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At the beginning of 2014 I couldn’t even run a kilometer. That year I started testing theories of change and growth. I wanted to know if simple effort and consistent practice are enough to really improve our skills and abilities.
Turns out they are. At the end of 2014 I ran my first official 5K race. By the end of 2015, I had run 20 half marathons. Today I have run over 200 half marathons and 11 full marathons, totaling 12,000 miles. I once had a “hatred” of the idea of running. Now it is my greatest love in life. The biggest surprise I’ve had is that running has not only changed me physically, but mentally as well. Here’s what it taught me:
Related: How exercising daily has made me a better businessupdates.org
Table of Contents
1. Sometimes life is hard, but we can do hard things
Running was incredibly difficult for me, especially in the beginning. I had never practiced it. Even jogging a few blocks left me breathless and gasping for breath. As I worked to get better as a runner, I realized that sometimes life is hard. It’s supposed to be like this. When we abandon our affinity for ease and comfort and instead embrace struggle and challenge, we open ourselves up to a whole new universe of possibilities. Instead of saying, “I can’t. That sounds difficult,” we can accept it. As we do that, several things happen.
First, things that we once found difficult become easier. Our skills and strength are not fixed quantities – they can grow and expand. We are improving, allowing us to handle more complicated scenarios and solve more complex equations. Second, we no longer expect things to be easy. When we don’t expect things to be easy, we feel comfortable with some adversity and pain. That’s when we discover that we can actually withstand adversity and persevere. Consistent, daily effort and practice is the catalyst that kickstarts this process. You may not see huge changes at first, but you have to trust that it will work.
2. Our beliefs are the limiting reagent in our mind’s chemistry
If we want to do something, it is imperative that we believe that we really can. Our brain likes to be right, so it constantly looks for ways to validate or prove its beliefs. However, what we sometimes forget is that we can decide what we believe – and we can update our beliefs at any time.
When I started running, I often thought I just couldn’t run any further or take another step. “You’ve gone far enough, it’s time to stop,” my brain would scream at me. Then I learned to talk back to my brain. “Let’s just go to the red light,” I’d bargain. Then: “How about one more mile?” I have discovered that our bodies do what our brains tell us to do. Often we can do much more than we think. We can keep going long after we think we can’t.
As humans, many fall prey to this on a daily basis. We believe that reaching a compromise or agreement is impossible. That’s how it is. We believe that a problem is unsolvable. That’s how it is. But almost always, if we believe there is a doorway and we remain determined to find it, we will find it. Here’s a tip: taking a break from a problem and coming back to it later can be a remarkable resource. Like our muscles, our brain sometimes needs time to rest and rejuvenate. If you feel you can’t go on anymore, come back after giving your brain or body time to breathe. It’s amazing how different you look at things after a break. This process refreshes stamina and creativity.
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3. Tools and resources are always available to help us; don’t do it alone
With regard to literally everything in life – our relationships, our professional pursuits, our health and fitness goals – there is an abundance of research, books, and mentors to guide us. There is always someone who has already done what we want to do. Find these people, befriend them and ask them directly for advice and mentorship. Observe them closely; learn from their examples.
So often we are afraid to ask for help for fear of appearing stupid or being perceived as incompetent. We sometimes feel like we have to do it all by ourselves. This is a mistake. Reach out and take advantage of the people who have traveled in your shoes before. We as humans are not meant to function completely independently. In fact, our very existence depends on our cooperation and partnerships with each other. With regard to my running, podiatrists have advised me on my feet and my shoes, friends have shared the financial burden of accommodating me during races, and apps have provided me with music and tracking of my results. Without it, much of my running would not have been sustainable.
4. Success is not a straight line; don’t expect every day to be great
With regard to any problem we want to solve or any competency we want to develop, it can be tempting to think that each day should be better than the last. We sometimes think that once we’ve set a goal, set out on a path, and made progress, it should be nothing but a cinch.
That thinking can paralyze us. This is not how success works. There will be days when we lack the motivation to keep going. There will be disruption in our business. Unfavorable economic conditions and new competitors in our market can send us into a downward spiral. Pouring rain could show up on the day we planned for our long run or you could sprain an ankle on race day. These things happen. We sometimes take one step forward only to take two steps back. There are times when we can go backwards. What we do in these moments will determine the trajectory of our lives. When we anticipate these moments, we deal with them better than when we deny or ignore their existence. One of the best ways to avoid falling into this trap is to constantly remember our why and to remain passionate about and committed to not only the end result, but the journey.
Without these four strategies, I would have failed as a runner, but also as a leader, coach, author, friend, and partner. All of these areas have presented me with challenges. Before I became a runner, I didn’t want to struggle in life. When the going got tough, I was more inclined to quit or give up. Running has taught me that struggle simply means we grow. It has taught me that no matter what is going on around me, I can always choose my response. Now I use that in every area of my life, which has literally changed everything – maybe it can change yours too.