Do what you know to do. At first glance, that particular statement doesn’t seem very profound. It was first spoken to me several years ago by my first spiritual director. I thought, “well… yeah.” However, as often happens when someone says something of profoundness to me, it began working on my soul. Perhaps I can rephrase it with a couple of examples if it hasn’t hit you yet.
I don’t know the exact percentage, so I’ll guess around 90 percent. 90 percent of us are able to lose weight with a healthy diet and exercise. I know genetics play into this figure (hence the remaining 10 percent). But most of us with the right calorie intake and moderate exercise can shed unwanted pounds. Don’t eat the brownie and lace up your running shoes. Yet, because we are master rationalizers, we often look for the next dieting fad or exercise video. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that approach – but more often than not it’s simple hard work and discipline to lose the weight.
If our finances are a wreck, there are a plethora of websites and blogs with solid foundational principles on how to budget and get out of debt. I’m in the process of reworking a budget, so I know the sites are out there. I’ve read several stories of individuals and families who were in deep debt, with limited incomes, who dug their way out. How? They budgeted every penny and started throwing as much money as they could afford at the problem.
A previous pastor of mine said, “We are educated far beyond our level of obedience.” More often than not, we have the information we need, we just choose to do otherwise. In short, we don’t do what we know to do.
I bring this up in my weekly blog post because I’ve evaluated a lot of my personal habits lately. I blame the New Year bug. Evaluation is a good thing though. I’m re-evaluating my finances, my reading list, how I spend my time, and my spiritual disciplines. And ultimately, I kept hearing myself repeat this phrase: “I should be…” I should be doing better with a budget, I should be journaling more, I should be reading more books, I should (it’s a long list). Now, when I get to that place, I can feel a bit overwhelmed and watch Netflix instead. Then God reminded me of that phrase: “Do what you know to do.”
I know how to journal, pick good books (or ask some people what they are reading), budget, exercise, and increase my spiritual bandwidth. It’s not a lack of information, it’s a lack of doing. So then the question is, why don’t we do what we know we should do?
There are many ways to answer that question, but one that I keep landing on is: Immediacy. We work out for a week, we journal for a while, we make a budget, but then we trail off and don’t keep on “doing”. In a culture that is inevitably tied to instant, long-lasting benefits and results hardly ever come in microwave form. Yet, we keep hoping to find the shortcut.
Here is what’s really cool though. When we keep on doing, we get the results we wanted in the first place. And, it’s ultimately far more gratifying than that quick fix we were dreaming of. Habitat for Humanity has a phrase called “sweat equity”. Every prospective Habitat home owner has to put in a serious amount of hours to receive a home from Habitat. Why? Because they will have worked for that home. The old fashioned way. Blood, sweat, and tears.
If you journal for a week, you may read through what you wrote and think, “this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.” Yet, journal for a month, and you may find yourself more emotionally centered. Work out for a week, budget for a week, read for a week… you get the idea. But over the course of time those disciplines start reaping serious benefits.
Does this process work? Yes. Is it easy? Rarely. But this process also comes with a high probability of success. Here’s a bit of encouragement. Don’t look at your “should do” list and try to tackle everything at once. Instead, pick one area and decide to do. Make a budget and set a goal to look at it, at minimum, once a week. Work out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Journal for 15 minutes a day. These may not seem like they will make a dent, but over time they will. And then as you start seeing results it will give you the energy and positive reinforcement to do more. To quote from the movie The Waterboy (yes, I went there) “You can do it!”
Off to do something,