The Power of Enthusiasm

I had a boyfriend once (yes! it’s true! I really did!!) who would irritate the living daylights out of me in the morning. He’d spring out of bed with the energy of someone in the middle of a cocaine binge and shout “It’s time to make the donuts!” (apparently that was a line from an old Dunkin Donuts commercial) My mistake was letting him know I found this behavior extremely irritating. Like “I’m-fantasizing-about-punching-you-in-the-face-right-now” irritating. As soon as he saw that chink in my armor, this became his normal early morning routine. Sometimes he’d also jump on the bed like a five-year-old or run around the room making loud noises.

All while I stared at him with such angry intensity that it’s amazing he didn’t spontaneously combust… but I had yet to perfect my pyrokinesis skills.

Truth be told, I’ve almost always gotten up pretty early. I just feel like I get so much more accomplished when I get an early start. The mornings set the tone of productivity of the rest of the day; however, I’ll admit, the secret to the success of this formula had always been my consumption of copious amounts of coffee. I needed excessive caffeine to create an artificial vigor to get me going. The thing is, I was never enthusiastic in the mornings. I never got excited about what the day was going to present me with. Quite honestly, I’d often begin my day with trepidation about all the things I had to do, worry about things outside of my control, and fear over situations that usually never even materialized.

And I know I’m not alone. I think this is the norm for a lot of people simply because we live in a world so consumed with negativity that it’s hard not to get bogged down by it. If we’re consistently emphasizing the bad, getting our minds off the trajectory of negativity and surmising the OOMPH to wake up each day excited about the possibilities can be extremely difficult. BUT, with practice — it’s possible.

There’s a difference between just being positive, and being positively enthusiastic. Over the last few weeks, I’ve made a conscious decision to go beyond maintaining a positive outlook to also maintain consistent enthusiasm. When I read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden in college, there was a quote that struck me deeply and instantly became a favorite. It goes:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

The thing is, I never really lived what Thoreau was saying here. In this quote, he’s explaining that he wanted to live in a way that totally sucked life dry — to live with such vigor, enthusiasm and energy each day as to know that when he came to die, he’d be able to say he’d really lived up this thing called life. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty cool stuff.

So what am I suggesting, exactly? How do you embrace each day with the full force of all you have? Well, it’s pretty simple: you just decide to. You have to monitor your thoughts a lot at first because you’ll find yourself sinking back into to your old pessimistic attitudes. But when you do this, recognize what’s happening, adjust your focus, and realign yourself. Keep a mental list of things that ignite you and draw from that when you’re having trouble picking yourself up. What things really get you amped? What makes you tick? What makes life feel like life is this awesome, amazing gift that YOU get to experience? Think about those things and use them to adjust your frame of reference when you’re in a tough situation or around energy-sucking people.

What does any of this have to do with fitness? Oh, my young docent, it has everything to do with it. Next time you’re at the gym, look around and ask yourself, who is really excited about their workouts. How many people can you spot who are genuinely happy to be there, enthusiastic about working toward their goals, and have carved out a clear path to achieving them? In most health clubs, those folks represent a fraction of the gym crowd. Most people half-heartedly slump over a treadmill for 20 minutes or do a couple bicep curls with the same weight and reps they’ve been doing for the last three years. There is no enthusiasm.

But check it, our boy Ralph explains perfectly why we must make the necessary adjustments to get excited about our fitness — and any goals we have, for that matter:

Now, go find some shit to get amped about and make life happen!