Patience, little plant (How gardening taught me that waiting is worth it)

About four or five years ago, when I was in the midst of my fight with cancer, I took up indoor gardening. I was always cold, so I always kept my room at at least 80 degrees (F) – perfect for planting something in the middle of winter.

I remember how my mostly unstructured days at home started to have an anchoring point. No matter what, I’d wake up and water my plants. If I was bored, I’d run over to the window and see if anything had sprouted yet.

For the first few days I was SO frustrated. I planted those stupid seeds FOREVER ago! Why haven’t they sprouted yet??

I had zero patience. It didn’t really register with me that if I would only get my panties out of a knot and wait a few more days, those little sprouts would pop up eventually. And if I took good care of them, in a few weeks they’d grow even bigger. And if I continued to water them every day and give them proper light and warmth, they would grow into beautiful flowers and vegetables.

Most people get immense satisfaction from immediate results. If you text someone, they should respond right away. If you order a pizza you want it on your doorstep within minutes. However, life doesn’t always work this way.

There are so many satisfying rewards in life that will only come with consistent, long-term effort.

One of them is the pleasure of enjoying a salad made of exclusively home-grown ingredients. Another is gazing upon a pot full of colorful flowers that you grew with your own two hands. Yet another is looking in the mirror at a slim, fit, and powerful body that you built up zero. Or reaching the end of a 5k with a friend.

I want to emphasize a few things. First, there are some immediate rewards to working out. Your dopamine levels rise after a few minutes of good exercise, which increases your mood. You gain confidence in yourself that you just completed a really tough work out.

However, if you want the long term benefits of health and fitness, you’re going to have to keep up a consistent, sustained effort over a long period of time. In order to do this, you need to constantly review your goals and why you chose them. You also need to slowly start cultivating more and more discipline, because you can’t be motivated all the time.

Everyone will stumble and have bad days. Everyone will get frustrated. There will be set backs.

This is where patience comes in.

If you can’t reach a pace goal after a few weeks, you may get so frustrated that you’ll want to quit. Have patience with yourself and know that everybody hits plateaus. If you aren’t losing weight as fast as you thought you would, just take a deep breath and find patience within yourself. Also, keep this in mind: The person who fails a hundred times and gets up will ALWAYS get farther than the person who fails a hundred times and never tries again.

Think of every day as a new start. Maybe yesterday was a bust, and you just couldn’t get on the treadmill. Forget about it. Hop on it today and start anew. That patience and persistence in the face of disappointment is what’s going to get you where you want to go.

I have to admit, this is still a process I’m working on. I didn’t get as many runs in this week as I wanted to, because I’ve been frustrated that I still can’t go for as long as I’d like to. For a few days I let my fear of never reaching my goals stop me from trying at all. But this week I’m going to remember to have patience with myself. It’s okay if things aren’t progressing as quickly as I want them to. I just have to keep going, and I’ll get there eventually.

Like my little lettuce plant, I’ll start small and grow slow.



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