A few months after my concussion, I walked into the gym that I had been attending prior to the accident feeling proud of myself for getting up and going. It had been months since I’d worked out, so I told myself I could take it easy. My goal was just to get through it.

Then I saw Earnest. He is the teacher that students who enjoyed the lighter side of fitness avoided. He wasn’t like some of the women who would let you decrease your weight if it was too heavy or if something started to hurt. He would stand over you and say, “Come on, I know you can do it, mental toughness.” Even the other instructors at the gym are scared to work out with him. Over and over, he would say “mental toughness.” Not only was I physically out of shape; my brain was weak as well.

When I saw him, I thought I had better let him know about the current state of my health. I ambled up to Earnest and explained that I hadn’t worked out in six months because I had suffered a concussion and my lower back is also really tweaked. Without blinking, he looked at me and said, “So you’re making excuses already, and class hasn’t even started?”

Completely taken aback, the only response I could muster was something along the lines of, “Ummm, yes,” and then I turned and huffed off. By the time I got to my machine, I was pissed. “Fuck him,” I thought. “Doesn’t he know how jacked up I’ve been? I deserve a medal for even showing up.” On and on, the mental tirade went until the end of class when I realized that I had finished. Not only had I finished, my anger gave way to an “I’ll show him” attitude adjustment that compelled me to push myself in a way that I never would have had he gone easy on me. He made me better and helped me realize I was stronger than I thought.

Showing up only counts for so much. For me, it really is the biggest battle. But what you do once you are there is another test of character. Do you want to just “show up” in life, or do you want to put up when you show up? Give it all you’ve got, do your best, and give it the attention it deserves.

Whatever you have ahead of you today, approach it in earnest. Make taking action in earnest a habit.