I've been through a lot of things over the last few years. You know those lists of the most stressful things that can happen in a person's life? Yeah, I've lived most of those. A lot of them at the same time.
But you know what? Like anything else, I made it through. Maybe not unscathed, because there are very few things that happen in our lives that don't leave some sort of permanent mark. Still, days turned into weeks, and those turned into months, and here I am. I don't know if I can say I'm stronger, but I'm different, and in my case, different is better.
I learned an interesting lesson during those times. I was talking to a counselor once and she stopped me mid-sentence and said "You know what? I think one of your biggest struggles is that your standards for happiness are too high".
When I thought about it, she was dead on. I was always one of those people who thought that if once I accomplished certain things, I would be happy. Like if I lost weight I would be happy, if I ran a fast marathon or broke 80 on the golf course, I'd be happy. The mere fact of moving on from a difficult marriage was going to make me happy.
You know what? I was wrong, and that's why I wasn't happy! The things that need to make us happy are the things that are right in front of us, because those things are the only ones we can enjoy. It's been a difficult transition, but one big change I've tried to make in my life is this:
Love the journey, not the end result.
In a stark contrast from the past, I try to be happy with what I have done, or where I am, instead of expecting things to get better down the road.
In the past, I might have been mad about the 5K I ran over the summer. It was so slow, and I had to stop and walk, and on and on and on. But the thing is, two months before I couldn't run "a" mile, let alone 3.1. I passed a lot of other people who had at times slowed to a walk, so I wasn't the only one. And get this, I had a great time!
For a long time, I had gone to races all by myself, which was fine. But I'd always thought it would be fun to run with a couple of friends and get together for some beverages afterwards and rehash the experience. To truly participate in the bond between runners.
That night, I did that. I hung out with Darcy, who is always a great companion, my friend Scott, who I hadn't seen in months, and Bernie, who's just a cool dude. We hung together the first mile and while I was a bit behind them at the end, we got together for some photos and then headed to the post-race party, where we had a couple of beers and laughed...a lot.
Honestly I remember that way more than my time, and that's the point! When I did look back at my time, I saw it through a more realistic set of eyes. I got out of it exactly what I put into it.
It's like losing weight. We get stuck on that number on the scale, which isn't the only quantifiable number that matters. We get discouraged if we go a week and lose, say, a half pound. That's only part of the story. Sure, we only lost a half pound, but maybe we ran a bit farther than we had the week before, or we went five minutes longer on the treadmill or ellipical or whatever.
When I got on the scale the other day I was at 245 pounds, meaning I had maybe lost a pound over the previous week. But at the same time, I had done a long run of 5.25 miles, the farthest I had run in over two years. And I felt so good, I think I could've even gone farther!
It all adds up, and it all matters! Because if we are doing the right things: eating well, exercising, taking care of ourselves; all of that will add up to good things. It has to, there is no other way.
Trying to adapt that attitude has been a true game-changer for me. The passion to do things well, and the desire to compete -- not only with others but myself as well -- hasn't gone away. It's just channeled in a different direction, and one that in the end will benefit me more and more.
In another session I made the following statement: When my only expectation is to finish something, I'm never disappointed.
That's a real mantra to me now. Because it isn't lowering my expectations, per se, it's more giving in to the process and trusting that process to take me where I want to be. I've found that mindset takes me even further, and makes me happier, then setting lofty goals that are hard to attain and sap my happiness in order to get there.
At this point in my life, it's just dumb to continue beating my head against a wall. Striving to compete, to give my all and do my best, is going to take me further than I've ever gone before. I just know it. The journey is what makes me happy, and that's the way it should be.