Avoid Urgency; Cultivate Intensity Instead

I used to have this creature that lived just under my sternum.

It made my heart race when I would miss practices or off-skates training. It would expand and make my chest feel tight when I didn’t feel like I was improving quickly enough. Or doing good enough things on the track. Or seeing the results I thought I was working towards.

This creature would gnaw at me; at my heart, at my lungs, at my brain. And the gnawing became words and feelings:

  • You can’t eat that, you’ll gain a million pounds.
  • Can you really afford to skip a day of practice? Really?
  • That game sucked, better hit it even harder before the next one.

This creature was urgency.

It operated on the idea that there was only ever a destination. It was “my way or the highway”. It was all-or-nothing. It was a hard deadline.

Urgency is harried. It’s messy. It sucks you in and won’t spit you back out because you become a slave to meeting the deadline or reaching the goal.

Urgency is cyclical. You will never reach ALL of the deadlines or goals. You won’t. Perfection is impossible. And when you DON’T (which you won’t because you can’t) you’ll get pulled back in by the urgency of the thing.

Urgency makes bad decisions. It wants the outcome and will do whatever it takes to get it. It creates unhappiness and restlessness with the decisions you’ve made already because: Are we there yet? Now? WHEN?!?

Urgency is short term. The sheer energy it takes to constantly be striving for perfection is unsustainable. Even if you reach THAT outcome, there’s always another one.

With urgency, there’s always a need to jump ship; an opportunity to reach for something crazier and more frenzied. Something that feeds your urgency monster.

The only thing urgency ever gets is more urgency.

This creature kept gnawing at me until my schedule was packed and I was anxious and exhausted. I attended 3 practices per week and did 5 to 6 training sessions. Every training session was a chance to push myself more, work harder, be perfect.

Until I couldn’t anymore.

I was in the middle of a heavy bench press day and missed a repetition. I hadn’t even worked my way up to my top weight yet. The barbell crashed down onto the safety bars, right above my ribs. At that moment, I wasn’t sure I could lift it back up. I didn’t actually know if I would be able to get out from underneath it. So I just laid there.

I don’t know how long I laid there, but as I did a thought occurred to me: How long can I do this for? When do I get to stop?

But I didn’t want to stop lifting, I like to do it. And I didn’t want to stop roller derby because I like doing that too. Yet, in that moment, I hated all of it.

So what’s the opposite of urgency? How do I get this creature out of my chest?

Intensity is the other side of the urgency coin.

Intensity is focused. It exists for the journey and allows you to be aware of the trip. Intensity enjoys the nuances along the way.

Intensity is long term. It allows you to focus on learning what works. It’s patient and consistent. There are no deadlines for intensity, just steady progress. Progress not perfection.

Intensity requires attention. You don’t get to sit back and enjoy the ride, you have to create the journey. Get your hands dirty. Make the path you want to follow.

Changing from urgency to intensity requires you to take a step back and trust yourself. It requires you to ask yourself questions along the way:

  • What is the long view?
  • Are you frantic or focused?
  • What is driving you right now?
  • Can you be patient? Can you wait for what you want?
  • Do you trust yourself to figure things out as you go?

Most importantly: Are you ready to put in the work?

Want more?

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About IronOctopusFitness

Online athletic training and nutrition coach, full-time mom, okay skater, and connoisseur of all things tea, chocolate, and roller derby. I'll help you unleash your inner athlete by building a strong, capable body that can withstand whatever life throws at you.

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