Let’s Make a Deal: one way to overcome personal obstacles
Let’s get one thing straight, I’m not really a runner. I reserve that title for the regulars, people who live for the one hour of foot pounding bliss. I run only for the cardio, occasionally, and gingerly, just enough so I can walk a set of stairs and not be out of breath and embarrassed!
But last Saturday the weather seemed perfect for an evening jaunt, so I double-tied my laces and hit the pavement still warm from the day’s sun. I began my run heading south, directly into the wind. It was only a light breeze, but it felt like running through a wall of stiff Jell-O. The first five to ten minutes are always hard anyway, so navigating the Jell-O almost made me want to turn back.
Maybe I don’t really need to run after all…
But something made me stay on the road, heaving and hauling my butt, one leg fling at a time. My heart was racing and my breathing labored. “Why am I doing this to myself? I thought, “It’s too hot. I’m tired. I worked all day.”
I shook my head, trying to ignore the complaints and shortness of breath. Then panic joined in with its talk of self-preservation. “Are you kidding? We can’t run the entire way to the gas station and back! We’re already huffing and puffing. What makes you think we can run there and all the way back?!?”
My ego is already worried about how we’re going to feel a mile down the road and we haven’t left the neighborhood. My shoulders hunched around my neck in tension. My legs felt like lead. And my arms stiffened with every stride.
I had to take control of this body going into shock.
First things first, I mentally forced my shoulders to relax. Soon they relinquished their grip on my neck for a moment and I could breathe again. I realized that my body and mind aren’t always on the same page about the purpose of what we’re doing here.
So this is the point where the deals usually begin.
Deal #1 – I tell myself…If it really gets too hard at any point you can walk.
Deal #2 – And…The gas station is a “goal.” It isn’t set in stone. If we get half way and you really are dying, we can take a break, walk for a while.
Deal #3 – And…If we run all the way to the gas station, and feel like we’re spent, we can always walk home (if we really need to). It isn’t that far.
The point behind making deals is to take the focus off the end goal and keep my mind in the present. Running, for me, is a meditation of sorts. I have to practice letting go of the negative thoughts, all the thinking about what it takes to get all the way there and back. If I get caught up with the future unknowns, I might just decide against the whole thing and stay home. Instead, if I can deal with how I’m feeling in this exact moment, I can encourage myself to keep going. “See,” I tell myself, “we’re doing okay. Breathe deeper – through your nose, now – relax.”
Many of the “obstacles” we face in life are really just thoughts and ideas that limit who we are and what we’re capable of. We magnify the smallest thing in front of us and mentally make it into something larger than we can handle. We try to eat an entire pizza in a single bite when it is meant to be savored, one slice at a time.
Although I’m not a strong runner, I know I can run 2-3 miles, even on a heading-into-the-wind kind of day, if and only if I take things one step at a time. I keep my focus in the present and the road right in front of me. That is all any of us can ever handle anyway. And before I know it, I’ve reached the gas station and turned the corner for the return part of the run. I’m breathing easier and I notice I’m running even faster than when I started.
Bit by bit we build courage, strength and personal stamina when we inspire ourselves from within and keep our focus on the present moment. If we do those two things, we’re always capable of what we’ve been given to handle right now.
When something is difficult, it’s so easy for us to talk ourselves out of what we know deep down we want and need. Learning how to clear those negative thoughts by making realistic deals works for me. It helps me get past some of my biggest fears and the obstacles that come with them–in running and in the rest of my life as well. How do you deal with self-imposed obstacles? What kinds of deals do you make with yourself to go beyond?
Thanks for reading!