Felt the best kind of tired and satisfied after hitting my training target workout last week. I sure do love this gym – hot, sweaty, tiny cardio room included.

You can do anything you set your mind to. If you believe in yourself, you will be successful. Life spoiler alert: neither are true. Several years ago I gave up those ideas. Don’t pity me or try to change my mind, please. I’m better for it. 

Running those silly stairs in the downtown YMCA – every time I run past the second floor I see the words of Henry Ford:  “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’tyoure right.” Seems benign enough, right? A little bit of motivation for the group fitness class that’s about to kick my butt, with an emphasis on the power of the mind over the body, and the power we have to influence our situations. But I resent that. And somewhere inside I secretly resent people who say that you can do anything you set your mind to or believe the idea that if you believe in yourself and your abilities, you will succeed. It’s salt on a still-fresh wound of having set my mind to being athletically successful time after time when the reality was  that I was sick and had no control over my body, my athleticism, and thus my athletic success. No amount of hard work, positive thinking, or belief in myself changed the reality.

My effort and “getting back up again”after being knocked down did not end how I hoped or how the belief-in-yourself mantra promised me it would, and I was disenchanted. I believed in myself and put in hard work yet was confronted with disappointment until I hated my body and emotionally disconnected from the sport that had been so life-giving to me.

It’s too painful and too tiring to keep putting your entire heart into something that doesn’t work out, no matter what it is that you’re putting your heart into. So I took my heart out of it. That’s not something I want to do again, though. Our hearts are not just our most precious commodity, they are the entirety of who we are. When we put our “whole heart” into something, we put all of ourselves into it. That wholeheartedness is one of the most terrifying necessities of this life. Terrifying because any thing that we do put our whole heart into has the chance to take that heart and smash it. A necessity because life is not meant to be lived half-heartedly. It seems like a good and safe idea to keep your heart protected but the reality of it is a different story. 

Giving our hearts away to whatever and whoever comes our way is foolish. Protecting that heart to the degree that you never do anything whole-heartedly is dangerous. Maybe that’s the thing in all of life: to be shrewd but kind, to be cautious but open, to be wise but whole-hearted. Maybe it’s wise-heartedness that’s the thing. 

When I finally realized I had come to hate my own body because it hadn’t served me well, my outlook changed. Having compassion on my own self means something to me now. I still don’t think I can do anything I set my mind to, not in a defeated way but in a wise way. I have a much more holistic and kind approach because my body no longer works for me, instead it is a part of me and is treated as such.

We are not victims of our circumstances but neither are we totally in control of them. Sure, there are certain things we feel like we have a handle on but even those things slip through our fingers at one point or another. So there’s some balance that I can’t put my finger on – saying you can do anything you set your mind to is saying that we are completely in control of our circumstances. Claiming that we are victims means that our situations rule us and we have no say in what happens. Neither are entirely true. Like most of life, there’s a gray area that needs to be embraced. 

I don’t know the end to this story for me. I know you can’t get things just by trying, just by putting more of your heart into it. But I do know you can’t live life putting only a portion of your heart into something. There’s some sort of magical balance – to put your whole heart into something but not rely on that thing, not abuse that thing, and not maintain unrealistic expectations. Most of all, I’ve found the one thing that never lets me down and never changes and is not dependent upon me or my efforts. With every thing else in life, the balance and the wisdom is required. 

Reclaim your heart and get to know it. Then put it – all of it – where it needs to be. My goal is to live whole-heartedly and wise-heartedly. 


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