The flatscreen caught my attention. I’m not a fan of broadcast or cable TV. It bores me. Thirty minutes and I feel like my brain ate a bag of candy, and a pizza, and drank 2 liters of Coke. But this time I stopped, stood and watched an entire re-run of America’s Biggest Loser. You know the show: It captures contestants as they work valiantly to change their physical health by losing weight. A lot of weight.
At some point and upon hearing the back-story of the largest mobile man I had ever seen, I muttered, “How did that happen?” Another person overheard and said compassionately, “One bite at a time.” She had no judgement, no malice, no mockery in her voice.
Part way through his exercise routine—a 15 minute walk on a treadmill set on level 1—the contestant complained, “I can’t do this!” He was suffering and wanted to quit. His trainer shouted, “Keep going! You were made for this!” So he kept going. And kept complaining. I followed up later and found that he lost all of his target weight and has kept it off for nearly two years. One bite, one step, one decision at a time.
A dear friend just completed a year marked with deep struggle, personally and professionally; the kind of struggle that combined would crush most people I know. Yet his humor is in tact. His relationships are strong. His perspective is fresh. His creativity inspiring. After our last conversation I found myself asking, “How did he get that way? How did he become so resilient?” He became resilient one choice at a time.
Donnie Q and I talked about him today. Donnie said, “He’s built for the storm isn’t he?” That phrase intrigued me. Some people see themselves that way. They imagine themselves well suited for wind, rain, high seas and the intensity of a significant life. They have thought of themselves that way for years. Their hourly choices reflect that image.
Others I know see themselves as delicate, fragile, perpetually in search of calm seas and sandy shores, deserving of all the soft things a wealthy culture can offer. They weather storms, but barely. They complain bitterly while doing so. They see looming adversity as a forecast of some fundamental flaw in the world, in their family, in their friendships, in themselves. They see the cold blast of challenge as something to be avoided at all cost.
How do you see yourself? When you look in the mirror do you see someone built for the storm? When you listen to your inner narrator, does he or she say, “You’ve got this. You’re built for this!” or mutter something else?
Our daily choices reflect how we see ourselves and how we see life’s challenges. Our small choices—the ones other people wouldn’t even notice—all add up to make us who we are. They spring from a clear image. Do you see yourself as someone built for the storm? Or, as someone built for perpetual vacation in a calm port with sandy beaches?