In the fitness program that I’m in right now, we were asked to choose a “power word” or phrase (that’s the acceptable Christian substitution for “mantra”) and keep a record of how often we used it. I chose something off the top of my head and ended up using it only a few times during the week in question. But last Tuesday, two events converged to suggest a power phrase that I’m actually going to use–and that I consider worth blogging about.
Event #1: Tuesday evening, my team completed a tough AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) workout involving sandbags. It wasn’t a race, but for the first few rounds, it would be very obvious how fast each person was working. Cocky and obnoxious as I am, I assumed that because I’m already a regular exerciser, I would be one of the faster participants. So imagine my pride-goeth-before-a-fall devastation when I realized I was the only person still at the starting line doing overhead lifts while every single other member of my team–all nine of them–had moved to the next spot to do squats. I was in dead last place.
If you’re even a casual reader of my blog, you probably know that I like winning, and I tend to turn things that aren’t competitions into competitions. So even though I got a really great workout Tuesday night, and my team ended up getting more reps in this workout than any of the other three teams (that part of it actually was a competition), I went home feeling embarrassed at how slow I had been. The fact that I started out using one of the heaviest sandbags didn’t make me feel better, especially because I had to give it up fifteen minutes into the workout and use a lighter weight.
Event #2: When I got home, I decided to mow my lawn while I was sweaty anyway. While mowing, I listened to Mumford and Sons’ Babel. (I was listening to this album over and over last week in preparation for a podcast I recorded on Thursday with my colleague The Pop Song Professor–more on this next week, probably.) One of my favorite songs on that album is “Lover’s Eyes,” which contains these lyrics, repeated multiple times: “I’ll walk slow/I’ll walk slow/Take my hand, help me on my way.” I had already noticed that the whole album seems to have a theme of humility and willingness to be taught and led–think of lines like “Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn” (from “Below My Feet,” another of my favorites). But on Tuesday night while I was mowing, the line “I’ll walk slow” struck me for obvious reasons. And later, yet another of my favorite songs, “Not with Haste,” struck me as well–again, for obvious reasons, I hope.
Since Tuesday night, that line “I’ll walk slow” has come to my mind many times, such as when I worried about once again coming in last place in Thursday evening’s workout. It may be a counterintuitive “power phrase,” but–like many people, I suspect–I usually don’t have to make myself try harder or go faster. I have to make myself slow down and enjoy what I’m doing. I have to learn how to accept not being the best, and specifically, the fastest. I sometimes have to, as the lyric says, reach out my hand and allow myself to be led by people who are better at things than I am. I have to be okay with slow progress in areas of my life where I want to see immediate change. Because–and now I’m going to preach for a second–walking slow is better than standing still.