I Can’t Do It For You (Duh)

“I can’t do it for you!”

Many months into the pandemic, while still trying to get my post-virus stamina back, mixing up my routine with some online cardio dance seemed like a great idea. Enter Figure 8 Fitness with Jaana Kunitz, who loves calling out encouragement like “Keep going! I can’t do it for you!” or “Lift your knees higher! I can’t do it for you!”

In my weakened, grumpy state, her peppy rallying cries were a bit much. They prompted some grumbled replies like “I’m off the couch, I’m moving, what more do you want from me?!” as I grudgingly kept moving, even if my knees weren’t lifting very high.

Her frequent repetitions of “I can’t do it for you!” were particularly grating. On a good day, I might laugh it off with a mocking “well, duh!” Oh a bad day, when I just wanted to collapse on the couch, I was more prone to snapping “Nobody asked you to do it for me, Jaana!”

Yet, sometimes, the most profound revelations come from the most obvious observations.

I can’t do it for you!”

Jaana is absolutely right. She can’t do it for me. Even if she were to show up at my house, attach strings to me like a marionette, and move my body for me, that wouldn’t work.

If I want to get stronger, I have to put in the work myself. Buying an exercise video isn’t enough. Watching an exercise video isn’t enough. I have to physically get up and do the exercise.

“I can’t do it for you!”

It’s an incredibly obvious observation, but—if I’m really honest—there are plenty of times when I buy a workout video… or a foreign language app… or a book on nutrition… etc. and feel a sense of accomplishment… even though I haven’t done the thing yet.

“Look at me, buying a book on healthy eating! I will now be super healthy with perfect nutrition!” I might think, while skipping lunch because I ate too many Fritos for breakfast.

Or, on the flip side, I might be irritated at my lack of progress on something I do inconsistently. “I spent an hour playing the piano after not touching it for 6 months, why is this so hard?!”

Taking that further…

It’s the same with pretty much anything in life. There are resources everywhere, but they don’t do the work for you. Reading a guide on how to knit will not make a lovely scarf appear. You have to knit that scarf yourself, stitch by stitch.

As a writer, this has come up more than you might expect. Many people hear about my books and say, “I’ve always wanted to be a writer.” So, I ask what they’ve written, and often get a reply like, “Oh, I’ve never written anything, but I have lots of ideas.”

If you want to do something in life, you have to start doing it. Your first attempts will not be great. You will likely need to research and find a teacher who can show you what typically works for others. But, ultimately, you still have to do the work yourself.

I may not lift my knees as high as Jaana, but I’m off the couch and moving.

Because she can’t do it for me.

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