I donate funds to a local business. I like to be charitable, after all. Millions of other Americans join me in contributing to this same cause with full knowledge we will never receive anything for our money. I guess we’re just nice that way.

I’m talking about gym membership.

A couple of months ago, I jumped into a committed relationship with my health, which involved joining a gym. Now I fear I spoke too soon, leaping into marriage without the benefit of courtship. I typically honor my commitments, but have you been to a gym? They make you do awful things there. Horrible, sweat-inducing, heart-palpitating things that leave you with stringy hair and runny makeup. No, thank you. I want to be healthy. I just don’t want to have to work for it. If anyone out there is interested in taking over my 18-month lease, please contact my editor. I’ll give you a sweet deal.

When I first joined, I had visions of myself wearing cute little exercise clothes, looking exactly like workout Barbie, driving to and from my Zumba class in a red Mustang convertible. That’s before I remembered I’m a Prius girl, and my Barbie clothes haven’t fit in a couple of decades.

In all fairness, the problem isn’t with my gym. The people are great. The equipment is clean and easy-to-use. They offer classes for a wide variety of interest and fitness levels. The difficulty lies somewhere in the deep, dark depths of my brain. I want the end goal of exercise. I just don’t enjoy the actual process.

But isn’t life more about process than product? I mean, no matter the mountaintop, we spend way more time on the climb. Shouldn’t we embrace the journey itself? Shouldn’t we accept that anything worth having is stinkin’ hard work, and try to make each step of the way as pleasant and beneficial as possible?

Life is like a gym workout. It’s smelly and sweaty. Many of the tasks are unpleasant. And even if we do our best, we may not end up with the body—or life—we envisioned.  If the end goal is our only reason for the hike, most of us will fall by the wayside. While there’s nothing wrong with looking forward to a trim, healthy body or an accomplished goal, we’d be better served to embrace the daily grind: the exhilaration of endorphins that comes after a brisk treadmill walk, or the satisfaction we receive after running an errand for a friend in need. Whether we’re lifting weights or lifting someone’s spirits, the benefits lie in the here-and-now.

Studies have shown, weight-loss benefits aside, regular exercise makes us feel better. It’s also true that, long-term goals aside, working out our existence with kindness, compassion, and love provides immediate payback to our souls. God created us in His image, after all, and our ultimate aim should be to look and act exactly like Him. But the end goal—a buff body or a beautiful spirit—is a byproduct of our willingness to commit to the climb—one step, one treadmill minute at a time.

Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly-perfect children, and far too many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com.