For the past few weeks I’ve been running. Training myself straight from the couch to 5k, via an app that promises to ease you into it.

I hate running, but somehow pushing myself through it seemed like a good exercise in mental toughness. I hadn’t quite thought the whole thing through, but the premise was there: when you find the grit to get through things you hate, it somehow makes you better.

This weekend though, I went to Benton Harbor, MI to visit the beach. My friends and I took a yoga class and I realized that there does exist a realm where you can challenge yourself and still enjoy it. That this thing I’d been doing everyday for weeks was something that I hated.

Before this weekend, I’d never experienced something like that before, where I grew frustrated and fatigued, but also relished in the challenge.

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I deleted the app and put my running shoes to rest. And while on this purging spree I wondered how many other things I could just say no to. Why was I forcing myself to do something I truly hated?

Why do we normalize pain on the road to betterment? If pain is our body’s signal that something has gone left, should that not be a signal to our souls too?

Is there not a world where we can learn and grow and become better and more self-aware without also inflicting pain and trauma to ourselves in the process? Without also creating an environment of suffering? Without breaking ourselves down to build ourselves back up?

This is a post about running vs. yoga, but it’s also a declaration that boundaries are just as necessary as discipline. That with every no you give, the stock of your yes rises. That enjoying life is the new normal, and discomfort will come, but doesn’t have to be exacerbated by these standards we put on ourselves all because we’re afraid to say no.

It is in the pursuit of creating an environment and life that you love that you begin to flourish and attract the things you are called to. That’s self-betterment and it starts with your no.