Run At Your Own Pace

#dearself is a series of blog posts written to my past, present, or future self. I hope you can find a lesson or gentle reminder in this personal note that you can apply to your life as well.

Dear Self,

When will you really start listening to me? You have more inside of you than you ever acknowledge or embrace! I hope today showed you a valuable life lesson—focus more on running YOUR best race at your own pace.

Yes, you used to be able to run four to five miles everyday, but that was 10 years ago when you were in competition shape. Girl, you are older and things change. (Ladies and gentleman, it is true. Two miles is now a STRUGGLE for me. These knees and lower back are showing signs of old age and the lack of stretching enough).

When you first set out in your mind to run three miles without stopping today, I said “it’s about time that you get back at it.” But, I was nervous for you because this is not the first time you made this goal in the last year. You’ve started before with a image of ten years ago in your mind. Then, the burn in those legs started about 0.5 miles in and you listened to those voices of doubt telling you to just walk for a few seconds before getting back at it.

But, there was something different about today.

Continue reading “Run At Your Own Pace”

Having Faith in Yourself

“Faith is the bird that feels the light even when the dawn is still dark.” – R. Tagore

As defined, faith is a strong belief in someone or something. If you trust a person or object, you believe in their/its ability to be who or what you know them to be. In other words, you have faith in them/it. For example, I trust that the ladder will support me as I climb to reach the top shelf because I believe it is designed correctly. Therefore, I can say I have faith in the ladder. If a person has proven to be trustworthy in their character and actions over time, you might say you have faith that they will be there for you when you need them.

Do you have faith in yourself?

But what about having faith in yourself? Do you have confidence that you can do what you are designed to do? Why do we believe in our own abilities less than we believe in others? Sometimes it is because we cannot see ourselves as clearly as we can see others. Other times, it might be because our fears and doubts blur our ability to see all the great qualities that exist within us. In my opinion, it is probably a little of both.

There is another side of having faith in yourself that can be even harder: having faith in your ability to achieve greater or do better than where you are now. Our past experiences and patterns often make us think that who we are now is who we will be forever. Most times that lack of confidence starts when we look at the sum of what we want or need to achieve. It looks insurmountable.

It’s like buying a 50,000 piece puzzle. You can see the complete picture to build but the process to get there feels overwhelming. You cannot imagine how you are going to put all these pieces together to get to that final product.

That’s the problem: we focus on how huge the task is instead of just starting with a few small pieces. You might not have confidence in your ability to lift 300 pounds at one time, but if you start with 20 pounds and build over time, you will eventually get to the goal.

Faith is built through action

A few years ago, I asked God to help me discover everything I am supposed to accomplish in this lifetime and to help me have the patience, willingness, and courage to complete it. Yet, even after those prayers, I hesitated to move forward. I was praying for the big picture but not starting with even the small pieces in front of me.

My prayer essentially went something like this…

Me: “God, I just want to know that you are going to be with me. I know that if you destined this path for me then everything will ultimately work out. I trust you, God.”

God: “Yes, this is the path I ordained for you. I am with you and will always be with you.”

Me: “Thank you God, but I just need to know that you will be there for me if I start this. So, will you?”

Every day it was the same version of this cyclical prayer. Unfortunately, repeated reassurance still didn’t give me the confidence to move full steam ahead down the path. Something was wrong and it wasn’t God; it was me. I wanted confirmation that my strengths and abilities were enough to protect me from failure and the hard moments, which is very unrealistic. It’s like I wanted a guarantee that if I put the effort into building this 50,000 piece puzzle that I will get to the big picture.

But, the process is where you build faith. Once you build a few pieces, you gain the strength to build more. I did not need prayer (although, that’s very important), I needed to stop procrastinating and to get busy with one piece at a time.

You have what you need inside of you

Consider this parent-child exchange:

Parent: “You are so capable, strong, and loved. I believe in you and I want you to reach for the stars. Just know that I have your back every step of the way. You are never alone because I support you.”

Child: “I know. But, I am still scared and afraid that things will not work out. I know you love me and believe in me, but I just can’t do it.”

Parent: “Trust me! You CAN do it and I am in your corner! Haven’t I always been there for you? Listen, I am very proud of you and I will continue to be proud of you even if you fail.”

Child: “Yes, you have always been there for me, but I don’t know what will happen if I fail. I don’t think I have enough in me to do this. I love you too, but I just can do it.”

That is a sad dialogue. The parent can see what the child is capable of but the child will not believe it. How often are we like that child? To start to build your faith, start changing the way you speak about and to yourself. You are CAPABLE and you CAN do it! [Click here to read more about ways to change your negative self-talk!]

Have faith in your preparation

What about this coach-athlete exchange?

Coach: “You have so much talent and ability. If you are committed to the training, you will go very far. You can do it.”

(Athlete goes through weeks of training, is committed to the process, and begins seeing improvement in practice). Now it’s the game day…

Coach: “You ready? Let’s do this! You are prepared. Now, all you have to do is execute what we practiced. Go get ’em!”

(Athlete gets out there, observes the competition, and begins to doubt him/herself and the coach’s words.)

