There is no joy in being hard on yourself

By Melanie Spring

“Melanie, I want you to do something simple. Just run each day. No more than an hour. No less than 20 minutes. Just get out and run. No heart rate, just breathing and running. Rediscover the love. No journal. We'll talk when you get back.” - Coach Ben
Huge salty tears slid down my face. Relief. Something had obviously been pent up inside of me and his words release it. This was the end of a conversation about how I had lost the motivation to run. Mind you, running was one of my favorite things in the world to do. It was mind-clearing, hope-building, and soul-shaping. Running allowed me to see new places, kept me fit, and made sure I didn’t lose my shit.
When I met Coach Ben in November, he explained that my body was genetically engineered to run long distances and I signed on to his virtual training program. 8 months of speed training, long slow runs, and cross-training on a bicycle later and I quit loving the feel of the pavement beneath my feet. Ben wasn’t the problem, he had saved me from myself by pushing me past my normal boundaries, showing me what I can really do. I LOVED the edge. The fight. The pain.
Until I didn’t. 
On days I didn’t have enough time or motivation, I would avoid exercise altogether. If I couldn’t do what he told me, I wouldn’t do anything. The killer cycle began. Some weeks were awesome, some weeks was awful. And I had no idea what would happen that week, but it was up to me to make it happen. And my desire left.
On my flight to Sweden, I told Ben. His response hit the nail on the head.
"The true joy in the process does NOT come from validation from your ego or others for good results. The joy comes from doing battle and weathering the ups and downs because to do that is to feel truly alive. And to be free. To experience the elation and to be strong enough to accept the "failures" that are inevitable and to fight onwards. The workouts are hard because, without mountains to climb, you and I would drown in the sorrows of boredom/purposelessness. There is no such thing as failure. The only failure is to deny yourself the joy in the process."
JOY! I had lost my joy for running. 
"Since you are aware of having taken an "all-or-nothing" approach to these efforts, do you not see that this approach is the source of your anxiety/lack of motivation? Why should anyone be motivated if the standard they set is virtually impossible to consistently reach?"
He was right. SO incredibly right. How could anyone get motivated when they set themselves up for failure time and time again? And it wasn’t just running. It was also my work, my relationships, my life.
Getting up each morning while traveling Sweden, I couldn’t fail if I put on my running clothes and walked out the door. I wanted to see the city from the road, so it was easy to go. My love for running slowly inching back by the foot-fall. 
Being hired to speak at a conference in Sweden, I extended my trip to write the branding book that’s been in my head for years. Three weeks of travel inspiration to write. THREE WEEKS! I don’t HAVE to be here, I GET to be here. What a luxury! But walking around scenic Gothenburg, Sweden, I felt horribly lost.. Jetlag, long flights, lots of new people, new culture, new country, traveling alone and I felt like I was failing only 4 days in.
Ben was right. I’m so hard on myself that while I’m succeeding, I believe I’m failing.
With a to do list that would take 3 people to accomplish, a huge deadline pending, tons of notes in three different Moleskine notebooks, and random sheets of paper clipped together, how in the world would anyone want to make sense of it all, including the one who wrote it all? Ben’s words echo in my head: "Why should anyone be motivated if the standard they set is virtually impossible to consistently reach?"
Just because I wasn’t writing the newsletter or marketing stuff doesn’t mean I was failing. Just because I wasn’t writing the book proposal or pages doesn’t mean I was failing. Just because I didn’t cross loads of things off my to do list doesn’t mean I was failing. 
Writing gives me great joy. And I WAS writing. Every day I wrote in my personal notebook about what I was seeing, feeling, doing. I was reading and writing my devotions daily. Since starting to write down my gratitudes, I was up to #257 in 16 days - that’s a lot to be grateful for. I wrote a poem about my wedding dress and how it had all really been a “dress” rehearsal and it touched so many people in a profound way. I was writing letters. I was writing ideas for my new bio and thoughts on positioning our new programs. I was even writing our homepage content. I WAS WRITING. Dammit.
There is no joy in being hard on yourself.
I write this blog post for myself. I write it for every entrepreneur who has an unrealistic to do list. I write it for every mom and dad who just can’t seem to do enough for their families. I write it for every hardworking human who strives for goals outside of their reach only to go home feeling like a failure. It’s high time we get back to joy, playtime, relaxing, breathing, enjoying life - for real.
To rephrase Coach Ben’s words, “Hey you, I want you to do something simple. Just take a moment to breathe each day. No more than an hour. No less than 20 minutes. Just get out and breathe. Rediscover the love for your life. We'll talk when I get back.”
I’ll do it with you.