On a recent coaching call, my client John expressed frustration at falling into “same old same old” behaviours. He had set some action steps on our call the previous week and had failed to follow through on them. When I asked him what happened he said, “I just don’t feel motivated around this.” (Motivated, shmotivated)
We talked a bit more about feelings, and how they can’t always be trusted. If we waited to “feel like” doing most things, we wouldn’t get very much done at all. (But we would get lots of sleep, get caught up on a bunch of Netflix series, and eat a lot of junk food!)
I remembered some Powerpoint slide pictures I had used in some workshops a few years back.
“John, since I can’t show you the pictures right now, I’m going to do my best to explain them to you. Picture a well traveled walking trail in the woods – the dirt and brush patted down from hundreds or thousands of foot steps. It’s super easy to walk along because it’s flat and wide.
Now picture trying to walk off the trail and through the woods – stepping over branches, hacking away at small trees and brush trying to forge a way through.
The first path is kinda what your brain looks like when you follow a habit. Your brain makes shortcuts when you repeat a thought or behaviour. But when you try to change it, it’s like forging your way through the bush. So it makes sense that we fall into old habits. It’s so much easier and more inviting to walk the easy path.
BUT, if you continue walking on the new path even though it’s more challenging…it will eventually become patted down and easy to travel. And the old trail will become overgrown.”
John really liked the analogy so at the end of the call, as part of his homework for the week, I told him to find a picture that represents each of the paths so he would have a visual reminder. A few days later I received this picture in an email. (Yes, he had it printed and framed!)
If coaching homework were graded, I would give him an A+ 🙂
Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash
A few weeks ago, I ran my fifth full marathon. (For those of you who don’t know, a marathon is 42.2 kilometers or 26.2 miles).
A marathon is a test of physical strength and endurance not only during the race itself but also in the weeks and months leading up to the event. I’ve learned a lot during these times about how the training experience mirrors other aspects of my life. During a long run, I often battle the desire to quit. My muscles are screaming; I’m hot, tired, and thirsty, and I wonder why I’m doing it in the first place.
Similarly, in the process of establishing my own business and following my dreams, I have often fought the desire to quit. The bills are “screaming”. I’m overwhelmed, confused, and afraid. And I wonder why I ever thought this was a good idea.
But my training has taught me that endurance pays off….that there are times when my immediate goal may be to simply put one foot in front of the other. It’s taught me that I CAN submit my “feelings” to my “will” and that I have a choice with every step I take -quit or keep going. I feel like quitting but I choose to keep going. And every step I manage to take brings me one step closer to my goal.
Shortly after crossing the finish line I realize what I just accomplished. And I’m grateful.
Grateful for all the mornings that I didn’t hit the snooze button.
Grateful for the three hour training runs I didn’t skip.
Grateful for not listening to all the reasons I “couldn’t”, and for the many hills I had to climb.
The very things that make the journey so difficult – the things I have to climb over, push through or leave behind – are the things that make me stronger and prepare me for what is yet to come.
(I originally wrote this 10 years ago. I have since completed 3 more full marathons. In my last, I wore a full monkey costume to raise money for charity and because I am crazy).
Me and my dad.