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Eighty percent of success is showing up. – Woody Allen
Many years ago, my brother taught my husband how to become a runner. The method he suggested was a straightforward formula that began with alternating a 1-minute run and a 9-minute walk for 30 minutes several days a week. The next week he would run a minute more and walk a minute less.
In 10 weeks, he promised, my husband would be running for 9 minutes and walking for only 1. If being able to run for 30 minutes without stopping makes you a runner (which it does in my book), if he showed up in his sneakers for several weeks, my husband would be a runner.
It worked. Without injury, my husband continued to show up until he could finish 5Ks, 10Ks, and even a half-marathon. He was a runner – something he never thought he could be. While he gives credit to my brother’s method, mostly my husband will tell you that the real secret to his success was simply showing up.
You’ve got to show up in all areas of life
Showing up leads to success in areas of life beyond the physical. While I hated my dad’s solution to my problem, I finally learned my multiplication tables by showing up daily to practice them at the dining room table the entire summer after fourth grade. At right about the same age, I discovered on my own that showing up at the keyboard is the only way to improve at playing the piano.
As an adult, I’ve recognized that showing up makes me a better mother, sister, wife, and friend. You don’t have to have the answers or even the right thing to say. Just being there is eighty percent of being in a great relationship.
Because spirituality is fundamentally a relationship between you, yourself, and the divine, it follows that showing up is key to a rich and meaningful spiritual life. You can read all the books, study with all the teachers, and sit in all the pews, but if you don’t actively show up to your spiritual practices – prayer, meditation, journaling, yoga, spiritual direction, tai chi, and so on – you are never going to feel the deep connection you’re yearning for.
Eighty percent of us think that showing up is the hardest part
While I agree wholeheartedly with Woody Allen that eighty percent of success is showing up, I would guesstimate that for about eighty percent of us, showing up is the hardest part. So, what are we to do?
Schedule “showing up” appointments on your calendar
The best advice I ever received was to make appointments with myself and with God. Not intentions. Not plans. Not hopes. Actual, real-life, in ink, entries in the calendar. If someone tried to schedule a meeting, or a call, or a task during these appointments, my job was to say, “Gosh, I’m sorry. I’m busy then.”
If the someone trying to schedule a conflicting “something” was me, even if it was a much-needed extra hour of sleep, my job was to treat my appointment with my spiritual life the way I would treat an appointment with my boss. After all, what could possibly be more important? What could possibly make me a better asset for my boss?
Be regular. But be flexible.
In the beginning, it’s a good idea to figure out a time when you can show up for yourself every day. My husband chose to run in the morning as soon as he wakened. 9-year-old me chose to get my multiplication tables done after breakfast so I could get to my best friend’s house as early as possible.
Regularity absolutely helps to establish our rhythm. However, flexibility is key to showing up for the long haul. We’ve all heard the expression, “change is the only constant in life.” If we’re not flexible in our commitment to ourselves, we will not continue to show up when life throws us curve balls like new babies, new jobs, new illnesses, or new relationships. If our regularly scheduled appointment no longer works, we simply find a new one that does.
Whatever you want to become, show up and it will be so
Here’s a promise that is as trustworthy as my brother’s was to my husband: If you show up to your spiritual life regularly, you will be a spiritual person. In fact, your spirituality will be such a built-in part of your day that one day you will no longer need to make appointments with yourself. Showing up will have become quite easy.
Are you looking for accountability as you develop your practice of showing up? Group spiritual direction can provide a powerfully supportive community.