When Haruki Murakami decided to become a novelist, he realized he would need great stamina to persist in the writing process. Novels are long-duration creative projects. He wasn't sure if he had that kind of stamina, or the ability to focus long enough in a writing session to gather and record thoughts. The prospect of doing that day after day, for a year or more, worried him.
Murakami decided to take up long distance running. The demands of training for and running marathons would change his brain — or so he hoped — and give him a chance to sit at a desk and concentrate long enough to compose a novel of 60,000 words or more.
His four novels have all been bestsellers and critically acclaimed. Now, it's not a given that running leads to bestsellers. But he found a way to transform his life and he used his physical fitness training to fuel his efforts.
But how do you turn your new habit for fitness into something that transforms your life?
Make the habit and the habit makes you
As the habit for fitness takes hold, you will notice changes in how you feel even when you're not exercising. First of all, you will begin to look forward to your activities because your body will anticipate the release of serotonin after the exertion. You will be more alert because your sleep has likely improved. And your energy level increases because you've trained your body to process oxygen more efficiently and to manage sugar in the blood stream. Put simply, everything about your life will improve because of daily exercise.
You may feel joy or appreciate the world around you. You have transformed your physical presence in the world.
Use the extra energy
Around the time that your fitness is improving, it will become easier to get your daily activity done. You won't have to force yourself, and remind yourself, and work so very hard to make it happen. The habit becomes easier to keep. This is a one-two punch of goodness for you.
As your energy levels increase, your energy demands decrease. You can contemplate tackling other projects without putting your daily habit at risk. And after the nine months or a year of daily fitness becomes second nature (i.e., truly habitual) your confidence should further encourage you to take on other projects.
This is a great time to begin other training, such as learning a musical instrument, taking night classes, or practicing macrame — whatever it is that will satisfy your passion.
Pick a bigger goal
Now is the time to make a plan to achieve the bigger goal that will realize your dream. If you want to win a Grammy or an Emmy, then you should set some goals for music, acting, or writing that will lead you down that path.
If you want to change careers, then you'll want to focus on getting the training you need, finding a mentor, and networking with people in that field to prepare for the job search.
The point is that you will leverage changes you've made to your brain — as exemplified by your fitness habit — to transform other aspects of your life. You will have the confidence, energy and tenacity to persist through many challenges, because you are no longer who you used to be.
You are on your way to becoming the person you want to be.
You have to work hard to be happy in Cleveland
If your goal is to find happiness at the end of a year of fitness, you'll be disappointed. Happiness is not something you find.
Happiness is a by-product, not a goal. You experience happiness when you work on things that matter to yourself and to people you love. Setting a goal of being happy won't work. You might mistake going to a resort and experiencing pleasant things as happiness, but you are just enjoying the pleasantries. That's not lasting happiness. When you return home to your normal life, you will miss the resort. The joy stays there. It doesn't travel with you back to Cleveland.
When I started improving my life, about ten years ago, with a daily fitness habit, I didn't find happiness either. I found I had to keep working at things to achieve them, but I was happy. If I gave up on working at things, that's when I was unhappy.
More than anything, it's the fact that I become happy by working hard at things I want to accomplish that keeps me doing it. I persist because of the happiness I experience. But I won't ever find happiness.
You won't either, but I hope you experience it while trying to achieve your dreams.
And I hope that you make whatever changes are necessary in your life to satisfy your passion.