What is with our lives? We are all busy, tired and stressed, sometimes to the point where all we want to do is cry and/or sleep. (That’s not just me right?) I’m having my brain folded and rearranged in this final month of the year as I try to work out what life can look like if I were to focus less energy on the “got tos” and more and the “OMG I love doing thises”.
But for now I want to share something that has encouraged me about the particularly challenging times in life.
They say life is a marathon, not a race. Well, my realisation about how to deal with life’s challenges all started with me becoming a rookie runner.
Yes, as of 4 months ago I became a Runner. (No, not just a person who runs – but an obsess-over-iPhone-runkeeper-app-read-up-on-sport-psychology-because-I’m-such-an-elite-capital-R-Runner-you-dig.)
I favour the path along the beach near my place. The view is obscenely beautiful and it’s a good way to track my progress – which I obsessively record for my run stats.
When I started, the first 10 minutes were hell, and they stayed like that even as I got a little fitter. I’d just keep my head down, eyes on my feet, ignoring how far I had to go so I could pump it out step by step. There were other spots like that in my run, where I’d get extra tired and sore.
That’s what the work, life, commitments feel like sometimes, exhausting and painful. When life gets harder than usual it makes you want to slow down or give up and cut the race short.
It wasn’t until I got my eyes off my feet, that I realised that the times when the run sucked most where when I was running up hills or inclines. The variations in the path naturally made it physically more challenging. What I thought was just my physical weakness was actually the circumstances on the path changing (okay yes, my physical weakness probably had something to do with it too).
Now I keep my head up and my eyes on the path ahead. I can see when I hit an incline and sometimes I have to slow down to make it to the top. Other times I push harder to get over the little hills quicker, which makes the flat stretches feel like a dream.
Here comes the moral of the story: If you keep you head down on the tasks instead of looking up at the big picture circumstances of your life, you will make your fatigue, emotions and pain about general things and discourage yourself from finishing the race well.
Here’s how to get stronger and not give up in your run:
1. Look up ahead at the next week, month, quarter or year of your life (depending on how far you out you plan)
2. Pay attention to the dense spots. Where do all your commitments, clusters of deadlines, and so on, land. If you can, shift some of the weight around so that it’s more evenly distributed.
3.Pay special attention to times of the year where there is a natural incline. For you it might be around the end of the financial year, when work explodes. Or it may be Christmas when different family members begin to make greater demands on you. Maybe it’s at the end of each month when you have to finalise all your freelance projects.
4. Prepare yourself for these inclines mentally and physically. Get some extra sleep. Think through how you’re going to attack your projects, deadlines, goals.
5. When you hit the incline, take a deep breath and push through. Remind yourself that you’re just on hill when you start to feel tired, emotional, ready to give up. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re doing a great job, you’re just feeling the burn.
6. Maybe you need to slow down the pace in other areas of life to sustain the increased level of challenge? This doesn’t have to mean giving things up for good, it could mean protecting yourself from burn out and over exhaustion.
7. Of course, get rest and eat well to keep yourself healthy during your challenging times – you don’t want to make yourself unwell by pushing too hard.
8. When you feel like giving up, remember there’s a flat stretch up ahead, where you can go back to a normal pace, which may be faster or slower than your pace on the incline.
Hills are a part of life. If you crash and burn every time you face one you are going to waste a lot of time picking up the pieces and starting again. Choose not to give up in a hard place and the challenge will make you stronger and maybe (just maybe) it will also give you buns of steel.