Scheduling conflicts and long working hours; low motivation levels, extended absences from training, and delayed results or gratification; fatigue and short or long-term injury—these are some of the obstacles any fitness practitioner encounters on their journey. Regardless of where one is on the path to discovering their strength, stamina, flexibility, or mobility, these hurdles—some mental, some physical—all have one effect: they make one question the validity and possibility of their goals, dreams, and hopes.
Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata”—meaning “desired things”—is always an opportune poem to encounter at such moments. Its numerous wisdoms are timeless and timely; its truths may be hard, but they are equally soothing in their objectiveness; and the enduring message is simple: be at peace with what is, and be optimistic about what could be.
Desiderata by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
The universe, Max Ehrmann says, “is unfolding as it should” even in times of hardship. Difficulties, then, are not things to be avoided, undesirable as they might be. Rather, they must be faced as courageously as possible with the knowledge that they shall end, and that the possibility of better times always lies ahead, not behind.
When a season full of calendar constraints conspires to keep one out of the gym, when one’s enthusiasm for training is dampened by any number of factors, it should be borne in mind that all seasons—both good and bad—pass and that the goals one has set for themselves remain within reach if one is patient enough to weather temporary setbacks and return to their pursuit with renewed commitment and determination.
Desired things are rarely within easy reach, but they do lie within the realm of impossibility.
It is just that, well, there is no easy way from the earth to the stars.
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Poem: “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann, 1927.
Design: Rémy Ngamije, 2022.