I have a confession to make: I like being comfortable. I am not one to naturally push myself to a place of being uncomfortable. If it means pain and sacrifice, I find it more difficult to put myself in a position to experience it. I am often satisfied with just getting by, being average, staying simple, and sometimes settling on mediocrity to maintain my comfort.
No pain, no pain. I like the sound of that. 🙂
You see, even when I was growing up, the only time I truly pushed myself out of my comfort zone was when someone else was encouraging, teaching, cheering, or driving me to do so. I often found it difficult to persevere and push my limits all on my own. I did have initiative to get things done, but often just at a level that enables me to check it off of my to-do list.
This was most evident when I played sports.
I grew up playing competitive soccer, basketball and fastpitch softball all year round. Ooooh how I loved it. I loved the challenge and competition of the practices and games. It was a time for me to learn something new (new skills, new plays, etc.) as well as be with my friends.
I thoroughly enjoyed the environment that comes with being on a team.
When I played in a game or at practice, I pushed myself to the limits. I loved exceling in what was asked or required of me, as a player. If my coach wanted us to run an extra set of lines, I forced myself to finish near the front of the pack, despite how exhausted I felt. I wasn’t fast, but I was smart and I worked hard. I also listened well and did what the coaches wanted me to do. I was a good little player. Not the best, but I held my own.
Since I am no longer in that type of environment with someone on the sidelines pushing me to go further and harder, I find I often take the lazy way out. It’s a very real struggle.
This tendency of mine goes beyond the physical realm of exercise. I can be mediocre with many things: homeschooling, cleaning, teaching, prayer, etc. I do just enough to get by in order to feel like I’m doing OK. Quite honestly, people think I do a lot more than I actually do. I mean, I do a lot of various things that fill my time, but I do them with juuuuust enough effort to be sufficient. Jack of all trades, master of none.
It’s hard to admit, but it’s true, my actions often reflect this.
In my heart, mind and intentions, I am not OK with mediocrity at all. I actually don’t like it and I get frustrated with myself when I don’t excel, do more, or complete whatever it is I am doing. Yet, the fruit is not evident in my intentions, the fruit is seen in my actions.
Not to sell myself short, there is definitely fruit in my life. I know I have impacted others’ lives and I continue to grow and mature personally, but I find I just do the basics. The bare minimum. Nothing spectacular. Nothing grand. Just enough to maintain.
I wish I naturally pushed myself to go the extra mile.
Alas, I do not readily have this quality. I need help. I need a nudge. I need to be challenged. I also need encouragement and accountability.
I still remember back when I was a senior in high school, I was the starting point guard on the varsity basketball team. It was to be my year to shine. Unfortunately, I blew out my knee during the opening weekend jamboree. I was crushed. In an instant, my dreams had vanished.
Plan B. The doctor said I could postpone my ACL surgery if I 1) try to strengthen everything around my knee (to compensate for the weakness and injury), 2) wear a custom knee brace, and 3) do two hours of physical therapy every single day. I agreed to this. The hope was to get back to a place where I could play before the season was finished.
After about 6 weeks of intense strength training, I was ready to be evaluated … and hopefully approved to play.
My physical therapist needed to test my overall strength to see if my knee could handle the stress and impact. I distinctly remember a point during the assessment where I had to do as many quad lift repetitions as possible in a specified amount of time (i.e. 2 minutes). With my new custom brace on, I had to move fast and push my knee to its limits. In those final moments of the test, my therapist really got in my space and yelled, cheered, pushed, encouraged, and motivated me to drive even harder. “Go! Go! Go! GO! Push! Push! Push! PUSH!”
I’m not sure how, but I did exactly that.
When I thought I was doing enough to be sufficient and pass, he stepped in and motivated me to dig even deeper. A renewed sense of determination and strength welled up and out of me. It was not easy, nor was it comfortable, but, I exceled.
Ultimately, I was approved to play basketball again. 🙂
I am someone who frequently needs pushing like this. Sure, I can get by with doing the basics, the bare minimum, and maintain mediocrity. But, if I am to excel and truly do my very best and make a big impact, I need some help. I am reminded of THIS AMAZING CLIP from the movie, “Facing the Giants.” This is the kind of motivation I absolutely love so I can give my very best.
But, it’s not just in having a “coach” at my side, I have found a few other areas that help me excel beyond the bare minimum:
I need a routine.
I need structure.
I need support.
I need vision.
Just as I had it in physical therapy and training: I need the consistency of a daily routine to maintain and strengthen what is weak. Daily diligence. If I become inconsistent (whether it’s exercise, prayer, eating habits, spending habits, etc.), it’s very hard for me to get back on the band wagon. I make excuses and settle for mediocrity. But, when I have a routine and stick with it, I flourish. Good daily habits pave the way for great eternal impact. It’s much easier to keep pressing forward when there is a rhythm and routine to my day and my life, in general. Personally, it helps me be better prepared, and ultimately, I’m stronger.
