Today I started training for a half-marathon. Boy was it brutal. My legs were really hating me for 1) putting on extra pounds and 2) making them drag them around our neighborhood. While running my mind usually bounces around to all kinds of things. I found myself trying to overcome my brain’s strong desire to deactivate my legs. For anyone who has trained for anything, there’s a huge mental factor. You have to have a strong will to keep your body going – or distract yourself from the discomfort.
What I decided was a key factor in continuing my training was that I was going to have to learn to be ok with the Cumulative Value of my training. So often we expect things like physical training (or even spiritual training) to operate on the same laws and principles of our consumer culture. We want instant results and when we don’t see them we say “heck with this, it ain’t workin’!” I know you’ve seen this played out in your life. Perhaps that’s why a lot of our resolutions fizzle quickly.
The idea of Cumulative Value (which I learned from pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church) is that there is huge value of making small investments over a long period of time. (It’s a lot like compound interest in investing.) In my training, I have to be ok with not seeing or feeling any measurable progress from any given day to the next. I have to trust there is cumulative value to all my little deposits of training-effort that will grow over time. Instant gratification does not have any role in the equation.
So with any new year’s personal goal, what if instead of planning to cross a finish line, our goal was for daily deposits into that venture. What if our goal was not to have our kids be self-assured, but to encourage our kids at least one time every day. Or look for a way to serve our spouse at least once a day. Or decide to pray for someone once a day. If you have ever lost trust in a relationship, this principle is at work. You only regain trust after days and days of integrity. You don’t feel like any one day makes a difference but it all adds up. If we got into a daily or weekly practice of something, one day we’ll look back and realize we’re in shape to run 13.1 miles. Beyond that, we’ve hopefully developed a healthy life habit in the process – which is much more valuable than achieving a goal.
So in any training, I think something that will help me is to be ok with my daily deposit and just trust the principle of cumulative value. Gotta love it.