A Step Forward


Illustration by Miranda Sepulveda

Shane McGinnis

Here we are again. It’s two weeks after my initial declaration that I was going to become a better person. The big question is whether I did what I said I would. I started with a few essential things that noticeably affected my everyday life. When considering where to start, I thought exercise and organization would be good, since both work on physical and mental well being.

I’m going to start with one that I knew was going to make me feel better: exercise. Now I’ll be honest, getting into an exercise routine was easier for me than other people. I felt the benefits of exercising since I was a little kid running around the mountain town that I grew up in.  I felt it all throughout middle school and high school when the wrestling team gave me a place to grow and learn. Getting back into an active lifestyle was not a hard sell. What I did need was the motivation to go out and do it.  

For a lot of my life, exercise has been performance-oriented. In soccer, it was all about scoring the next goal. In wrestling, it was about winning the next match. Now as a college student, no one is giving me any objectives to reach for. There aren’t any goals to score or games to win. Here’s where the mentality switch happens. Now, instead of winning being the end goal, I look at the workout itself. The motivation comes from starting and finishing the workout. Running is where I experience the most satisfaction from completing my workout. It’s very therapeutic to take time out of my day where I only need to focus on one thing. That’s what gets me out the door a lot of the time. I know that if I’m running, I have a good 30 minutes to an hour to myself. If someone needs me to do something then it can be done afterward, but for that time, I get to focus on the run.

I’m not going to sit here and make it sound like I am some ultra-regimented exercise machine, because I’m not. There are days where I don’t want to go outside and run or go to the gym and lift. On these days, I remind myself of how good I’ll feel afterward and then I’ll be able to get a quick 25 minute workout in. That is still a mental success. It may feel like it’s taking a long time to get into it and that is completely expected. It’s a slow process to improve in workouts, just like anything else. 

Organization is also something that I am working on. First is the physical organization. My room, like many college kids, is notoriously cluttered. Empty water bottles and other things were on my table from a few days before. I have never been particularly good at doing laundry or folding my clothes. Last, but certainly not least, was my school things. Before I really forced myself to take control of it,some books were on one table, some under my desk and only a few in the drawer where they really should be. Being cluttered was never something I’d been concerned about. My thoughts started to change when I started seeing the benefits of having an organized room. I saw ideas from people like Marie Kondo on how decluttering your space can also help clear your mind. Even the Mayo Clinic acknowledges that a messy life can lead to increased stress and distraction. I also saw that staying organized makes your brain feel better since you’re accomplishing a task for the day.

That’s exactly what I did. I took an hour on a Sunday afternoon and cleaned everything. I refolded the sweatshirts that were thrown on various chairs. I cleared off my entire desk and made sure I had trash cans. The experts were right, I automatically felt better. Not only because of the satisfaction of checking a task off a list, but because I had a clear space to do what I needed to. It was surprising how much more willing to work and complete things I was after I changed that variable. 

I think a more subtle, but just as effective, side of organization is mental organization.  I’ve tried planners before, and they never worked for me. I would either be lazy and not write anything down, or I would write so much that there was no semblance of where to start. My organization mentally has consisted of getting my brain ready for each coming day. Every night, I think through what events I planned for the next day.  Then, I’m able to think about where I can fit homework and other things I need to do in between events. This allows for some flexibility, but it also lets me mentally prepare and feel good about the day ahead.