classes whenever I have some time.

  2. YES–as much as I want to blame my lack of exercising on my crowded schedule, the fact is that most often, I just don’t want to. I think also it can be hard to figure out what kind of exercise you ever would want to do, and then find a way to make it happen–much easier for people who already know they enjoy a certain sport or activity, I think. Thanks for the support on the clutter resolution–for me, it really helps to know I’m not struggling through it alone.

  3. Consider also this (which lies behind my own laggardly ways with exercising). “If I tidy the house, everyone benefits and this all appears better should company come. If I exercise, only I benefit.” That’s the short-term way of thinking, obviously. We’re all better off if I’ve worked in a bit of real exercise every day but I fail to push as hard as I should.

  4. I have a dog who gets me out there 365 days a year – BUT what I would recommend to someone who doesn’t have that kind of nag is Kelly McGonigal’s book The Willpower Instinct.

    I also find it more helpful to think of the effects of exercise on my happiness and brain rather than my body. That’s instant whereas it doesn’t appear that walking really does a whole lot for the BMI.

    Oh – also I have a fitbit, if you’re at all competitive with yourself, they’re great at getting you to exercise more.

  5. I have actually been thinking more about getting a dog, if only because it would force me to exercise. That’s a big step for me, because I’m not a dog person AT ALL.

    We inherited a Wii Fit from friends recently, and so far, I’m enjoying using it and finding out more about what I do like: so far it’s boxing, hula-hooping, getting to put my own music on in the background, switching activities a lot, and not worrying that I’m clumsier/weaker than the other people around me. I also like that my kids can watch me and cheer me on :).

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