I had a whole bunch of ridiculous nonsense to write about today for Thinking Out Loud, that is, until I went to the track this morning.
(I don’t have a picture, so just think of your everyday high school track)
I know it’s starting to sound like I’m preaching what I can’t practice (and I’m going to, sort of) but I thought I’d get into the meat and potatoes of my negative self-talk, how I need to approach it, and, most of all, how to know when pushing myself – putting the effort in – is good enough.
Failing sucks. It’s confusing. Did I set the wrong goals? Am I overreaching? Not pushing enough? Focusing on the wrong thing entirely? Is fear getting in my way? Am I getting in my way? HOW am I getting in my way?
I often remember the first verse of the Serenity Prayer when these thoughts come up. I picture it stapled to the side of my cubicle as it was when I worked as a clinical social worker and I contemplated it every day.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Gee, now if that doesn’t relate back to everything that’s ever been a problem in my life, ever, then I’ll eat my iPhone. But I won’t have to, because it comes up everywhere. We blame ourselves for things we don’t have power over and we whine and blame others, or outside circumstances, for things we actually CAN CHANGE.
Why do we do this?
I’m not sure. What I do know is that it’s been one of the hardest things for me to figure out in my life, in basically every area – personally, professionally, relationally. And it comes up in running, all the time. But I guess we already knew that running is just one big metaphor for life!
My plan for the track was to do 6 x 800 with 400 recovery in between. It’s a mile and a half to the track so the perfect warmup and cooldown. I cannot even remember the last time I even went to a track, let alone ran fast on one, but my guess is that it was while training for Philly, so likely it’s been a solid 8 months. And that’s why it would totally make sense for me to set goals for myself consistent with my marathon-ready fitness level? No, it would not. But there’s my ego, my fear, and my lack of wisdom.
I have a long way to go with my speed right now. I’m in decent enough distance shape with my weekly 10 milers, but realistically, I just don’t train speed, but yet I still expect myself to run fast. “Accept the things I cannot change” means I need to accept where my speed is right now, because in this moment, there are limits that I can’t change. Yet, the thoughts on the track went something like this –
1st 800 – Good start but do you really think you can keep this up? Who are you kidding? You can only “pretend” to be fast for so long.
2nd – Oh sh*t my Garmin stopped. Does this even count now?
3rd – I’m totally stopping after this one. No point in pushing myself if I’m not coming close to time goals.
4th – You always want to quit. Just shut up and push yourself. You won’t die.
5th – This is faster but now I might throw up. I’m not good at running fast. Running home after this.
6th – This is a pathetic excuse for a speed interval, but what the hell, might as well finish it.
Way home – Glad I kept going. Sometimes just pushing yourself is good enough.
Of course that’s just a snippet of the negativity that circled my head during this workout, it was bad all the way through. Ultimately, I came out happy with myself for “failing” in the sense that I pushed to the current limits of my fitness while facing the dreaded feeling of not coming close to my goals.
I realized that if I want to improve my speed and get more consistent with speed work, I’m going to have to be okay with “just” pushing. I have to face failure in order to succeed – “the courage to change the things I can.” And, I have to learn how to be nicer to myself in the process.
I believe that much of our negative self talk comes from the lack of “wisdom to know the difference.” This is what hasn’t clicked for me yet. I might “know” the difference intellectually, but that knowledge has not been woven in, on a psychological and emotional level, it hasn’t stuck with me, and it’s easily lost. In running and in life, it’s something I want to commit to practice every day.
Do you blame yourself for things that aren’t currently in your control?
Does fear of failure keep you from making changes?
Have you found that “wisdom” to really feel which is which?