Derek Sisterhen

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The pain in beginning (again)

Remember reading the posts that I wrote about sit-ups and losing weight? They are some of the most popular articles on

I was undergoing a huge psychological and physical transformation when I wrote them. The culmination – perhaps coronation is a better word – of the whole experience was running the Cooper River Bridge Run back in April.

I went the 10,000 meters (6.2 miles for we Americans) in just under an hour. It was an awesome experience that I got to share with my wife, sister, and parents.

And after it was over I did nothing.

Eight weeks of training runs. A full six months of workouts at the gym. All in anticipation of running from Mt. Pleasant to Charleston, South Carolina.

59 minutes and 12 seconds later I was done.

And I was done.

I’ve struggled to recapture the motivation to run again, even though the endorphin high I got from going the distance was so potent I could’ve made a junkie jealous.

(Two posts in a row are turning into confessions, but don’t worry – I’m going to be okay!)

Over the summer, I was challenged by a good friend of mine to get back into it. He didn’t say I was a loser because, after reaching the finish line, I slid back into an old routine. (Fortunately, I’ve kept the weight off since then because my eating habits are completely different now; I just haven’t been active.) And he didn’t say I would be a loser if I never ran again.

All he did was ask me why I didn’t want to keep going.


Enter financial rabbit-trail tangent:

When talking about money, the first question anyone must answer is “Why?” Without knowing why you’re making a certain set of financial decisions – be they setting simple goals, purchases, or investing strategies – you don’t have a vision to guide you.

Scripture tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” (Proverbs 29:18).

Why is an uncomfortable question to answer, because we have to get back to what we truly value. And because why? is so uncomfortable, I believe it’s the primary reason most people avoid it – they want to jump straight to the “How?” rather than reckon with their core belief system about the purpose and direction of their life.

The irony is that how to go about achieving financial success is pretty easy once the vision is established. Vetting different strategies and plans against a firm vision – whether for an individual or married couple – is a simple process. Ask yourself, “Will this strategy or plan make our vision a reality if we see it all the way through?”

Not having a vision is just like trying to paddle your way forward in a rowboat with one oar:

Mr. No-Vision: How do you make the rowboat move?

Mr. Visionary: Well, you paddle; that’s how. (And you wind up going in circles, but darn it, you know how to make it move!) Why are you in the rowboat anyway?

Mr. No-Vision: Well…I’m not sure… Shouldn’t I be trying to get across the river?

Mr. Visionary: I can’t answer that for you. But you did see the footbridge, didn’t you?

Exit financial rabbit-trail tangent/hypothetical conversation (and now back to running):

My final answer to the question, Why don’t you want to keep going?, was that I didn’t want to endure the pain of beginning again.

Just think about that for a second. I didn’t want to exert the mental and physical toughness that’s required to get over the initial hump. I didn’t want to expend the energy it takes to get my personal locomotive from stationery to riding on its own momentum. I preferred to sit and stew over the possibilities of what life could be like if I actually did make a move.

Oh, to know exactly what you should do, and yet do nothing about it!

I’m not alone, am I? You’ve been there, too. Maybe you’ve been too scared of what you’ll find to write a plan for your spending. Maybe you’ve recognized that it’s going to be a long trek out of debt requiring much sacrifice. Maybe you need to lose weight and change your eating habits, but you know it’s going to mean physical pain and a complete overhaul of decisions you’ve made for years. Maybe you need to call your dad, your sister, your brother, your son, your daughter and apologize for something that happened a long time ago.

Someone smart once said, “Real change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.”

I’ll just ask a question: Will you (and I) choose to overcome the temptation of mediocrity to experience the exuberance of accomplishing something extraordinary?

See you on the road. I’ll be the guy running (again).

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