— Ivan W. Lam (@IvanWLam) March 9, 2015
What I Do Reflects My Priorities
In my final quarter of college, I took a general exercise biology class taught by two professors. A lot of the material went over my head, but one of the things that I actually retained was the advice to make time to exercise. This simple tip actually shifted my thinking about exercise and goals in general that I eventually adapted it to apply to other areas of my life.
An A-ha Moment
The professors explained: we often tell ourselves or say in conversations that we should or want to exercise but we have yet to do it because we “don’t have time.” They argued, however, that instead of “having” time to do something, the problem is in “making” time; we don’t make time for it. We make time to watch TV or go out with friends, but we fail to make time to exercise, and yet we say or know that it’s important to us. If it’s really important to us, instead of just talking about it, we would find a way to make it happen. How we spend our time shows what’s important to us; what we do reflects our priorities.
Once I realized that, I became very conscious every time I started thinking and using the phrase, “I don’t have time.” Soon after, I stopped thinking that way altogether and shifted my energy to examine why I have yet to exercise and what’s holding me back. Even though it still took me a series of mental and physical hurdles to get back to the gym on a regular basis, knowing that my priorities control my behavior allowed me to start being more responsible for my life and make changes.
Applying the Mindset
When I first started regularly going to the gym, I would only go if I completed that workday’s tasks. On days when things at work ran a little long, I would still try to go to the gym a little later, but it would either delay the rest of my evening’s routine or shorten my workout session to stay on schedule. Either way, I would be bummed. And if I kept my regular gym schedule and put off work until after the gym or the next day, I would feel guilty for putting my personal goals before my work.
What I realized over time is that there will always be work to do, and most of it can wait until the following day, therefore I should head to the gym at my “mentally scheduled” time. Sticking to that schedule, I found, is important to me.
I also realized that exercise actually benefits my work. First, exercise is a great stress reliever. Second, I often come up with solutions to work problems at the gym, when I am away from the desk and my mind has a chance to take a break and get unstuck. Realizing this made it easier to justify sticking to my personal schedule at work and take time out of the day to work on myself. While work is important, I must place more value on my mental, physical, and spiritual health. “I don’t have time for exercise.” just says the opposite. The only acceptable solution in my mind is to make time.
Using the same strategy, I have since been reevaluating everything I do in life. I removed habits that contribute little to my goals, and I added ones that are vital to them. For example, even though I’m a bit of a night owl and I get a surge of energy after I get home from work, I set a goal to go to bed earlier so I can get a full night’s sleep and help improve my body, mind, and spirit. Socially, I learned to be more selective with attending events and gatherings to achieve a better balance between developing valuable relationships and getting enough personal time for myself. At work, I customized my environment using software to help minimize distractions by receiving only notifications that I need and to work on my health at work with reminders to take regular breaks from the computer.
These habits will change and adapt in the future. They may be small adjustments or major overhauls, but the fundamental philosophy driving them will be the same: I will make time for things that are important to me.
5, 6, 17, 22, 23.