It’s not enough to motivate people by telling them to “just do it”. Greatness isn’t an accident, and it doesn’t come easy. I love reading and watching motivational videos from many different people. It’s inspiring to hear that Mohammad Ali didn’t start counting his sit-ups until it hurt, because those were the ones that counted. Likewise, its relatable to read Stephen Covey’s comment that you can’t bear fruits in life without roots because self-mastery and self-discipline form the foundation that allows personal victories to occur.
No matter how successful I am, I find myself needing more motivation—in the gym, at work, and at home. I recently completed my first ultra-marathon. I was so proud to cross the finish line and receive my medal that I sat in awe of what my fellow racers were doing. I sat in awe because of how much we all overcame. I only ran 50K but some people were running 100k and others were still going on for a full 100 miles that day. While I crossed the finish line in 9 hours or so, I ran with people who were limping, hobbling, and struggling to make it to the finish line, but they did. It’s a very emotional event, and it’s truly awe inspiring to watch others push through their boundaries. It isn’t a race against others; it’s a race against yourself and test of your resolve to finish.
My success and theirs wasn’t represented by a medal or buckle at the end of the course. It had more to do with the callouses and blisters that consumed our feet, making every step more painful than the last, and the joint and muscle pain that never ceased, even after the finish. It’s easy to celebrate the medal and the accomplishment, but the real accomplishment is the 20-mile runs before going to work that are done several months before the race. It’s going to the gym when it hurts to walk, and it’s pushing past personal limitations when every mile feels like two miles too many.
It’s the discipline to succeed and push boundaries that are only found inside of you. Every time that I went on a run, I knew something would hurt, I just didn’t know what. This knowledge led to a constant mental battle to move forward. To keep my momentum, I relied on the motivation and advice of David Goggins, a retired Navy Seal who said to “embrace the suck.” I learned to deal with the pain by accepting it and continuing to move forward. Goggins’ advice has gotten me through many tough times in all aspects of my work, such as embracing the pain from hunger during a missed lunch or the tough assignments that don’t seem to end. It’s the willingness to embrace the hardship and to persevere that keeps me going.
To become great at something, you have to do it, even if you don’t want to. It’s easy to do things we want to, like watching TV, socializing with friends, and planning vacations. But to be a great nurse, we must continue to learn, read, ask questions, and approach each opportunity with the thirst of knowledge that got us to where we are. It’s easy to sit back and talk about what we’ve done and where we came from but let’s start talking about where we’re going. Let’s challenge ourselves to read about a medication each week, to study a new procedure, or examine ourselves searching for a weakness. Most importantly, let’s be honest about ourselves and our performance. We live in a society that often celebrates mediocrity; let’s be different and demand more of ourselves. Let’s be great.
According to Goggins, “It’s easy to be great nowadays, because so many people are weak.” It’s not difficult for an experienced nurse to stand out in a crowd of new grads, but what are you doing to get better? Are you better today than you were yesterday? Are you helping inexperienced nurses? Are you learning something new? Are you setting personal and professional goals? In a few short years as a nurse I have grown exponentially. I have been blessed with amazing mentors and co-workers. Through hard work and discipline I plan to be a better nurse tomorrow. I hope that this will inspire you to be a better nurse today. Don’t just do it—do it when it’s hard and when you’d rather be doing something else, because that’s what will make us great.
Eric Keller is an RN at University Hospitals Portage Medical Center in Ravenna, Ohio.