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Embrace 'The Suck'
(Hard Times) and
learn from them
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opinion columns
by Richard Harris

   Did you hear about the guy who gave up drinking, smoking, cursing, lying, cheating, gossiping, and eating fried food? He was very proud of his accomplishment, but admitted that it was the longest and hardest 30 minutes of his life.

   If you're one of the many people who made a New Year's Resolution for 2018, I'm hope you've lasted longer than 30 minutes and I wish you the best of luck. However, if you fail, don't kick yourself too hard. According to a recent study, 82% of resolutions fail and the vast majority of them never make it out of February.
   Personally, I've never had luck with a January 1st resolution and have found that it can be a bit depressing to make one and then fail. I do think the start of a new year is a good time to reflect on one's life and how it can be improved, but my suggestion is to replace a hard-and-fast resolution to do something with a goal of simply working toward something.
   Many years ago I realized that as a Christian I should be ashamed that I had never read the Bible. Sure, I'd read portions of it many times, but never all of it. So, my New Year's resolution was to read the entire Bible in a year. I found one of the plans to do so, but failed to make it anywhere near the entire year. That process repeated itself numerous times and I was disappointed in myself each time that I gave up.
  I eventually discovered the Daily Audio Bible, in which you can listen to someone else read the entire Bible in a year. It seemed easy at first, but I still struggled to keep up and failed to complete it two years in a row. I came to realize that while the goal was good, the pressure was not.
   So, in 2017, instead of putting pressure on myself, I approached it with the attitude that even if I didn't stay on track, the days that I did would be well worth it. As the months rolled by, I realized that reading (or listening to) the Bible in a single year wasn't what was important. The important thing was for me to spend time with God's Word on a regular basis. Twelve months later I had gone from Genesis thru Revelation.
   Failing to do what you should do and trying to do better is a part of life. As another example, like many people, when I hit my early-30s (and my wife forced me to go to the doctor for a check-up), I found that my health wasn't anywhere near where it needed to be. My cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and pretty much everything they measure was high.
   I resolved to eat healthier and exercise. The eating healthier part was fairly easy, as my wife saw my check-up results and she does the grocery shopping and almost all of the cooking. The exercising part was much more difficult. In my mind I was still that active 18-year-old baseball player, but in reality I was a stressed out couch potato who occasionally watched baseball on TV while eating junk food.
   While it wasn't New Year's, I continually "resolved" to do X, Y, or Z exercise program in order to get in shape. I also continually failed. After a while I simply decided to have a goal of working toward being able to run 3.1 miles (the 5K race distance) without stopping to walk. Once I achieved that goal, I made a new goal to be able to run it in under 30 minutes. As the years passed, the goals continued to change. However, if I had skipped the first goal, the others would have never been possible.
   The point is to start with a goal that you can reasonably see yourself achieving and to work toward that goal without an unrealistic deadline. It's a lesson I've had to relearn many times in my evolution as a runner. When I was in my mid-30s I told myself that I'd run a marathon before I turned 40. When I hit 39, I pushed that deadline to 41. I finally ran my first half-marathon when I was 45 and didn't complete a full marathon until this year at age 48.
   However, while I missed my goal by a smidge (OK, I was around 13 years late), I kept working toward it, because I finally learned that what's important is to keep putting one foot in front of the other without giving up. You have to "embrace the suck." The "suck" is the hard times. When it's freezing and you can't feel your toes or fingers. When it's hot and you feel everything. When it's raining. When you're tired. When you're hurt. When you have a thousand other things to do. When the progress slows – or even slips away as you seem to get slower instead of faster.
   None of that is fun, but without the hard stuff, the fun stuff ­– the progress and the accomplishments – don't happen. They are two sides of the same coin and cannot be separated.
   That's an important lesson in life, too, and not just in running. I've heard it said that life is like a marathon, but I think life is like training for a marathon. Becoming the person you want to be is no easy task and it doesn't happen overnight. You will fail many times along the way. You will disappoint yourself and others. At times, it will "suck", but that's when you learn the important lessons.
   In the history of mankind, nobody has ever successfully resolved to live a perfect life. As the great philosopher Dolly Parton said, "If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."
   My wish for you, dear reader, is that in 2018 you find a way to embrace the suck and let it make you a better person instead of a bitter person. Happy New Year!