The aim of my latest self-improvement project has been determination, ie not giving up so easily at everything. I’ve never really learned how to persevere when things get hard; I didn’t have to work too hard at school, I gave up on learning the guitar after exhausting Greenday’s first album, and I’ve never played any sports competitively. Determination is something that is grown and improved upon and honestly, I’m afraid of a bit of hard work and am lacking in mental, as well as physical, stamina.
Why improve my determination?!
Before embarking upon any self-improvement task, whilst the idea is still bubbling away in my mind, I always reflect upon whether the self-improvement point is necessary, and whether it will be worth the effort (it’s important to conserve time and energy for tasks which are relevant because, hell, there’s a long list to get through.) I concluded that determination was going to be my new focus because:
- I’m at a stage in my life where cruising is unacceptable (despite what the tabloids say, they don’t just hand out First Class degrees y’know.) I want to be good at things, and to be good at things means working hard at them. Sidenote – if you want to become an expert at something, Malcom Gladwell reckons you’ve gotta spend 10,000 hours being determined.
- Improving determination in one area of life is claimed to mean an automatic transferral into other areas of life, which means an effective use of time and effort. I wanted to test this out.
- It really sucks not having the mental willpower to keep going, and I always feel like crap after giving up easily. Obviously, it’s nice to find ways to avoid feeling like crap!
How could I improve my determination?!
Urgh, I hate running. So much. Therefore, it was the perfect to help improve my determination!
After thinking over a few ideas, I realised that running/jogging was my best bet for improving my mental and physical perseverance because:
- I could simultaneously improve my fitness
- It’s free
- Why not? Being young and physically healthy, I have no excuse not to engage in more sport
- It’s not too time-consuming
- I HATE RUNNING
Determining the mission
The Challenge: run two miles every day. Hey, 2 miles is a lot for me!
The Rules: I have to run every day. I cannot not run. (unless I’m away/on the brink of death.) The aim of the challenge is to build up perseverance so the emphasis was on running every single day – even if I walked some of the way, I had to complete the two miles. This is because I knew that the hardest part for my brain would be getting off the sofa and onto the pavement every single day, rather than the running itself.
So, for the past month, unless I’ve been gracing the streets of Paris or London like a good Erasmus student should, I have run every, single day. No matter how busy my day, how bad the weather or how comfortable the sofa, every afternoon I’ve plugged in Serial (you’ve gotta get on this podcast series, it’s the bomb) and pounded the mean streets of Chenove.
Here’s a pic to prove it…
This is an ongoing experiment, and I’m writing this with the hope that I will continue on my mission. In the mean time, here are some preliminary – though accurate and seemingly permanent – results:
- I feel great after every single run! My endorphin levels are through the roof when I finish, and sometimes I even do squats afterwards!
- My body loves it and yearns for a run on days when I can’t run.
- My overall mood has improved because I’ve set myself a challenge and my brain is loving the heightened stimulation.
- I still hate running! I almost never actually want to go on a run and I don’t enjoy the actual run itself. But I’m not finding excuses any more, and I’m always up and off the sofa when it gets to jogging o’clock.
There have been some unexpected, but good, side effects too:
- It has improved my delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is when you make yourself wait a certain amount of time to get a bigger reward rather than taking the immediate, smaller reward. In this case, I never want to run but I’m slowly convincing myself that it will be worth the pain and endurance in order to get the kick of endorphins at the end.
- Improved eating habits – being more in tune with my body has meant zero reported cases of binge-eating.
- Losing weight – wahey!
The crux of the matter: has it improved my determination?
- In running, yes! Emphatically yes! I no longer stop halfway through, and the other day I even found myself running through a stitch, which I never even thought possible.
- In other areas of life – I think so! At this moment in time it’s hard to assess fully because I have no areas where my determination is really being tested, seeing as I’ve completed exam season. However, I have noticed a marked improvement in my perseverance with household tasks like cleaning, with reading books, and with wearing tasks like planning and researching various things. I’m definitely not giving up as easily as before.
As mentioned, this is an ongoing task, and the ultimate results remain to be seen. However, it has definitely been worthwhile so far, because I’ve put in place a perseverance framework, which is starting to bear fruits. In this self-improvement project, I identified the problem (lack of determination), reasoned whether it was worth improving (determination is a key virtue in life), and put in place a method to support the improvement (running to specific rules which could not be broken). Though I cannot say definitively whether this project has improved my determination on a general level, I can qualitatively assert that my running perseverance has definitely improved, as I kept a special diary which I added to after every run. I’ll leave you with a few excerpts.
Day 1: “Feeling great! Didn’t stop, feeling the endorphins now! Glad I plucked up the courage to do it, I’m on a high!”
Day 8: “Feeling good! Still not keen to go running beforehand but starting to see, through the hate, the benefits of delayed gratification even before I go on the run. Rand the whole way despite the heat, feeling great, lots of endorphins. Also enjoying the benefits of a tummy that’s starting to disappear!”
Day 14: “Did it! Dashed out between rain showers; hesitated slightly to go but couldn’t persuade myself not to go because I’m going to London tomorrow and I won’t be able to run. (ie, it’s becoming an addiction!) Podcast stopped for about half of the run but I didn’t stop!!!”
Day 15: “…Actually got a stitch halfway through but wondered if I could keep running through the pain – turns out I could, which is cool! Feeling good now, needed the run after all the pizza I’ve been eating!”