I used to work in concrete, a field of construction, which was vigorous physical labor. Our bosses knew this and also the demands they were asking from the workers. In concrete, hours are tough and long. Foreman’s encouraged us to work smarter and not harder. At the time I was young and radiating with a lot of naivety. I believed hard work and hustle overcame everything. My thought process was to go all-or-nothing effort, but after some time it certainly began to wear on me quick.
This can be a relatable circumstance for many of us. The end result became more desire for sleep and poor nutritional foods that only gave me spikes of alertness for small waves of time. It dug me into a hole in very short amount of time. Physically, mentally, and emotionally I got to a point of frustration and then ultimately stopped believing in myself. Exhausted. I should have listened.
Work for me is a token or symbol of how well somebody tries. Growing up it always seemed like my elders were encouraging one thing the most. That was to try your best. Yet, my best never was enough, and so then it became “try harder.” It worked well in sports and gave me some credibility. Although, I transitioned into the adult world and that mentality was tested and broken. Why wasn’t trying “enough” anymore? I wasn’t ready to give up on that.
Trying is always the catalyst for new thoughts and ideas. I have always known that because it always happens that way. The only thing that stops me from remembering this eternal fact is if I buy into a pitch that somebody else’s effort is better than mine and insurmountable. That’s not true. It just got me to thinking I needed to quit earlier because it was okay. To leave projects unfinished regardless of how I felt. I would start and then not finish. “It’s not good enough.” “It’s pointless anyways.” There was an inner bully that I had allowed to bring me down. It was time to start listening.
I began working smarter. A small moment of recognition came one day when I had completed a task at work. Instead of asking my foreman if the job I had done was good in order to move on, in which I usually did, I had just picked something else to do and started something new. In retrospect, I think I was going to him every time because I craved that “Atta’ boy” spirit, but it usually resulted in a couple of meticulous mistakes that I made that needed corrected before I could move on.
Eventually, and ironically, my work became noticed and praised moreso in not going to him. I figured that if he wanted me to do something else he would just tell me. Seeing him less and less and that afforded me a lot of stress relief. I could work at my pace and didn’t have to hustle so much. I kept that mentality going forward and it led me into the field of fitness. Good things were now happening.
Fitness has taught me a lot of resolve. It has allowed me to understand that there is more to effort than how hard you try, or even how smart you are about it. There is a combination of trying hard and working smart that I call “trying further.” This is the point where I know I have met enough requirements to allow myself to be done, but need to do just a little bit more in order to feel done with it.
Wow! What a feeling. Being done. I guess all along I had never felt that because everyone was always asking for more. When I started to take responsibility for my own work, and when I progressed forward on my own was the moment I could regain a sense for when something is done. But I have to try further. That means self-accountability mixed with self-reliability.
If you don’t feel finished or where you need to be at, then you need to go further. Don’t allow something else to take that away from you. No reward is worth the pleasure of quitting early. Trust yourself with this and it will bring you reward just to be able to trust yourself.
Trey Tompkins is a local resident who writes fitness columns for the Record-Herald.