Beth Bridges, a regular contributor to intrepidNOW, writes about how to break through personal barriers with regards to both individual and business goals…
I regularly compete in local running events and I always do my best. No quitting! Just keep moving! Enjoy the experience! As long as you accomplish a goal, you don’t fail! But a few weeks ago, I did fail. Not in the running, but in remembering that I am an optimist. I doubted myself.
I’ve been struggling with terrible side stitches and this race, a 10k run, was another painful experience. When I finished, I was hurting and discouraged. I let myself get down and the best thing I could tell my coach, my team mate and my husband was, “At least it was less miserable than last time.” I considered myself to have failed and we left without even checking the results, much less staying for the awards.
Curiosity got the better of me later in the day, though, and I went online to see how bad it really was. The joke was on me; I won my age group! I had a pretty good laugh over it and then I posted my foolishness to Facebook. Because if your friends can’t laugh at you, who can? I asked them, “What is the lesson here?” and not one of them said I was a goober. They had only positive, fun things to say.
“Your energy was drained by previous thoughts. Instead, stay and focus on your desired outcome!” ~ Kanina Johnson
Kanina knows that I do like to get those awards and that I’m trying to compete for the Valley Runner of the Year Series. I was runner-up in my age group last year – more as a testament to persistence rather than great speed (but you get the same trophy however you do it).
“As long as you do your best that is a win. Then sometimes you get a surprise!” ~ Bill Colby
I did do my best. My time was actually a personal record (PR) which is highly desired by all runners so it was a win already and a nice suprise.
“Sometimes feelings don’t count.” Grace Robinson-Whipple
Ah ha! Now, that is some true wisdom from my friend Grace.
I didn’t have a running failure. I had a failure in optimism.
I’ve long considered myself to be an optimist. But not a rose-colored glasses, everything is always going to be great, no matter the evidence optimist. A realistic optimist. A relentless optimist. Someone who knows their own capabilities and what’s possible and always willing to look for the success in any “failure.”
For a few hours though, I let myself down and I forgot this. I felt like I had failed. But as my friend Grace pointed out “feelings” didn’t matter, facts do. Reality does. And the fact was, I ran relatively fast enough to have won my age group.
So how did this happen? I literally lost perspective.
Perspective on how far I’d run, how fast I was running and in the case of trying to maximize my finish, where I was in relation to the competition. You think, “That doesn’t matter, just compete against yourself,” except the truth is that business is a competition and you need to know where you stack up.
Because it was a “loop” course, I couldn’t see the leaders and I couldn’t see how many were behind me. I didn’t have any benchmarks beyond knowing how far I still had to go (thanks to my GPS watch). I would have been a lot happier if I had known where I stood. I might have run faster too. Running fast is incredibly mental and discouragement is a heavy weight to carry.
It’s like having a a big, ambiguous project that you start without knowing exactly what’s going to be involved; without planning your major steps. You get out there, in the countryside and you’re far enough along that you can’t see the beginning, but you also can’t see the finish. It’s is a terrible feeling to not know how much you’ve accomplished or what you’ve got left to do. We’ve all abandoned projects because we felt lost or discouraged.
It’s why you must have a plan and why you must use tools. Few runners go without a GPS watch to know exactly how far they’ve run. It’s a hated object when you’re 2.8 miles into it and you’ve got a muscle cramp. But you love it when it’s showing you’ve only got a bit more to go.
I’ve got a similar love-hate relationship with project-management software. It’s so tedious creating a project plan! But it’s incredibly satisfying to see a marketing campaign all laid out in front of me. More importantly, it gives me major perspective on the project. I can see what’s behind me, which is encouraging, and I can see exactly what’s left to do. If I know where I am in the project, then I can be confident about finishing it on time and doing it right.
If you do the right work, in the right time, and you’re ahead of the competition, then you’re going to win. For a few hours, I forgot. I lost perspective. I doubted myself. But my friends helped me remember that I’m relentlessly optimistic. Like Princess Buttercup, I will never doubt again.