13 April, 2011

Form over Finish

Since mid January (2011), I've been working with a personal trainer for about 30 minutes a day, five days a week.  Karl is one of the most patient men and is teaching me much about physiology.  I've never met anyone who know's more about the human body.  I really didn't know I had a longis capitus muscle.  Now I know what to do to make it sore.

But more than teaching me about my physiology, he's unveiled something in me that has thwarted my success at fitness for my entire life.   Even further, he's brought light to a habit I've developed that I think may have hampered my success in a number of areas of my life.

According to Karl, there is really one thing that makes for a healthy workout.  It's not the weight you choose to lift, although it's important.  It's not the number of reps you lift or even the sequencing of the  routine.  It's the technique, or form.  In fact, Karl has shown me that bad form in a workout does more damage than good.  And that's why Karl is helping me replace bad habits with good ones.  Many days, Karl will say to me "Don't finish the lift if you can't keep good form."  It's much better to have good form and not finish than to have bad form and finish.  In other words, doing the right thing the wrong way does considerable damage to your body.  This was a fitness concept I had never realized.

Through this experience, I've come to understand that too often, my priority is to focus on the finish and not sweat the form.  Consider it like hiking in the wrong shoes; or roasting a chicken on a higher setting to get it done sooner.  Getting things done is important, but you'll never be as effective as you can be - as fast as you can be - without good habits and proper disciplines.  Period.

This isn't about perfection.  This about replacing bad habits with good habits.   Benjamin Franklin once said that if you take all your good habits and subtract all your bad habits, the result you get is your contribution to society.  What we have been trained to do - good or bad - defines to some degree our benefit to the people around us.

Now, before all the visionaries check out on me, let me acknowledge that it's critically important that we get things done.  I agree mostly with Bre Pettis' "Cult of Done Manifesto" which says "done is the engine of more".   There are so many things that can keep us from getting things done.   But we must pursue the replacement of bad habits (or form) with good.  Once the good habits become second nature, the payoff is amazing in effectiveness and efficiency.

History has many examples for us to consider:  Meriwether Lewis,  Winston Churchill.  I think of Ronald Reagan, one of the first U.S. Presidents I truly admired.  I've spent time at his library.  I'm amazed at how he kept his priorities ordered. It's obvious when you look at his life.  Even further back, the Bible tells of the discipline Joseph surely demonstrated as he served Potiphar and was granted such great favor.  I think of Joshua who gained favor with Moses with his service and ultimately led the Hebrews into the Promised Land.   I think of Nehemiah's great, faithful service as a cupbearer.   There are many others.

In the book of 1 Timothy, apostle Paul is writing to Timothy the young pastor, challenging him to not shrink back but to exercise his gift of leadership in spite of his age.  In 1 Timothy 4:7, he tells Timothy to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness.  He tells us in verse 8 that "Bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

In Chip Ingram's book "Good to Great in God's Eyes" he recommends several habits for us to prioritize in our life.  I've recommended them to you below:

1) Habit of priority - Putting God First -  Matthew 6:33.   How and when are you gathering yourself into God's presence?   Are you thirsting Psalm 42:1-2?   Are you waiting for Him? Psalm 130:6.

2) Habit of transformation - Take Out the Trash - Where are you drinking from the world's well?  For most of us, it is through media?  How do your media habits affect or effect your life?   Romans 12:2

3) Habit of responsibility - Do Your Own Dishes - Are you taking responsibility for yourself or are you blame shifting to others for your current state of affairs?   This was talked about in the context of finances in Luke 16:10.   Further, we are to not only look after our own affairs, but to look out for others. Philippians 2:4.  The implications here are that "our house is in order" before we begin helping others.

4) Habit of direction - Write it Down  - Proverbs 20:5.  What are your life objectives?   How do you keep them in the front of your consciousness?  How do you manage the details of your life?  How do you manage your calendar?  Your "To Do" lists?   How do you know you are doing the most effective thing you can be doing at every moment?

5) Habit of inertia - Do it Now -  Proverbs 24:30-34.   Procrastination can do a lot of damage.  It can change your whole life.  I've learned that I need to do my most difficult work when I'm at my best.  I do what I don't enjoy doing most early in the day before I can dread it!  If you cultivate habits that get the hard things and the small things done first, you will get more done!

6) Habit of restoration - Turn it off -  Hebrews 4:9-11. Are you being diligent to rest?  I've found when I'm most discouraged, most undisciplined, most ineffective, it's because I'm tired.  Are you getting the rest you need?  Are you spending a day with the cell phone and computer turned off?   Take a break!  You are working too hard!  Plan your break.  This is most likely the most difficult thing anyone can do.

Choosing form over finish will not come easy - especially if you've been like me and just want to "get 'er done."   Let me encourage you to take just one of the habits discussed by Chip Ingram above.  Just one.  Begin to cultivate it.  And watch what happens!  I think you'll find more happiness and even get more done in the process.

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