Run Your Race

I recently finished reading Chrystal Evans Hurst’s book, She’s Still There. She writes about drifting off your path and your life not turning out as planned. I can identify with this, as I am sure you can as well. I don’t know anyone who is living the life they were expecting back in the 1st grade, a time when one decided to be an astronaut, physicist, or doctor. There are lots of unexpected obstacles in our paths and we wake up and wonder how we got here from there.

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What I love about this concept of run your race is that it’s so easy to get caught up in comparisons to the races that others are running. The friend with the ski chalet and new Cadillac, or the sister with no student loans. I’ve run many races in my life, both literally and figuratively. The 5ks where I was the very last to cross the line, and the master’s degree while mid-divorce with two toddlers. They were my races that I survived, thank you very much, and I have the scars to prove it. I have owned a sports car convertible and two failed restaurants, even with a degree in Hospitality. There were highs and lows, but it’s my race and I own it.

Here are some ways to run your race:

Don’t Compare. Being jealous of someone else’s life is soul crushing. As Hurst writes, “We look at the lives of other people and construct opinions of them – and ourselves – based on what we see. The problem is we’re never operating with full intel.” That friend with the ski chalet and caddie? They may be mortgaged up to their eyeballs. They may have a substance abuse problem they can’t shake. It might take all the effort they can muster to get out of bed in the morning. Don’t skim social media and assume that you are less than just because you didn’t go to Iceland this year. As Hurst espoused, “Comparison can kill.”

Know your values. I have always had wanderlust. My parents instilled in me the value of adventure and travel with several trailer trips when I was kid. I have brought this wanderlust to my children. I value adventure over material objects. It’s not that there isn’t anything under the tree at Christmas; it’s just I would rather experience something than to have one more thing to store. My son competes at the national level in weightlifting. I want to be there when he competes. My daughter loves to hike. I value my time in being there for my son in competition and for my daughter experiencing the great outdoors. Make sure the race you are running aligns with your values.

Practice gratitude. As Hurst writes, “Gratitude is the practice of being thankful and showing appreciation. When you focus on what’s right in your world, you limit the power of what’s wrong to steal your joy.” I write in a gratitude journal every morning. I take stock in what went right the day before. It might just be a text from my son or a coworker’s compliment on my blouse. It starts my day off right and keeps me on the path of what’s right in the world instead of what’s wrong. I always find gratitude in something that I did for myself like my strength workout, sobriety or staying positive with a coworker. Self-gratitude is important to stay the course of the race.

Encourage others. My boyfriend Roy recently ran his third triathlon. It took a lot of training and practice. I was his support team. I was his timer when he practiced his transitions from swim to bike and bike to run (yes, a ten-second saving matters). In the weeks leading up to the race we focused on his sleep, his training, his race. Having run a marathon about five years ago, I could identify with the amount of focus and anxiety that can come with a big race. As Hurst writes, “A compliment paid to someone else can have the effect of freeing you.” Try to focus on what is going right for others as they run their race.

Pay attention. As Hurst writes, “Comparison is a habit. That means you can choose not to practice it. There is nothing good about practicing an activity that only results in a feeling of competition, envy, or strife.” When you start envying someone’s new dress or vacation or new iPhone, notice it and redirect it. This won’t happen overnight. Sometimes awareness alone can help you break the habit.  Remember what you value, what you are grateful for and lift other’s up. It’s the antidote to comparison. That’s their path; their race. What’s your race looking like?

Live intentionally. Hurst posits, “Stop letting where other people are in their run determine how you feel about your own. “This shows up for me as I see retirement some decade or more off. I can be jealous as I see other’s around my same age either retiring or eyeing it some three years from now. I start comparing and beating myself up for not deferring more into my 401k in my 40s. It’s OK. It’s my race. So, I get to enjoy the camaraderie of going to work each day and continue to further my career. It’s a waste to sulk about what could have been. Be here now and enjoy the experience.

I identified with this concept because Hurst wrote about how speed walkers would pass her as she ran in a marathon. I have experienced that several times. How come my run is slower than their walk? We are all different, we are all talented and unique to ourselves. Don’t let comparison kill your race. How is your race going?

