A few years ago there was a witty article in Runners World Magazine by a long distance runner recovering from an injury. He was (he admitted) whining about first world problems. One of his gripes was that he was used to showering everyday because he was always getting smelly and salty from running long distances and showers were not optional. In recovery he found it difficult to admit that he was not working his body enough to need a daily shower and that when he did shower it was not to wipe away signs of vitality but rather signs of grime and death. I guess he was looking forward to starting over. 

He had been successful in building a habit that was valuable to him and having it taken away was distressing for him. The subtext to the article, I believe, was the concern that he may never be able to feel the shower after a long hard energy-sapping run again. 

Many people have set out to start a new routine or habit whether physical, relational, or spiritual. We have all been inspired at times and decided to set a new practice, maybe we think the practice itself sounds fun or maybe we want to be the sort of person who does “x”. Just as many have failed. Even those who succeeded at one thing have surely failed at others. 

What do we do when we fail to meet our own expectations? 

I have three practices I try to maintain regarding this, two are avoidance strategies and the third is a recovery one. 

First, whenever a decision needs to be made I can ask myself, do I want to be the type of person does X or does Y. It can be eats cookies for breakfast or it can be meditates before breakfast. Do I want to be the guy who can’t retire because I love the impulse buy so much or the guy who mindfully approaches the day? I often know the answer of who I want to be and thus can get started with any small decision. 

Another practice is to make my mind up ahead of time. For example, when I wake up in the morning I already know what my workout will be, running, rowing, cycling, whatever, so that I need not think about it, it is not negotiable, I have already decided to do it, now it is only a matter of whether I will do it well or not. This involves little tricks like setting out my clothes ahead of time (or at least knowing what clothing I will need, in Ottawa this can be a bit of a game). If praying with a candle is your goal then know where the candle and matches are before you go to bed. If you want to start your day with a smoothie put the blender on the counter at night. You get the idea. 

Finally, it is important to remember that every day is a new day and if I have failed along the way today is my chance to get back on track. When it comes to regular bible reading I do not make up for missed days, I simply take up where I left off and read the smaller amount. If I had trouble getting it done yesterday aiming for double the amount today strikes me as unwise, bedsides there are no police who are coming to get angry that I am a day behind. If you meant to walk 5 km a day and failed, walking 10km is likely unhelpful, even if you can do it what happens the next day when you are more sore than planned?

Now we get back to the shower idea we opened with. When I have had a particularly bad day, left too much on the table undone the day before, I sometimes—and I truly believe it is the Holy Spirit nudging me—feel like my shower is a sort of spiritual cleansing that prepares me to start over and do better today. 

Water on my back helps me I realize that every day is the chance to start over, begin a new streak, set a new pattern. So whether you are behind on finances, bible reading, meditation, praying, fitness goals, having that important talk with a friend/spouse/family member, or whatever, perhaps tomorrow you can set the intention early, accept where you are, reflect on appropriate and obtainable goals, and then follow the Spirit to what will be fulfilling in the day. 

One thought on “Starting Over is Always an Option

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