“You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” William James
Early morning is the time of day that I exercise. I’ve experimented with other times throughout the day, but I’ve found that early morning is the only time of day I can be relatively sure won’t be interrupted by some unforeseen life event…as long as I maintain the discipline to avoid my phone until after the workout. So, when the alarm goes off, sometime between 4:45am on school days and 6am on holidays/weekends, I know it’s time to get out of bed, head downstairs, and start working out.
Some mornings, though, I am not nearly as fired up about exercising as I’d like to be. As a result, I feel the pull to linger in the bed and to procrastinate by doing any number of activities once I do finally roll out of bed. Eventually, however, I make it downstairs, turn on the TV, and push “Play”. My workouts vary from day to day, but they are all found on Beachbody On Demand, a site with hundreds of different exercise programs. So, my workout begins when I choose the program that fits my exercise needs for that day (e.g., cardio, strength, flexibility, agility) and push the “Play” button on the remote control.
Although it can take me an embarrassing amount of time some mornings to finally push “Play”, once I do, the next 45-60 minutes flow easily. Once I push “Play” and start following the instructions of the Exercise Guru on my screen, one thing leads to another until, almost before I know it…almost…the workout is over, and the post-exercise endorphins are doing their work to make me feel energized and ready to start another day.
After experiencing the phenomenon above so many times now, I’ve come to recognize the same phenomenon occurring in other areas of my life as well. Whether it’s a lack of excitement about grading students’ papers, doing laundry or dishes, paying bills, making necessary phone calls, or writing necessary emails, once I “Push Play”…once I get started and make even just one move in the direction I need to go, inertia takes over. That is, the first move might be incredibly hard to execute, but the second, third, fourth, and all subsequent moves become increasingly easier until whatever I was consciously or unconsciously avoiding is finished…or as finished as anything in this impermanent life can be.
So, the next time you find yourself procrastinating, struggling to do something you know you need to do, just “Push Play”. One action will lead naturally to the second, third, and so on until you find yourself at the end…the place where the endorphins of completion swirl around in your brain and work their mood-boosting magic.