Monday, October 13, 2014

To all those who got what they always wanted only to wish it were better

It’s been two months since I left the security of my full time university job to venture into the freelance life- one of private practice and fitness. Since I was so open about my journey to this place, I feel obliged to share how it’s been for me…that is, how it’s really been. In a word, it’s been hard, and as I reflect, here is the main reason why.

Like lots of people, I idealize what I don’t have…you know, the whole grass is greener idea. When I was at my previous job, I longed for freedom and flexibility. For a number of reasons, my role just didn’t afford it and I often fantasized about counseling clients on my terms and coming and going as I pleased. I do have that now and I relish every moment of it. But what I hadn’t anticipated was the lack of connection with other therapists on the new job. If everyone comes and goes as they please, it doesn’t really create the opportunity to get to know each other. I had the team feeling before and I miss it. Missing a regular salary is an honorable mention as well. Regarding fitness, it was always my happy place. It was my stress relief and my escape from the madness. I suppose it still is. But going from doing something a few times a week just for me, to now teaching several fitness classes a week for others, is a totally different thing. Sure, I enjoy it. It requires a lot of preparation and energy though. And very similar to counseling, the fitness world requires just as much boundary setting and self-care practice; otherwise, it’s very possible to burnout. Who knew wellness professionals needed a break from promoting wellness?


Why am I sharing this? Because it’s honest and we all do it. As much as we feign contentment, we all, at different points, think the next thing in our lives will be perfect and will be the secret to our fulfillment, only to realize that it’s not. It simply is what it is. It’s another step. It’s another experience from which to learn. It’s another context in which to serve others. It’s another chance to stretch and grow. This doesn’t just apply to job transitions, although that’s my most recent life change. It applies to marriage. You find the love of your life and say I do, only to secretly wish you had the house to yourself again…just for the evening, of course. You have the baby that you hoped and prayed for, only to be less than amused by the sheer volume of care required to keep a completely dependent human being alive. It’s not about wanting to go back to what you had necessarily. It’s not even about not appreciating where you are. It’s just the ever so slight feeling of deflation when the reality doesn’t measure up to the fantasy. It rarely does.

Going back to how hard it’s been, I think much of the difficulty could’ve been avoided by having an open mind…a neutral stance, if you will. What if I had entered in neither expecting my new life to totally suck, nor expecting it to be the most awesome experience of my life? What if I just viewed my next step as an assignment, a new work to be done, a new opportunity to learn, and another venue to connect with people? What if I approached it with curiosity to discover why I landed where I did versus any of the other places I could’ve ended up? What if I viewed it as another puzzle piece to the picture of my life and actively sought out how it fits in with the greater whole? It seems like a perspective like that allows for both the eager expectation of good in your life and the sober lens to keep from excessively idealizing something only to be disappointed. I think an important reminder in life is this: If nothing else changed about your life, it would still be a good one. You are exactly where you're supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to do. And if by chance you’re not, get to where you need to be…but not out of desperation to be rescued from where you are. No, get desperate about uncovering your assignment and accomplishing the work you were created to do.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Second time around

In a couple of weeks I will run my second race ever. It’s hard to believe it’s been half a year since my very first one and amazingly I’m still running. This training experience has been a lot different than my first. It’s been much more solitary, which is one reason why I’m just now sharing it. I don’t say solitary to be self-pitying. In a way, it’s actually been freeing not to have to keep pace with someone. I’ve been able to focus 100% on running my own race, the metaphor of my life these days. In my usual fashion, I’ve spent time in reflection and then compiled this list of a few lessons learned this second time around.

There’s power in doing things in secret
My first experience with running was so completely new to me that I often sought feedback from others. I reported every miniscule insight to my veteran running friends. I wrote about fitness or running nearly every other post. That was fine for then because I was new. But this time around has afforded me some much needed perspective. There is absolutely no reason to broadcast every little thing I do. I’m just not that important and no one is that interested. Period. Besides, there’s something to be said about working toward a goal in secret. When you consistently hit the trail and put in the work without thinking about the cute selfie you want to take at the end of the workout, you build your character. It’s not about anyone else. The goal is about you. A basic life principal is this: whatever is done in secret will eventually be revealed. Don’t waste time boasting when you’re in the process. It undermines your effort.

You must learn to encourage yourself
My first time out I had more consistent support. I had a personal trainer who did many of my runs with me. This time, I might run with a friend every once and a while, but it’s mainly been me. Interestingly enough, no matter how good I’m feeling when I start my run, I almost immediately start talking myself out of going as far as I intended. If I planned to do four laps around the lake, I want to let myself off easy and just do two. The thoughts of quitting occur right away and come in such a rapid fire manner that I lose count how many times I hear, “Just stop. You don’t have to go all the way. You’ve gone far enough.” It’s obviously much easier to push through them when you have a running buddy. But sometimes in life, you don’t always have someone else there to push you through. You must learn to encourage yourself just the way a coach or trainer might encourage you. You have to tell yourself, “Don’t quit. Come on, you got this. Keep breathing. You’re doing great. Almost there. Finish strong.” When those persevering thoughts finally drown out the quitting thoughts, then I get a second wind and run even faster than before.

Maintain motivation between the monumental moments
Let’s face it. Every runner feels like a rock star on race day. It’s exhilarating. You get your bib. You chit chat with other runners. You feel the anticipation as people wait at the starting line. You feel energized when strangers call you by name (they’re just reading your bib, mind you, but still) and cheer you on. You usually get your fill of food and beer or wine at the end. And of course, you get a medal of completion and bragging rights for the rest of the day. All of that combined almost makes you forget the $50, $60, $70 or more that you paid for the experience. Nevertheless, race day produces a high and it keeps folks coming back. That’s all fine and well, but what happens between races? Can you lace up and consistently hit the trail when no one is cheering you on, when the weather conditions aren’t perfect, when your time is slower than your record because your body just isn’t feeling it? Can you be diligent, faithful, and committed when it’s boring? The test of character isn’t in how you meet the monumental challenges of a moment but how you conduct yourself between moments. Anyone can perform on command. It’s the pattern of conduct, the habits of person’s lifestyle that reveals who you really are.

Those are just some of my thoughts from training this time around. I imagine each training period will hold new revelations and each race will be different from the previous. I kind of like that. Each training period has its own story and its own theme. The theme for this time around is that if I ever have to go at something alone, I can do it. It’s not necessarily my preference and it’s not always necessary for each season of life. But if ever it’s called for me to run my race solo, I can do it because I have what it takes to endure.