Coach: “What the heck happened out there? You are better than that performance today.”

Athlete: I got overwhelmed and they were so much better than me. It threw me off!

Doubt will make you question your preparedness and cause you to look down on your progress. The athlete questioned whether the coach was just pumping them up because that’s their job or if they were really prepared. No pep talk can outweigh preparation. Everything you go through is preparing you for exactly where you need to be. But, you can’t skip the workout and preparation and wonder why you don’t have faith in yourself.

Most of what we need to take those first steps toward our scariest goals are already inside of us. The goal is to start believing that you are strong and have enough inside of you to show up and take the first step.

Start building the puzzle one piece at a time. That is faith.

Shark Attack

Oh my goodness!

Does anyone know Mick Fanning’s blood type? Because his escape from that shark attack at the J-Bay Surf League Championship competition the other day was either pure miracle or he is certified half-human and half-beast! What a moment! Needless to say, for Mick’s sake, I am happy he survived; however, for the sake of everyone watching live, I am happy that we did not have to witness a tragedy.

After watching this near-death encounter, I started lecturing surfers everywhere… in my head of course. “If you know there are sharks in the ocean, why go out into the deep blue sea to dangle your little feet out there as bait? Is riding a wave really worth your life? Did the World Surf League even check to see if there were sharks in those waters? I would sue! This is exactly why I don’t go messing with sharks! If there is no boat to shield me from shark snack time gone wrong, then I am all set right here on the shore. Why play with danger? If you are silly enough to go out there, then you…”

Yes, for a split second I almost ignorantly suggested that someone deserved to get a limb chomped off because they were adventurous enough to live out a dream. Well, after doing my research I discovered that there is only a 1 in 4,000,000 chance of being killed by a shark. Mick was living his life and chasing his dream in the face of a low probability fear. Yet, there I was cowardly lecturing all surfers when I should have been asking myself about the low probability fears I have yet to conquer in my own life. At that point, I decided that I could probably learn a thing or two from Mr. Mick Fanning.

First off, Mick survived by only doing one thing correctly. The media headlines say, Mick Fanning “Battles Shark” and “Bravely Fights Off” attack. From the looks of it, Mick was terrified and did what any of us would do– scream, kick, and swim away for dear life! Overall, he did exactly what the surviving-a-shark-attack experts say NOT to do. He panicked. He turned his back to it. He tried to out swim it. The only thing that he did correctly was to hit the shark in an attempt to scare it away!  This is a great lesson because this means that (1) we don’t have to be perfect in order to win and (2) we don’t have to look perfect (or pretend to look perfect) while fighting the sharks of life. It is unrealistic to think that we will not break a sweat in the midst of a challenging battle. We are human and great human warriors sweat too. If you don’t believe me, then watch the movie 300.

Early on in life, I thought that defeating a challenge meant destroying it completely. If I was too weak to stand there, fight, and destroy it like David did Goliath, I would be disappointed with myself up for seeming weak. On the other hand, if I destroyed the challenge, but did it with a scary-cat panicked demeanor, I would also downplay the accomplishment. Mick teaches us that escaping and surviving doesn’t always need to be pretty and heroic; it just needs to be practical. In life there are sharks– plenty of them– and I am sure that (for the most part) in the end it doesn’t matter how we look when we are fighting them off. We just need to get the heck out of danger and keep living! Survival is not always pretty, perfect, and heroic; sometimes it is panicked and hectic, and that’s OK.

Secondly, thank God for adrenaline! Seriously. I don’t think that anyone would have anticipated this shark attack at the J-Bay Competition, but it happened unexpectedly anyway. When I think about life, I see similar situations happening to people all time. You are sitting there enjoying life, living a dream, accomplishing a goal, working hard to win, and then BOOM! A shark, or in our case, people and circumstances come to take a bite out of that body! Usually, this concept discourages me: I am on a mission to do good and then sharks try to destroy me! It is even more devastating when the human shark monsters attack you intentionally. What I admire most about Mick is that he fought back even though he was terrified! I can imagine that he saw his life flash right before his eyes. Ultimately, Mick decided that survival was more likely if he kept moving! Hitting the shark with force gave him enough time to get away– and that was all he needed. In the end it worked and he survived.

What is wrong with just “dodging the bullet?” What is wrong with simply escaping the shark attack? Surviving is just as courageous! At least you are alive to tell your story! Are there life-sharks seemingly appearing out of nowhere ready to eat you alive? Are you dealing with the unexpected and feel like it might be the end of you? Well, as in the case of Mick Fanning, KEEP MOVING; and if you are frightened, panicked, and everything in between, still keep moving! Remember, escaping and surviving doesn’t always need to be pretty and heroic, it just needs to be practical. You just might survive. Correction: You will survive!

Whatever you do, just don’t let the sharks take you under!

Photo Credit: CNN News courtesy of WSL

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Let it Go.

Don’t hold on to things or thoughts that are clearly making you sink. How silly is it that we feel ourselves sinking but refuse to release the weight pulling us down. What’s the worse that can happen – you float? Isn’t it at least better to float than drown? Let it go. No really, let it go.

