This morning I got to the gym and my trainer greeted me with a declaration along the lines of “There comes a time in a young man’s life when he is confronted with an epic challenge. The manner in which you approach this challenge will determine the quality of your character for the rest of your life.”
Which got me thinking: What sort of character do I have?
It was a question that had been tugging at the back of my mind for the past couple of days. You see, I had taken stock over the weekend of certain goals that I had set for myself (sticking to my marathon training schedule, practicing choral music on non-running days, going to bed earlier, eating more healthily), and I’d fallen short on every one. What did that say about my character? Am I a lazy, unfocused person who lacks self-discipline? If character is the sum and total of a person’s choices, then maybe yes.
I decided to pay attention to the decision points that arose during the day, and to note how I handled them — with the idea that I might gain some additional insight into my character. Here’s what I got:
Challenge: After a rigorous legs work-out at the gym, do I still go running as planned? Even though it’s pouring rain? Or do I take a “recovery” morning and put the run off until tomorrow?
Decision: I went running, right after the work-out, through the rain.
Challenge: Do I eat an untasty lunch at the law-firm cafeteria upstairs? Or do I walk the five blocks to my favorite cafe to get something delicious — through the pouring rain, wearing newly pressed trousers and leather-soled shoes without my wellies?
Decision: I braved the rain (sacrificing my shoes and trouser crease) and had a delicious lunch.
Challenge: Do I go to bed at 10:00pm, as planned, and get up at the crack of dawn to finish a work project for tomorrow’s deadline? Or do I stay up working until midnight, on the theory that I’m already in the groove?
Decision: I blew through bedtime hours ago and only just set aside my work — which is still unfinished. Looks like I’ll still be getting up at the crack of dawn to finish it.
Challenge: When I get peckish before midnight, do I eat a granola bar or some plain Greek yogurt? Or do I eat pink and white circus animal cookies with sprinkles on them?
Decision: I ate the cookies. (And instantly regretted it. For some reason those cookies were much more delicious when I was eight years old. Maybe it’s because I was washing them down with milk and not diet Coke.)
It could be worse, but I suspect it’s a spotty character at best. Adding “fix my character” to my list of things to do…