Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Steps to Success

A friend of mine posted this on FaceBook today and it really got me to thinking. 

Each of these steps are crucial in the ladder to success.

That first step is a total deal-breaker. I won't is pretty much a non-starter if you decide you simply will NOT do something. Go find another set of stairs for heaven's sake!!
Step 2: If you believe you can't do something, even if you actually DO the thing you won't own it. I remember when I told my running friends I wanted to run a 5K in under 30 minutes. They laughed at me because our training runs were generally faster than that pace. But I didn't really believe them. Until I decided to believe it was in fact possible, I was stuck on that step. Believing you have the ability to succeed doesn't mean you want to put in the work or that you know how....it just means that you believe it's possible.

Step 3: Making the decision that you WANT to do something really amounts to a dream. It's not a goal until you move on to the planning and working phases. But really solidifying in your mind that you absolutely DO WANT to do this thing ...and more importantly WHY you want to do this thing is such an important step that can not be overlooked. I have realized in the last 10 years I really do NOT enjoy riding my bike up (or even down) steep hills. I put myself through training and completing a grueling first Ironman that had BRUTAL hills on the bike course but I never really WANTED to ride hills. So for my second Ironman I chose a course with rollers instead of steep climbs. When you REALLY do not want to do something, you "can" get past this step with sufficient enticement, but it will be like pulling a heavy suitcase up stairs...you'll bump along with no ease or enjoyment unless you embrace the wanting. 

Let me give an example. I THINK I'd really like to train to do another Ironman. If I'm dreaming I THINK I would like to do Lake Placid. That bike course supposedly has about 8300 feet of gain on the bike course. It's not nearly as hard as Lake Tahoe's bike course was, but it's tough. If I decide I really will train for it, and that I really can do it, then I am going to need to embrace WANTING to train and race hills on the bike. OR I have to WANT to finish IMLP so much that I will gut out the hills on the bike with no enjoyment at all of the process.

IMLP elevation
IMLT '13 elevation

"I want this end so I'll suffer through the means to get there" really isn't pleasant. Just decide to WANT the means as much as the end. That doesn't mean the thing you WANT is going to be fun, and it certainly doesn't mean it won't be hard, but those aren't prerequisites to something you want!

Moving on to Step Three. Oh step three. "How do I do it?" Honestly, this is probably one of my favorite steps. That's why I'm a coach. I generally enjoy learning things almost as much as I enjoy teaching/coaching them!

Not everyone is like this. Very strong-willed and/or very accomplished people do not often like admitting they don't know HOW to do something. When my daughter was little I wanted to teach her to tie her shoes. She pushed me away and said "I do it myself". She didn't KNOW HOW to tie her shoes, but she wasn't interested in learning. It caused her a great deal of frustration.

I've tried to give swim lessons to kids like this. It never goes very well for either of us. For some kids it's a matter of trusting me/trusting the process. For others, it's about control. There's a girl I've worked with a couple of times who will NOT allow me to touch her when she's trying to float on her back. Now, she hasn't yet learned how to float on her back and she's as tense as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. If you know anything about floating on your back it requires you to relax in a very vulnerable position (head back, body out flat). This girl says she WANTS to learn, but she's unwilling to ask HOW or accept ANY help at all. People like that usually have a lot of "failures" along the way to get to that top step because they have to learn by making a lot of mistakes. It's like they want to reinvent the wheel by coming up with their own way to get to their goal.

Once you've decided you will do something, you believe you can, you inject sufficient desire and you LEARN how to do something, it's time to get to work trying to complete the task! Sometimes you are lucky and this step is easy. I'm going to say if you try and you immediately get to the next step you probably didn't set a challenging goal for yourself! A "FAILure" is really just a First Attempt At Learning! When a goal is difficult, there might be many attempts at learning! There's a reason the saying is "If at first you don't succeed, try, TRY again." (Instead of there being only one "try"...get it?)

That brings us to Step 6....you have learned how to do the thing you want to do, so know you know you CAN do it, right? Nope. Remember my story about the 30 minute 5K? Even showing me data that I had done this in training didn't get me to the "I can do it" step. I stayed on the "I will try" step for a while until I fully embraced "I CAN DO IT"....but just knowing you can doesn't mean you WILL. That's the next step...setting out to make the goal a reality.

Here's the cold hard truth. You might stumble up and down these steps a hundred times trying to reach the  very top ("I did it") step. You might, like most people, get stuck on a certain step (or three) along the way. You might camp out for a long while before you finally move on, or you might decide you want to move to a whole other set of stairs. 

Just wanting something is not enough to actually make it happen...

Thanks for stopping by and sticking around.

Make it a great day!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Pain in the...Stomach

I was in third grade. I had such terrible stomach pain my mom took me to the doctor. He put me on a special diet. I remember having to take my lunch to school because I couldn't eat a lot of what they served in the cafeteria.

