Anything worth doing in life takes desire (or necessity), effort, time, humility, and discipline. The latter four elements are up to us, they are behavioral choices. Whether we are talking about a New Year’s fitness resolution, improving a marriage, learning a dance, or becoming a better parent, we must be willing to make a sustained effort to have any chance of success. Humility means a willingness “to be young and dumb” again and again, to be a child, as often as necessary to learn and change. Discipline means “showing up,” over and over, even when we’d prefer staying on the couch.
Advertising peddles lies of quick and easy success. But that may be a blessing in disguise because we might never sign up for an exercise program, or for marriage, or for child-rearing, if we knew what lay ahead of us. Naiveté can be a gift.
Two and a half years ago, four hundred lessons ago, my wife, Christine, began taking Pilates, an exercise program. Today, she continues the discipline of Pilates, and, today, she reaps the fruits of her labor. She has celebrated each one hundred lesson milestone, to reward herself for all the hard work and to launch herself into more of the same. Two years ago, I started taking Argentine Tango lessons, at least once a week. I’m still not very accomplished at this deceptively simple dance, but I’m getting there. I’ve put this kind of effort into other types of dances, and I now teach several of them: swing, salsa, blues. But don’t think I have avoided humiliation in this effort. I often leave lessons feeling young and dumb, or, as my son Matt says, “change that to old and dumb, Dad.”
Some hints to success: Keep records (Christine numbers each Pilates class to mark her progress). If tempted to stay on the couch, ask yourself, “Will I feel better about myself if I go or if I stay?” Pay in advance and then “get your money’s worth.” Find good teachers (I’ve had 5 Tango teachers so far).