The joy of doing (hard) things.

Teju Adeyinka
3 min readAug 10, 2023

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Café et Speculoos. A scoop of bitter, a scoop of sweet.

A few weeks ago, I started to think a lot about the phrase “the joy of movement” during my yoga practice. I considered it to be a profound and powerful motivation for working out — feeling joy because I was moving my body, and moving my body simply for the joy of doing so. This worked out well for a short while until I started consistently skipping my other workouts for the singular reason that they weren’t “sparking joy”.

I soon realized that, in physical exercise as in life, it is not enough to only optimize for things that bring joy in the moment. It became clear to me that if I only made efforts towards immediate joy, I would be greatly limiting the things I could do, greatly limiting my range of experiences as a human being.

In a recent conversation, someone mentioned that they undertake non-religious fasting from time to time as a way to challenge themselves to embrace discomfort — to deny the “self” in Christian parlance. It reminded me of one of the Apple Fitness+ trainers, Sam Sanchez, who often says in between challenging workout sets “This is hard, but you can do hard things. Your body was made to do hard things”.

Thinking about these helped renew my appreciation for the virtues of working through difficulty and training myself to stick with things even through discomfort. It is common knowledge, that doing hard things in a specific area often leads to growth in it, but it is also how I build resilience and develop confidence in myself — both transferable skills that can be applied to other areas of life. A workout or task doesn’t have to feel comfortable or “joyful” at the moment for me to get through it. By internalizing this, I know that I can push through those last sets of reps, have a difficult conversation, solve a challenging problem, or learn a new skill.

And so, I’ve come to the equilibrium that both “the joy of movement” and “doing hard things” are yin & yang. They are equally important and necessary to be in a state of balance. We need to do things that challenge us and things that bring us joy, over and over again. We grow through discomfort and flourish through joy.

For me, this shows up in how I choose to physically exercise — I challenge myself to run fast and lift a little heavier, but also to enjoy and be present when I do slow-flow yoga or a long walk. Oftentimes, when I set an intention for my yoga practice, it is simply to feel the “joy of movement”, to bask in moving through poses (un)gracefully. With other things in life, it’s pushing past the discomfort and fear that comes with learning a new skill — the embarrassment of stumbling at something, but showing up to practice anyway. All the while, taking the time to enjoy the parts of it that come easy or feel enjoyable for me.

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