Fast forward many years. I was a newlywed (the first marriage). I was having HORRIBLE stomach issues. I went to several different doctors and had all kinds of tests done that all found nothing. I was given several medications to take, one of which caused me to have what I now recognize was a SEVERE panic attack. (At the time I thought I was having a heart attack.) I had resigned myself to having these terrible stomach issues until I had a chance encounter with a wonderful doctor who took the time to really talk to me.

I had gone with my husband to one of his doctor appointments. While there I mentioned my stomach pain (to my husband not the doctor). The doctor turned his attention to me and started asking me questions. Embarrassed I explained that I had already been given numerous tests that were all negative and I had been on various medications that didn't help. I was confident it was just going to be a fact of life for me that I had to get used to.

This sweet man asked me what my stress level was like. I laughed and told him I didn't get stressed. At. All. ...ever... He smiled knowingly and asked me to describe my life to him.

"Well, I am 21 years old. I'm in the Army National Guard; in Officer Candidate School. I just got married a few months ago and we moved into an apartment. I go to school full time with a Criminal Justice major with plans to go to Law School when I graduate. I also work full time."

I did not mention the traumatically horrible childhood I had just come out of.

from Precision Nutrition
He sat me down and explained to me that my inability to recognize all the stress I was under was causing it to manifest as stomach pain. I remember being utterly confused. I didn't FEEL stressed. At. All. ...ever. So how was I going to be able to recognize it and deal with it in a healthy way? He said one of the first steps I needed to take was to just look at my life and say "this is a stressful life".

But that felt like a failure to me. That felt like it would be a surrender to weakness. I saw myself as capable of handling anything life had to throw at me. And to handle it WELL. To say/think it was "stressful" might imply I couldn't handle it. I remember him holding an apple. He said something like "you being unwilling to call this an apple doesn't change the fact it's an apple". So I questioned him about what to do with that so-called stress since it wasn't going to change any time soon. He said the simple act of acknowledging it was a good first step. A good second step was to find a healthy outlet to relieve stress.

That second step has been an ongoing mission of mine for almost 30 years!

Everything I've EVER done to "relieve stress" has had the opportunity to become an additional stress.

Meditation...am I doing it right? What am I not doing that I should be doing right now? Why can't I stop thinking for just 15 minutes? Okay, 10 minutes? Even just ONE solid minute? What is that noise? Oh, great...now my nose is itching. (or my personal favorite) ...well, I just wasted X amount of time because I fell asleep! I didn't meditate AND I didn't get anything done!

Exercise...pushing myself to do more, do it better, track my progress, beat myself up

Reading...I don't think it counts as a stress reliever if you are reading a "self-help" book with the goal of improving your life. And it's not a stress reliever if you are simply escaping from life to avoid all the stress you are under.

Sleep...I KNOW I need sleep but I simply can't sleep so I will lay here telling myself it's time to go to sleep for hours if that's what it takes. Or rather than having good "sleep hygiene" I would "work" right up until I couldn't hold my eyes open any longer, and set my alarm for super early so I could get a head start on the day.

Movies, alcohol, food...(see above)

So, how does a person recognize stress and find healthy outlets?

I believe part of the answer for me is grace. Grace to not be perfect. Grace to not optimize every minute of every day. Grace to be less than what I "could be". Grace to say NO to things that I might really love to do, things that I might be able to be really good at. Grace to have margin in my life. Grace to not have all the answers. Grace to take some time out. Grace to be NOT have an end goal in mind with everything I tackle.

For some people it might mean cutting some things out of their life; toxic relationships, unsatisfying projects, self-harming actions (chronic over eating, chronic exercise, alcohol, various escape methods.

For some people it might mean adding some things in to their life: exercise, satisfying projects, healthy food, little breaks with seemingly frivolous "time sucks" that bring enjoyment.

The bottom line is that stress is a killer. Not acknowledging that killer doesn't make it any less deadly. In fact, I would argue that makes it more deadly.  But just recognizing and naming it doesn't change it.

What do you do to combat stress in your life? Tell it like it is in the comments below and
Make it a GREAT day!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Riding the wave of a Tsunami

This pandemic has been HARD for me. Granted, it's not as hard as being on a ventilator and DYING. It hasn't been as hard for me as it has for someone who has lost their source of income, or for all the healthcare workers (like my paramedic daughter) who are on the front lines of this thing. I'm not a business owner who is trying to figure out how to stay afloat or figure out how to pay employees who are depending on me.

I am fortunate to be healthy and to have a husband who is still able to do his job and continue to bring home the same paycheck.

