As strange at it may seem to read about me, I had an interesting conversation with a health professional about fitness a while back — of course, it wasn't like I was setting up an exercise regimen or something crazy like that, so no worries.
We were actually talking about motivation, and the pro told me about adopting the inspiring motto of a competitor he'd met; she'd had it tattooed on her arm: "Never Weaken."
"I've been doing more cardio," he said, "and when I'm ready to quit, but know I need to go a few more minutes, I just think 'Never Weaken,' and I can power on through."
He gave me an instant brain crisis.
The guy might as well have been trying to explain the origins of the Universe — using quantum physics, theoretical yield equations, a Bible and a color pie chart.
I just do not understand how people motivate themselves with peppy little mottos like that.
It's great if it works for you. But you know the phrase "the voice of experience"? Yeah, well, I don't have just one voice. Every time I've had one of those profound experiences a new voice sets up camp in my head. It's like having a thousand-man committee running my every decision.
Generally, the committee members are leery about placing me in a position in which the Universe can pull the rug out from under me. But they're always happy to debate the topic of motivation.
Putting on uppity airs of everyday confidence seems to be the one action that consistently triggers an equal, or greater than, response of opposition from the Universe.
"I can win this." I say, then trip, and there's blood.
"I feel awesome about almost having this project completed." Cue the debilitating pain ... now.
"This is the best day of my life." Woopsy daisy. Happy feeling's gone.
"I'm the ruler of the—" Wham. No you're not.
"I'm gonna kick some—" Bang. It's not dignified for a Universe to laugh that hard.
"'Never Weaken'? Never happen," one of the more cynical voices of my experience said.
"Why not?" said one of the wanna-believers. "It's not arrogant. It's just a strong pep talk." Some voices cheered their agreement.
"Hmm. So apparently you've forgotten how the motto 'Stay Focused' worked out for us in our time of need." The cynics all laughed here.
"Of course you remember because you were one of the biggest whiners about the month-long headache, the facial numbness and that unsightly rash. And your little Positively Pollyanna friend over there turned into Nervous Nelly I've Got An Uncontrollable Twitch when we had to go for that MRI, even though the technician was clearly telling us to hold still."
"That voice has a point. You wanna-believers get to thinking too much, and next thing we know, you'll have us wearing a 'LiveStrong' bracelet, plastering a 'No Fear' bumper sticker to our backside and then strutting around singing our best Queen imitation of 'We are the Champions' until the Univers pulverizes us."
"Hey, let's not go over the top here," said one of the reasonable voices of experience. "That said, though, Crabby Pants and her sarcastic friend do have a point. 'Never Weaken' sounds like an invitation to a catastrophic body part failure. I don't want to be out hiking and have a leg fall off or something. Let's just stick with the mottos we agreed on years ago."
And so it always goes. After much debate (aka, the brain crisis), my voices of experience always come back to their standard mottos that motivate without drawing unwanted attention from the Universe.
"Keep going, wuss. It's not the Boston Marathon."
"Oh, for crying out loud. Just do one more. OK, now another one. Faked you out."
"Shut up and move."
And "Just do it."
That last one is the most daring motto of them all because Nike Inc. blares it out in their advertising like it's a point of pride. I'm waiting for the Universe to say this one day:
"'Just do it'? How 'bout you don't." Splat.
(That'll leave a mark at email@example.com.)