3T: Do a little better today
When I got home from my mission, I ran a 5K. I had never been a runner. But my oldest brother was, and I wanted to shed some of the weight I’d gained on my mission, and he bought me my first pair of running shoes. Then I went to Salt Lake and ran in the Ouelessebougou 5K.
I felt triumphant! (I wore that race shirt for years.)
Fast forward about 20 years, when we had 7 children, ages 13 to 15 months old. I had wanted, for all of those years, to be a regular exerciser. I had wanted to run. But it felt nigh unto impossible to exercise while always having 3 children who didn’t want to exercise with me. I could not seem to find a way or the self-discipline to make it happen. And my husband didn’t know how much I needed it to happen.
Until I had a nervous breakdown.
Then we both understood that exercise was critical in my life for maintaining balance.
And so I began walking on a treadmill with a babysitter in the house for 20-45 minutes, just depending.
So that was nearly 8 years ago. These days I am running 3 miles on an almost weekly basis. (I run or walk or bike varying amounts the other days, just depending on who I’m with, what time I started, etc.)
I know that 3 miles to a marathoner is a warm-up, and that 8 years is a long time to take to work up to 3 miles. But it’s a true milestone for me. I got here by persevering: first, simply trying to keep exercising on a regular basis. Then my goal became more regularly. Then it was to overcome the set-backs of periods of illness or scheduling conflicts. Then I started running. First my goal was a mile. Then I tried to go just a little further, even if it was simple .1 mile more, a day at a time.
Now when my goal for the day is 3 miles, I think, “If I run 3 miles, I’m about half-way to being able to run a 10K. I can do this.”
Last week, when I was feeling so happy that I ran 3 miles again (in hot weather–it’s the first time I’ve ever had sweat run down from my hair into my eyes!), I thought how, if you want to do something hard (and good), you simply begin by doing it once. (And I was remembering the days when it was so hard to get any exercise in, and feeling grateful.)
If you have done it once, you know you can do it again.
And if you know you can do it again, you will, if you choose to.
It’s that whole “that which we persist in doing…” thing. And that “small and simple” thing.
It’s the same with anything we want to be or do when we nurture others: If we kept our voice softer in response to a family member who was angry, we can do it again. If we got up to have family scriptures in the morning earlier than we did when we didn’t have it, we can do it again. If we chose to eat something that was wholesome instead of something of lesser value, we can do it again. If we took the time to tuck a child into bed patiently and listen to their concerns, even when we were so tired we wanted to cry, we can do it again. If we chose to turn off the TV and open up a good book, we can do it again.
We don’t need to sell ourselves short, and neither do we need to be perfectionistic. (For me, this is hard to remember!) We can simply pick something–one thing–that day and be a little better at it. I know it’s a true principle.
President Hinckley said it better than I can: “…Each of us can do a little better than we have been doing. We can be a little more kind. We can be a little more merciful. We can be a little more forgiving. We can put behind us our weaknesses of the past, and go forth with new energy and increased resolution to improve the world about us, in our homes, in our places of employment, in our social activities.
“We have work to do, you and I, so very much of it. Let us roll up our sleeves and get at it, with a new commitment, putting our trust in the Lord.
“We can do it, if we will be prayerful and faithful. We can do better than we have ever done before.
“The Church needs your strength. It needs your love and loyalty and devotion. It needs a little more of your time and energy.
“I am not asking anyone to give more at the expense of his or her employer. We have an obligation to be men and women of absolute honesty and integrity in the service of those who employ us.
“I am not asking anyone to do so at the expense of your families. The Lord will hold you responsible for your children. But I am suggesting that we spend a little less time in idleness, in the fruitless pursuit of watching some inane and empty television programs. Time so utilized can be put to better advantage, and the consequences will be wonderful. Of that I do not hesitate to assure you” (“We Have a Work to Do,” April 1993 General Conference).
Happy Doing a Little Bit Better Today,