All Of It For Nothing
Yesterday, I had a classic parenting moment with my almost 7-year old daughter, Bailey. In the morning, she helped her father clean out the minivan and organize the garage. Then, she had a soccer game. Afterwards, she helped in the front yard digging out weeds, and then she came inside and helped me with our mountains of laundry. She even put away both of her little sisters’ clothes. For dinner, she set up the table for everyone, and all was good in the neighborhood. Bailey was beyond helpful that day, and we appreciated it (And, it was all with no whining or complaining, believe it or not!).
After everyone finished dinner, my husband asked the girls to help with the dishes. Our house rule is that whoever cooks does not clean, and everyone else helps out. My husband added in an incentive, “After you two help me with the dishes, then we can enjoy a brownie for dessert! Deal?” To which the happily willing children responded, “YES!”
But… Although Bailey agreed to the deal, she suddenly walked away from the kitchen and decided to read a book instead on the couch. In any other situation, this would be a wonderful alternative, of course, but she left her father high and dry. When it came time for dessert, we told her she couldn’t have one.
To an almost 7-year old, this was obviously an extremely unfair situation! We were the worstest, most meanest parents ever! We explained to her that she did not fulfill her end of the bargain - The deal was that she helped her father with the dishes, and then she got a brownie. Since she didn’t help with the dishes, no brownie. End of the story.
“BUT THAT’S NOT FAIR! I did everything today! I helped outside and inside! SO, I DID ALL OF THAT FOR NOTHING!”
In the end, we compromised with her, and gave her half a piece of a brownie.
And then it made me think, often in life, even as adults, we can work so hard on something only to be met with disappointment, and suddenly we conclude that all of it was for nothing.
We see this frequently in athletes who lose the championships, people going through a yucky divorce, interns who didn’t get the job position, students who didn’t get accepted into their dream schools, and clients who suddenly require surgery and can’t workout for 3-months.
Admittedly, I was a lot like this in my younger years. It’s why I started over so many times, why I quit so many times, why I had so many break ups, burnt bridges, and personal burn outs and depression.
I would find a new goal, cling to it, put all of my time and energy into it, and had an exact end result in mind. In my head, I was starting at A and expecting to reach Z. Life, however, does not work in alphabetical order. And, every time I did not reach Z, not only did I feel like a failure, but I also felt like I wasted all of my time and energy.
All of it was for nothing.
In hindsight (And especially now as a mother and coach), I realize how valuable all of those experiences were, and how much they have helped mold and shape me into who I am today. Without those experiences, I would not be who I am right now. Without those failures, detours, setbacks, and obstacles, I would not know resilience, grit, perseverance, success, and joy.
In CrossFit, I’ve experienced the “I did it all for nothing” feeling. When I started back in 2009, I quickly became competitive and tried to qualify for Regionals. I kept finishing in the top 100, barely missing qualifications. It was maddening. So, each year, I trained harder and longer. One year, I was actually in the top 50 and on my way to Regionals. The 4th week was in my wheelhouse - Power Cleans and Toes-to-Bar. I knew when the WOD was announced I was going to Regionals - This workout was going to seal the deal for me. However, that week, we had spring break in Hilton Head, so I had to plan accordingly to get it done at a local affiliate. No prob - I had it all figured out. What I DIDN’T expect, though, was to catch a stomach bug on the airplane ride over. In as little words as possible, I had stuff coming out of both ends, and without any control on my part. I had never been so sick in my life before. After three days of depletion, I tried to muster the energy to complete the WOD, but because my body was in such a deficit, I could barely finish one round. I watched all of my dreams crumble. I finished in like 800th place in that WOD, which obviously bumped me down a lot on the Leaderboard. I cried. A lot. And then I was angry - I did all of it for nothing!
But, let’s look at the big picture - While Regionals was my Z-point and I missed it, all of those things I did to try and get there gave me a TON of other invaluable gifts. I made a lot of friends along the way in local competitions, and connected with other affiliates. I gained a lot of self-confidence. I PR’d in every Open WOD (except the 4th one), and learned how to string together multiple ring muscle ups that year. I was the healthiest and fittest I had ever been in my life at just 9% body fat, no injuries or health conditions, and my nutrition was on-point! I had gained healthy habits and increased my quality of life as a coach, owner, mother, wife, and person. While I didn’t “kill it” in the Open, I was totally killin’ it in life!
It took me about 5 years to figure it out and learn this lesson, but I finally realized that I almost missed the best part of my journey. I almost missed out on all of the gifts I received along the way. Just like my daughter, I focused too much on the brownie, so when I didn’t get it, I pouted. I almost quit CrossFit at one point. Look at what I would be missing out on had I followed through on that.
While the “brownie treat” is an important part to motivation and goal-setting, it shouldn’t be the end all, be all. The brownie does NOT define and validate the journey. The brownie is NOT the destination. Death is our only destination, so until that day comes, brownies or not, it’s never “all for nothing.”
All of it, every single piece of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly, it’s ALL for learning and growing, and evolving into the best versions of ourselves through each stage of life.
When that next curveball comes (And yes, it will come if you get to live long enough), just KEEP SWINGING, my friends! ;-)