Ask any of my close friends and certainly my husband and they will tell you that there is one thing that I love – my sleep! Always have and likely always will. But here I was – setting the alarm clock for 5am to run. What??? Two habits that I have no idea where they came from. Getting up early to run in the dark before working a 10-hour day? You must be joking. Yet the desire to do it was so strong I couldn’t NOT do it. This leads me to the first of 13.1 lessons I learned from my 13.1-mile journey.
1st mile: Sometimes, even when you can’t see the ending, you start anyway.
It can be scary. You mean I am supposed to go somewhere and start moving toward something that I can’t even see? No GPS? No safety net? Yet, I am discovering that most things in life are just that - faith journeys. An opportunity to trust that little voice inside you that says “go” or “move”, “turn here” or “think again”. And, the power is in allowing yourself to respond to that inner voice before your brain kicks in to tell you the 10,000 little reasons why you shouldn’t. We are great rationalists. But sometimes we have to learn to drown out the naysayers in our own heads and grasp only to that voice that says “start”.
2nd mile: Life’s weather conditions will sometimes be stormy.
The storms will come, and if they haven’t come in your life yet, the saying goes to just keep living. But, that doesn’t mean you stop. Sometimes, storms come that shake you to your very core. Rock you from side to side until you aren’t sure which way is up or down. The question comes – what now? How will you respond to this storm? Will you avoid lacing up your shoes and hitting the pavement? Or, will you keep running, one step at a time, allowing yourself to feel the storm but not been shaken by it. Recognize and acknowledge the storm without letting it change your course. The decision is yours.
3rd mile: You can be your greatest advocate or your greatest critic. Pick one.
How you talk to yourself has huge implications for what you can become. Life starts in the battlefield of the mind. There is nothing more powerful than our own thoughts. The battle in life is in pushing away the critics outside and, even more essential, the critic inside telling us that we can’t. We put more limits on ourselves than anyone else around us. So, break free from the chains that we put on ourselves and live from the motto that pushed me through when it got hard – “she believed she could, so she did”.
4th mile: The start line and the finish line are the same thing.
Each day, we are faced with new challenges. Every time we finish something, it’s time for us to start again with something new. We are always unfinished products. We are perfectly imperfect, forever on a quest of becoming more than we were yesterday. What I have learned is that beauty if found in the journey of becoming. Not what we are at the finish line, but our journey on the way.
5th mile: Success looks different for you and me.
The goal is not to be the fastest all the time compared to the people around you. Life’s challenges are not between you and others. The biggest challenge is between you and you. So, set YOUR personal goals and do YOUR personal best. It really doesn’t matter what the person next to you is doing. We are each given unique talents. I can tell you that mine is not running speed. But I have other talents. Determination. Will. Tenacity. So, find your talents, harness them, and use your unique talents to fulfil your purpose to do what only you can do in this world.
6th mile: Sometimes we need to slow down.
There are times when we are approaching intersections in our lives that require us to make choices. To decide how we are going to respond to various curveballs thrown at us in life. And in those moments, we have to give ourselves the space and grace to slow down, reflect, meditate, and prepare so we can make the right decisions. In those quiet reflection moments, we often make our best decisions that position us correctly on life’s journey. After all, life is a marathon, not a sprint.
7th mile: Rest and recovery is essential to prevent injury.
Both in marathons and in life, we must make sure we schedule in periods of rest and recovery to be our best. If we push ourselves too hard, we can run ourselves down and we can’t be ready to serve others. We can’t pour into others if our own cup is empty. Despite the world’s messages of go-go-go, sometimes we have to say no-no-no so that we can just breath and be with ourselves. Our bodies need it. And, our minds do, too.
8th mile: It’s not about the pace. It’s about the purpose.
Ever worked on something for so long and it felt like you weren’t making any progress? Or waited for something that seemed to take an eternity despite your efforts? What I learned on the road is that it does not matter how fast or slow you go. It matters that you keep taking steps toward your goal. You started the journey for a reason. Harness that and push forward at your own pace, finding joy in the process not the product.
9th mile: Your power is in your breath.
Our bodies are influenced heavily by the chemical makeup of oxygen in our bloodstream at any given time. Whether we are running a marathon or walking around our living room chasing our children, our breath dictates our steps. Our entire neurological, cardiological, every-logical system in our bodies can be changed by the power of our breath. So, recognize how you are breathing, and take the time to slow down and breathe deep so you can fully unleash the potential within you.
10th mile: Set your target.
Have you ever had sometime tell you to meet you somewhere, but they didn’t give you an address or any directions? Kind of frustrating, isn’t it? How are you supposed to make it to a destination without having any clue of where you are going? Without a target, we can run around in circles. Research tells us that the strongest predictor of progress is in having a focus. Whether you pick a race from the list of upcoming runs and train toward that target, or you pick a focus at work, choose your target and hone in on that target for maximum success.
11th mile: We need each other on the journey.
Whether it’s in the form of a running coach or a friend, our power can often come from someone around us. Yes, we have to do it because it is our unique journey, but angels come into our lives in the form of an encouraging word from a friend, a hug from a spouse, or a stranger we meet in the grocery store when we run out of K-cups. These moments remind us that the walk is yours alone, but you don’t have to do it alone. Look for those around you that cheer you on and encourage you. Invest in them. Hang on to them tight. And look for ways that you can encourage others each day.
12th mile: When you know your “why”, you can endure any “how”.
What motivates you? Why do you do what you do every day? For me, my why was to show my daughter that when you set your mind to do something and you work hard at it each day on a regular basis, even if it seems insurmountable, you can accomplish it. So, when the alarm goes off at 5am and all you want to do is hit the snooze button, or you test a new method at work and it fails, or fall short on something you are trying to accomplish, you get up anyway. You fight the urge to throw in the towel. You try again. You push forward toward your “why”. Knowing your why is essential to propel you toward the finish line.
13th mile: The biggest part of the journey is in the preparation to cross the finish line, not the finish line itself.
You can’t get off the couch on Tuesday and run a marathon on Saturday. You have to prepare. Preparation takes time. It means acquiring new routines and new exercises. It means learning new skills and how to stick with them. This creates change in us. It is in these seemingly small daily successes that the power to change occurs. These small daily changes that we see as “preparation” are actually compounding to create the change we want to see. Like seeing a photograph of a child six months ago and seeing how different they look now, but not necessarily noticing it along the way when you see her every day. It reminds us that it doesn’t mean that change isn’t occurring even if we don’t notice it each day. The rising sun presents a new opportunity to make that small step closer to your goal. Let’s get to stepping.
.1 mile: Never underestimate the power of one.
That last .1 miles was the hardest. Not physically, but emotionally. In that .1 miles, memories of several people in my life who have gained their wings over the last several years flooded my mind with every step. I heard their cheers as their recalled voices filled my soul. The finish life of the previous six months of training and daily focus on this originally impossible goal was in my view. I saw the finish line. It was right there. And in that last .1 miles, I began to reflect on the power of one. One person in our lives can change our lives forever. One person can unleash power in us to become who we were created to be. And, just maybe, YOU could be that one person in someone’s life right now. So, use your days well, my friend, and choose your words carefully. And, each day, look for ways that you can change the world. One mile at a time.