By the time my daughter Tarah was twelve, it was common to see her writing down specific waterskiing goals on colored paper with an artistic flair. Some goals were short-term performance targets, while others looked much further out at specific outcomes like making the United States Water Ski Team. She was competitive and determined to win a national title.

The family awoke one particular Saturday morning to find the weather windy, overcast, and nasty. The lake was rough, but not too rough to ski; the air was unseasonably cool, but not too cold to ski. I knew it wouldn’t be pleasant, but we had been planning on a good day of practice. I announced that I would go down to the lake and get the boat ready.

Tarah immediately responded, “Dad, I don’t feel like skiing today.”

“I understand. I’ll go get the boat ready,” I replied.

She looked surprised and said again, “It’s nasty out there. I really don’t feel like practicing.”

To which I again replied, “I know. You’re right. I’ll go get the boat ready.”

By then she was really frustrated and wondering if I had heard a thing she’d said. “Dad! Don’t you get it? I don’t feel like it!

Finally, it was time to make the point. “Tarah, it’s perfectly fine that you don’t feel like skiing, but what does that have to do with anything?”

I went on, knowing there was some risk involved, “You’ve stated your goals and plotted your course for reaching them. There will be many days when you don’t feel like doing the work, but you have to do it anyway. Feeling like it is not a prerequisite. It’s theoretically possible to not feel like it all the way to a national title, if you’re willing to do the work!”

Doing the hard things is often accompanied with not feeling like it. However, true champions are people who do the hard things despite their feelings at the moment. If you always wait until you feel like doing something, chances are it will never get done. Digging down deep within yourself to do the thing that must be done is the essence of self-discipline. The alternative looks easier, and therefore attractive, but actually includes a heavier price in the long run.

Author Jim Rohn wrote, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”

If you’re serious about moving yourself to the next level in any area of your life—your business, relationship with God, athletic career, physical health, whatever—you must be willing to do the work. You must be willing to do the hard thing, even when you don’t feel like it.

There will always be a natural tug-of-war within you as you face the things you’d rather avoid. Part of you will want to run away from your goals or find something easier to do. But the part of you that says, “I don’t feel like it, but I must do it” is the part worth listening to.

Those who are good at doing the painful, distasteful things will tell you there’s always a payoff. But the long-term gains are best described not by what you get, but by what you become through the process. It’s time to become the champion you were designed to be.

Remember, it is more likely that you can act your way into a feeling than it is that you’ll feel your way into an action. Don’t wait to feel like doing what you know you need to do today. Simply do it! And as you do it, remember you aren’t alone. Philippians 2:13 tells us, “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” God will help you do the hard things, but you have to be willing to face them.

What is it that you’ve always desired but never accomplished because it seemed too hard? Find it, and do it. Then take note of the strong champion you are becoming as a result of your self-discipline and effort.

Tarah decided to ski on that blustery day. We kept it short and fun but also productive. At the end of the practice set, she said, “That really turned out to be worthwhile. I’m glad I skied, Dad!” More importantly, several months later on a similar day, Tarah came to me on her own and asked, “Dad, will you come drive the boat? I really want to get some extra practice in today.”

How could I say no?

Written by David Benzel

Photo by Maxi am Brunnen