From Ctrl+Alt+Del
And...it's FREAKING HARD. I'm an extrovert who HATES to talk on the phone! I had gotten into a fairly nice routine of seeing a variety of friends throughout the week. That's gone. I thoroughly enjoy going for "coffee" at least twice a week (I don't really drink coffee but I like the atmosphere of coffee shops). That's gone. I enjoy going OUT to lunch or dinner a couple of times a week. It's not necessarily the food--it's the place and the people. That's gone. I was supposed to be planning for several kids races I was supposed to direct...three of the four have been canceled already. They are gone. (The fourth is mid-August. I want to believe I can safely plan for that one, but I'm not going to even start thinking about it until May.) I was supposed to be starting spring kids triathlon training this coming Monday. That's gone. My friend's son (who survived leukemia as a baby, graft versus host disease following a stem cell transplant as a child, and pneumonia as a teenager) was supposed to graduate high school in May and we were going to celebrate. That's gone. We just invested a sizeable amount of money that was going to be for retirement...that is not gone but it sure has lost A LOT of value at the moment.

I feel like this poor child.

And I know I'm not alone. MANY people in the world are in shock and many are actively grieving their losses. Some are actively trying to avoid the emotions that are popping up....using various coping mechanisms--food, alcohol, work. The main issue with being hyper-aware of your emotions is not being able to escape from them when they hurt.

Sure, I get that there are "ways around" the "issues"...but that doesn't actually change the emotions. At least not immediately.

From this post
Have you ever thrown away something stinky and forgotten to take the trash out? (Maybe it's just me.....) If you have you know what happens in the morning....you wake up and realize immediately what happened...that smell permeates the house. You rush to do what you should have done the day before-take that stinky bag out-but it's too late. That smell is in the house now. It takes fresh air AND TIME to dissipate. 

But imagine if you can't take that trash out....and your windows are locked. That's how I've been feeling. Trapped. 

I remember one time when I was a little girl I was throwing a fit in the hallway of my grandmother's house. I was laying on the floor on my stomach, pounding my fists and kicking and screaming. (Who knows why?!) I remember someone (probably my Aunt Carole) stepping over me to get to the bathroom. I remember thinking "don't you even see me? Don't you even care that my world is obviously ENDING?!"

Fast forward several years. I was probably in the 6th or 7th grade. I had spent the day rearranging my room. It was drastically different. I went crying (SOBBING) to my mother...completely DISTRAUGHT over the fact it was so different. She said, "if you don't like it, just change it back to the way it was." But I didn't want to change it, I liked the new way. I was just REALLY SAD that it was different.

Fast forward many years....I was in this conference type thing meant to basically help you "find yourself". They put us through this "Lifeboat exercise". (Let me pause here to say, if you had not figured it out already I'm HIGHLY suggestible and very susceptible to hypnosis.) They had us close our eyes and "set the scene"...we were on a plane headed to vacation. We were happy and content, relaxed. All of a sudden we hit turbulence and the plane was going down. There was only one life raft so only 6 people were going to make it. We had to get up and "make our case" why we should be on the life raft.

I was SOBBING uncontrollably. Truly hysterical. The woman next to me was holding me and telling me it was going to be okay. When it was my turn I got up and simply said: "please tell my kids I love them". 

I have HUGE emotional reactions. I used to try very hard to control those reactions but I discovered that was like trying to push an inflated beach ball under the water. If it's a little emotion and the environment is calm that's doable for a while. But if the emotion is big and/or the environment is turbulent, or if the "pushing under" is "required" for too long it's impossible.

I have friends who have said they are enjoying this downtime. They are making good use of the "break".

I'm not there. 


I think I'll get there. It's just going to take some time for these emotions to settle down. Dwayne likes to say my emotions are like a tsunami. Writing this has caused me to look at that analogy a bit deeper.  Webster defines tsunami as: But
a great sea wave produced especially by submarine earth movement or volcanic eruption
But Google also has this definition:
an arrival or occurrence of something in overwhelming quantities or amounts
I found out doing this research you can't ride the wave of a tsunami because it doesn't have a "face" (a flat part for the board to connect with). It also doesn't break. This point is particularly interesting. In a normal wave of water, it reaches a maximum height at which time the crest actually overturns (breaks). There are several types of waves, but a tsunami isn't "a wave", it's a series of waves that are known as a "wave train". They are usually started by an underwater earthquake, landslide or volcanic eruption. They can be up to 60 MILES long...so the wave pushes forward like a train without stopping for up to SIXTY MILES and can be up to an hour apart.

So, yes, sometimes my emotions ARE very much like a tsunami...and this time it's a BIG one.

I'll write more about my "lifeboat" experience later. It relates. In the meantime, I'm going to take thihs wave train of emotion and go work out. Then I'm going to take a picnic lunch over to Dwayne so we can have lunch together and I can enjoy this crisp weather we are having.