After my knee injury, I wore a knee brace when playing ball. The purpose of it was to create a strong structure and framework for supporting the areas of weakness in my knee. An extra measure of reinforcement. Unfortunately, there was a moment during my very first practice back with the team, when the brace slipped out of place (too much lotion on my legs, ugh!) and didn’t do what it was designed to do. In an instant, I had reinjured my knee.
I was physically and emotionally devastated, once again.
Thinking about my daily life, in order to be able to excel and be strong in what I am doing, I, personally, need the structure and a framework to hold it all together. Firm. Stable. Secure. If that structure is removed or not properly in place (like a sliding knee brace), things can get messy and I simply cannot function as effectively. That “structure” can look and be different between people or activities. In my life, I recognize structure consists of having a plan, a schedule, and general order in my environment. Without these, I struggle. I can be a spontaneous person and a go-with-the-flow gal in less organized situations, but it does not come naturally and often throws me for a loop. I have a hard time finding my bearings when things are a bit chaotic and all over the place. However, when structure is in place, I find it easier to push past mediocrity and thrive.
Though I am a fairly independent person, I flourish when I have support around me. This particular support I speak of is regarding support from people. People who get me moving, even when I feel like I can’t go on. “Go! Go! Go! GO!” This support often comes in the form of an individual or a select few who are in my life. I exceed my normal capacity when someone I trust is by my side. I work harder, I play harder, I laugh harder, I serve harder. Hmm, I’m not sure what “serve harder” means, but, you get the idea. I just do better all-around. Even my attitude is better!
You may or may not have noticed, but the three main sports I played were team sports. I am not a solo runner nor a single player. Though I often go-it-alone in my day-to-day, I still love being with others. I enjoy having friends alongside me to “coach” me through, to teach me new skills, to challenge and encourage, and to push me beyond my preconceived limits. Friends to do life with as we sharpen each other, as iron sharpens iron.
Do I get exhausted and uncomfortable at times? Yes. Is it a place of vulnerability? Absolutely. But, when I am supported in the most beautiful ways by trustworthy people who hold me accountable and help me to press on, I make a bigger impact in what I do.
When I hurt my knee, a new vision was birthed. If I wanted to play ball again before I graduated, then I needed to train. If … then. I needed to work hard, be disciplined, and never give up. My sights were set on that goal to play again.
When I am currently fighting mediocrity in my daily life, it is often helpful for me to take a step back and look at the big picture and recast the vision. I need to see beyond what is right in front of me, so I can persevere.
What I am aiming to accomplish?
How can I get there?
What do I need to do to keep pressing forward?
Is God leading us down this path?
No matter how hard it is, does this have a positive impact?
If I continue down this road, where will I/we be in 1 month, 6 months, 3 years, 10 years?
Do I need to change directions?
What is the big picture, the vision, the goal?
Please know, this doesn’t mean it all goes according to plan when a vision is cast. In fact, the only basketball game I played in during my senior year, was the very last game of the season. That was not part of the original vision, but that’s how the cookie crumbled this time. All of my hard work and investment was for one game. One. I relished every single second I was on that court and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Though my senior year on the basketball team didn’t pan out as I had originally expected or hoped, what I did experience came from having a goal.
It’s hard to aim without seeing a target.
I can have an efficient routine, the strongest structure, and the most effective support system, but without a vision, a goal, a purpose … it will ultimately be all for not. The vision is what empowers and drives everything else. Without vision, I perish.
Ultimately, when the vision is cast, I am able to push forward by creating a daily routine, held together by a strong structure, being fully supported by those near and dear to me to spur me on to see that vision come to fruition.
If I am struggling in any capacity, usually one (or more) of these areas is lacking. I am constantly checking-in and re-evaluating to see what areas need improvement and/or change.
In summary, yes, I naturally default to being comfortable, simple, and admittedly, a bit mediocre. But, I am continually learning I am made for so much more. It may be painful, uncomfortable, vulnerable, and take sacrifice at times, but the impact is so much greater when I don’t settle for “good enough.”
What areas have you recognized help you push harder and dig deeper? Maybe they are similar to mine, or perhaps, they are the exact opposite? haha! Whatever they may be, I encourage you to contemplate how you can improve those areas that need a bit of shoring up and strengthening. I know I had a few revelations myself as I wrote this post. 🙂
It definitely feels backwards and counterintuitive, but when I am truly dying to myself and what I naturally want to do (be lazy!), I live more fully. Oh, how I want to live a full life! And, not more fully for my own gratification, but more fully in Christ and for the Glory of God.
To take it a step further, friends, God has already cast the ultimate vision, HE has shown us how to daily (routinely) follow Him, HE has structured an abundant life securely through His Word (the Bible), and HE has given us each other, as our support and encouragement.
This truly is the most excellent way.
So friends, I implore you to press on … with no regrets …
Leaving it all on the court.
To God be the Glory!