Have you noticed that the second day, second week, second go of just about nearly anything that you have proved to yourself that you can do once is oft times more challenging than the first? I am currently encountering this with both cycling as I push to get back into shape for a season jam-packed with centuries, and diet as I strive to return to a sugar-free daily intake after gorging at Seders. I have a few ideas as to why this might happen: the most convincing one that I have hit upon is that the option to fail because you simply can’t do it is no longer a legitimate excuse.

Try to follow me – the first time you set about doing anything, there is the risk that your body, mind and soul might not be up to it. It might turn out to be simply not possible for you at this point in time or perhaps ever. There is fear in this possibility, but also some comfort because it could be your one way ticket out of something that would have proven to be a real challenge. For example, you sign yourself up for an 8k run. You’ve completed a few 5k’s and don’t consider yourself a runner, but this is for a good cause and hey, you might as well give it a shot. So, off you go on this run having never completed the distance prior, and perhaps you have to walk at several points or even the second half. You put out a good effort, but it just wasn’t there for you. How do you feel about trying a second 8k? You might be highly motivated. Maybe you caught the running bug watching everyone else. Great! So, you sign up for another. Going into this second attempt, you hope to do better than you did previously, but if you need to walk again, that’s OK because that’s what you had to do the first time. Maybe you can go a little further without walking – excellent. Let’s say you even go so far as to complete the entire distance without stopping. (Or, you completed the entire two weeks without cheating on a negative food group!) And the people rejoice! Victory! Here’s the ugly catch though – you just proved to yourself that it is possible. The option to fail is of course still there, but you’ve lost that psychologically comforting “out” that comes with the excuse of failing because you’ve never done it before and maybe you’re taking on more than is reasonable. Living up to what you have proved is possible can be really hard.

So, for me, seconds are always more challenging than firsts. What then brings me to continue on with thirds and fourths with an insatiable appetite for challenge? The joy of knowing you can – because that second finish (be it a dietary, physical or even spiritual accomplishment) is even sweeter than the first. It’s justification. It’s proving to yourself that you’re not a fluke. That your actions are intentional, controlled, and successful. That you can actively make positive changes and then continue to make good decisions that result in you feeling invincible. So, take that little taste of success and now push. Push past that little voice that’s saying you proved you can do it, but eh, let’s go back to easier. Do it for you. Because pretty soon, that challenge will seem like a walk in the park, and when the next presents itself (or better yet, you create it) you will have the previous victories to use as mental ammunition. Onward!