I ran into an old friend today while I was out and about running errands.
Michelle and I used to cruise Main Street together in our small Midwestern town, long before we built families and began paying bills.
Michelle looked fantastic. Her biceps were buff and her jeans fit just right. She explained that she was training for an ultra marathon, her second in two years.
I was proud of my old friend above all, but I have to admit that a sprig of jealousy sprouted when I saw her size two waistline and calves of steel. I want those things, too.
But the truth is, I just don’t want them enough.
The difference between Michelle and I, when it comes down to it, is that she is willing to pay the price to become outstanding in what she does, while I am not.
Michelle wakes up at the crack of dawn, rain or shine, and works out for hours. I like my sleep, and more often than not, I will hit snooze 12 times before my feet hit the floor. Once they do, unless someone large and armed is trying to grab me, I’ll be damned before I put them in a pair of Adidas.
Michelle keeps track of every ounce of protein, every bite of carbs, and every gram of fat that goes in her body. She knows what kind and how much nutrition she’s taking in down to the smallest molecule.
Me, I like my chicken salad wraps and Diet Mountain Dew. I don’t even care how many ounces of what kind of deliciousness are in those things. And let me just say, if I did know and care and had to write it down, I’m not above lying about it.
Also, Michelle misses out on a lot of other life stuff. Her training schedule is her priority, and everything else is in second place, from her kids’ school events to social happenings (and did I mention sleep?), everything outside of her workouts and prep have to be delegated, truncated, or missed altogether.
She and her family are okay with that, which is super cool and all, but she has a level of discipline in that department that me and my “flexible schedule” will never make nice with.
Michelle is outstanding, when it comes to her physical achievements. I am not. The difference? She has weighed the cost and agreed to pay the price.
In sociology and psychology, this is called the social exchange theory. This idea says that we take a look at the costs versus the benefits of every relationship and choice, and we have to determine if it’s worth the price to us.
It turns out that social theorists have figured out that we like a good bargain. If we feel like we’re getting a deal, and that the benefits outweigh the costs, we’ll go for it. But if we decide the cost is more than what the benefits are worth to us, we drop those people and choices like hot potatoes and move on to the next sale.
I have decided that cost is too high to live like Michelle does, and so I will never be an amazing ultra runner, as much as I’d like to see that in my epitaph.
It doesn’t feel like a conscious decision, but as it turns out, my actions speak louder than my words. I’ve had the choice all along to work out religiously, eat all the right things, and spend my time honing my abilities. But I don’t.
I have decided what I will and will not pay for, and I reinforce those decisions with my actions every day.
We all want things out of life. We all want to be fantastic at something. In order to become that, we have to look at the cost and make a decision whether or not we are willing to pay it.
If we want to lose weight, we have to decide if we want to exercise our bodies and our self-control in the kitchen, or if we want to relax on the couch with a frozen pizza and a glass of wine at the end of the day. Either way is fine, and no one is going to give a rip what we do, but the choice is up to us.
If we want to be in a serious romantic relationship, we have to recognize that we will pay the price of foregoing other dates and spending our time, money and emotional energy becoming part of a “we” instead of remaining an “I.” We have to be willing to pay in vulnerability, honesty, and sometimes more patience and love than we thought ourselves capable of.
If we want to spend months or years traveling the world, we have to recognize the cost of leaving stability behind, foregoing experiences like having pets, planting gardens and spending time with friends and family, and possibly even having children in our lives—not to mention the monetary and career costs involved.
If we want to start our own business, we have to decide we want to spend countless hours in front of our computers, network at every event that comes up instead of spending time with loved ones, and be willing to take on the risks associated with going it alone.
Or, in any case—or any of millions of other decisions—we can decide the cost isn’t worth it to us, and go a different direction.
Again, no right answers, just different choices.
Can we change our choices, especially the unconscious ones? Absolutely. But we have to come to terms that there is a price to pay for anything we want to achieve. The more we want it, the more it’s worth to us.
There is always something in which we can be outstanding, if we choose to be. The important thing is that it is our choice. We just have to decide if we’re interested in footing the bill.
Author: Amanda Chistmann
Editor: Catherine Monkman
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