Yesterday I ran the Occoneechee Mountain Trail near my house. It’s not really a mountain as much as a series of switchbacks and a couple of moderately steep hills, the type that require me to scramble forward with my butt low and stuck out like I’m entering a Kardashian backside-lookalike contest.
On the steepest ascent, a man passed me coming down the hill I was slowly climbing. As he got near, he said something that is the subject of this blog:
“It’s Easier Coming Down”
I spent the remainder of my run thinking about that statement, and I concluded that while it usually is easier going down, when it comes to personal growth, easier does not mean better.
Easier doesn’t build discipline.
In my late teens, I had yet to master time management, and I often found myself running late to work. My solution to punctuality didn’t involve leaving earlier; rather, I just drove faster. How’d that work for me? One day I received a speeding ticket on my way to work…and another ticket going home.
So much for speeding as an easy solution to poor time management! That experience taught me to stop seeking shortcuts. Instead, I learned the discipline I needed to master my time management. And now I’m no longer late to anything.
Easier doesn’t build confidence.
Years ago at an after-hours work function, someone introduced me to a very smooth, aged, “sipping” tequila. To deal with my social anxiety, I found it much easier to sit off to the side and sip glass after glass of that easy-going tequila. Let me say without fear of contradiction that the tequila was much easier going down than coming back up.
Even if booze has been called “liquid courage”, drinking didn’t build my courage or confidence around people. It wasn’t until I put the bottle away that I learned to develop true confidence in nearly any social situation.
Easier doesn’t build strength.
A couple of years ago, my wife and I trained to run a half-marathon. For my non-running friends, that’s 13.1 miles, or the equivalent of seven Julie Roberts’s smiles. During the course of my training, I never ran more than 6 miles on any given day. The secret to my training relied on the three Hs: Hills, Heat and Humidity! During the hot, humid summer months, I would run sprints up those Occoneechee Mountain Trail hills until I felt like my chest would pop.
Walking or jogging down hills in pleasant weather—in other words, taking the easy route—wouldn’t have prepared me for the race. But running against the severe resistance of extreme hills, heat, and humidity sure did!
For many, the temptation of easy is a most seductive siren song. But don’t shy away from doing difficult things, because only difficult things build discipline, confidence, and strength.
President John F. Kennedy inspired a nation in September 1962 when he said:
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
Today, I challenge you to do two things. First, do something that is hard. Resist the urge to merely check the simple things off your TO DO list because you were unwilling to tackle more difficult challenges. Do something hard as a way of fostering your growth and even your personal engagement (research shows that engagement grows when we make progress towards challenging yet meaningful goals).
Second, do something that brings you a bit of joy. Maybe it’s cheating a little on your diet or taking the time for a long soak in a hot tub.
But remember, do the hard thing first. Let the easy and enjoyable thing you do serve as your reward.