Prepare for Success

One thing that I am always trying to get my students to realize is that they should take advantage of the time they presently have in order to work on building/exercising their skills in their own particular areas of weakness. Of course, getting high school students to see the bigger picture of the seemingly mind-numbing routine of the educational system can be at times a daunting and tiring task. I aim to get them to see that there will come a day when their career(s) or life in general will call upon these skills to perform. Life is lived skill upon skill, lesson upon lesson. However, as most teachers in any field, it is easy to forget all the times in both high school and college when I myself could have used my time more wisely to study harder and learn more; but of course, I preach to them nonetheless… a privilege of adulthood. *wink*

There is a valuable lesson to be learned in all of this for both the youth and adults: Use the time that you have in the present to prepare yourself to respond to the demands and dreams of tomorrow. It might be reading a book to keep your mind sharp for ideas of tomorrow; becoming healthier to be able to endure tomorrow’s journey; resting up today for the times when you might be working extremely hard on a goal; or, saving money for a rainy day or that dream vacation.

We, the “big people,” also need to be aware of the skills/areas in which we are weaker (in the hopes that if we put in the right effort those areas will improve over time). For some of us adults, those area may even be emotional. Maybe we need to become more aware of how our insecurities, poor communication skills, emotional issues, and past disappointments still linger around so that we are prepared to love and nurture those around us (and those that will come into our lives). Whatever the area, pay more attention to who you are, how you became that way, and also how you might change for the better, if necessary. Use your life’s time wisely to benefit your life (and subsequently the lives of those connected to you) and chase your dreams while you have the time. We are purposed to find success in life but we spend too much time doubting our weaknesses and waiting for life to change; maybe it’s time we strengthen our own weakness and changed our own life.And as they say, “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”… but figure out why before you go acting like a fool by doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. As for me, I will keep trying to practice what I preach.

What are some things you do to grow and become a stronger person (mentally, emotionally, physically)?

Comment below, if you have time of course.

You Matter.

Sometimes we become overly concerned with wondering if we matter to other people. Do I matter? Does anyone care about me or what I do? Am I insignificant in the grand scheme of life? We can become so preoccupied with our level of significance to others that we neglect assessing our own value as worth much.

I had to remind myself that I matter to me and am important to my own story. If I neglect the importance of my own role in my own life story how can I ever expect the story to be complete? Often times, we wonder why our lives don’t feel complete; maybe it has something to do with making how much we matter to other people more important than how much we matter to ourselves. Stop looking outside of yourself for the assessment of your value. Once YOU start valuing yourself, you will see that your life feels more complete. And, you will start to pursue happiness and success more for you than for the wavering validation of others. How will you ever be complete without YOU in the equation? You are the entire equation.  You matter.

Getting Out of The Box: How I Get Over the Fear

“Step outside of the box.”

“Think outside the box.”

“Break outside the box.”

This little box must be made of some extremely durable substance because the entire world is either living it or trying to get out of it! No, seriously. I am not joking. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard these expressions about this box. Darn it, I have even said them many times. The funny thing is that it is always “the box” not “your” box, but I digress. It is very true that I need to “step out of the box” some more but I was wondering, can I bring the box with me? I mean the box has done so much for me in my life; its walls acted as a sturdy pillar as I tried to walk before I could crawl and it protected me from the elements (society) when I was not strong enough to brave it. Thanks to the box, I was able to grow and develop the skills I needed to survive once outside the box.

Some of our boxes are different sizes because some of us need more room to grow into the “element” fighting beast that we need to be. Then the time comes when the box has given us all that it can, and at that time and not a minute sooner, we should leave the box. Time is everything and leaving the box too soon might mean we are under-developed and too weak to sustain ourselves outside the box. See, that’s why I want to bring the box with me!

Don’t get me wrong, I believe we need to get our booties out of that box. However, that can be a scary task. Sometimes I am afraid to leave the box because I question whether I am ready to tackle the dream before me. Sometimes the fear is in wondering if leaving the box means that I won’t have anything to fall back on. So, I decided to think of it this way: take everything I need out the box, place the contents in an air tight container, step out of the box, and then say goodbye to the box. Genius! This way I figure that I am solving the problem of living as an oversize giant in a tiny box and the problem of worrying that I have the essential tools I need along the journey. With the goodies that make me strong and competent safely tucked away, I may pull them out whenever I feel I need to rest, regroup, and remind myself that I have already been nurtured to accomplish the task ahead. I don’t know about you, but envisioning that I can take everything with me that “made me” makes getting out the box less intimidating. Maybe it is all a placebo, but whatever, it is working and I am stepping outside of the box… and that’s all that matters.

The Danger of Doing Nothing

Multiplying By Zero This is a simple math inspired post that reveals a simple life lesson. Remember when you learned that anything multiplied by zero equals zero? Exactly. If you do nothing, you will get nothing. Small steps, large steps, new action, or old actions repeated; whatever it is, just do something. You will never get where you want to be by doing nothing.

Nothing multiplied by the greatest dream still equals ZERO.

And you thought that everything you learned in school was a waste of time.