Quit Keeping Score

It’s Christmas morning and you realize that you spent $100 more on one child than the other. Ugh. Will your daughter think you love her less? You have definitely done the dishes AND laundry every day this week and your spouse took the garbage out once. Hmmm. Seems a bit unfair. You never seem to get invited to that charity golf outing where all the deals are done. But Bob? Yeah, he gets invited every time. What you are doing is keeping score. The problem is if you are ahead or behind, it’s just not helping you.

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There is a cost to all this score keeping. And you are the one who pays the cost. First of all, you damage your self-worth. In keeping score, you are feeling less than by comparison. Second, the information you are scoring against is always flawed. It’s just your perception. Maybe Bob is a horrible golfer so he’s getting invited to make everyone else look good. Maybe your spouse spent three hours in the rain at a baseball game for your kid. Your kids never saw the price tags of their presents and don’t equate money with being loved. Lastly, it doesn’t move you forward. In fact, it puts you in a negative spiral, where you are constantly comparing yourself to confirm that you are overworked and underappreciated. Not a good space to be in.

So here is the antidote to keeping score:

  • It’s an inside job.  Who is exactly keeping score? You are. It’s starts with you acknowledging that you are doing it. I used to resent doing the dishes. I grew up in a family where Mom cooked and Dad washed the dishes (pretty remarkable since my dad was born in 1925). I have expected in my married life that my spouse would do the dishes. And if he didn’t? I resented it. That resentment was not hurting anyone but myself, and it would snowball into who bought groceries, vacuumed and took the kids to doctor visits. As Byron Katie, author of Love What Is, wrote, “What I call ‘doing the dishes’ is the practice of loving the task in front of you.” Resenting it or loving it is an inside job. Choose love.

 

  • Catch yourself doing something right.  It’s easy to get caught up in the negative. You can’t seem to get the DVD player to work or you still haven’t figured out pivot tables in Excel. Think about what you have been successful at. It’s funny. I’ve been writing this blog weekly for over 5 years and have been read in over 100 countries. That’s pretty cool. In fact, it’s awesome. But I completely forget about how amazing that is in my day-to-day life until someone makes a comment. It takes a moment. Like when I ran into someone who had been a reader of mine for years in Chicago (yes, you Chris) and he told me how much he loves my blog. And for a brief moment, I felt like a Rock Star! Tally up what you’ve accomplished. Maybe you tried a new recipe or made someone’s day by calling them out of the blue. Take stock and tally up what you are doing right.

 

  • Be present.  Truth be told, I now enjoy washing dishes. It’s a moment to be present, and mixing warm water with soap is a lovely experience. It’s a moment for me to get out of my head and back into my body. Listen to the water, feel the suds on your hands and the ceramic of the plate. As Byron Katie posits, “We are really alive when we live as simply as that — open, waiting, trusting, and loving to do what appears in front of us now.” Washing the dishes is about living and loving what is present now.

 

  • Break it into pieces. I travel fairly frequently and I used to hate returning home to a mountain of unsorted mail, a full suitcase of dirty clothes and a dishwasher full of unclean dishes. It can be overwhelming. The secret is to piece it out. One task. Run the dishwasher. Sort the mail. One piece of mail here, one over there. Sort the laundry. One load of laundry at a time. In the age of rapid technology and moving at breakneck speeds, it’s all about breaking things down into doable chunks. Even better if you can have a smile on your face and take pleasure in the task and your accomplishments. Escape the overwhelm by doing one piece at a time.

 

  • Be grateful.  When you notice that your spouse mowed the lawn, thank them. When someone compliments you on your facilitation, thank them. Gratitude really takes you out of score-keeping so long as you don’t add anything on like “Thanks for doing the dishes. Will you go clean the garage now?” Nope, that is not straight-up gratitude. Don’t qualify it. Just say thank you, be genuine and be done. And put a period at the end of the sentence. Express gratitude without trying to score a point.

 

As I ask my coaching clients frequently, “Who are you in control of?” The only one you can control is yourself. Keeping score suggests that you can have an impact on the final score. The only score you are in control of is your own self and how you respond. What do you keep score on?

What story are you telling yourself?

You walk into the room and everyone snickers. They must hate the new shoes I am wearing. Your assistant forgets to copy you on an email. She must have it out for me. Your boss doesn’t return your text for at least 2 hours. She must not think I am important enough.

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These are all stories we tell ourselves. We take a few floating facts and put them into a story that sets us up for disappointment. We feel marginalized and often shut down. The thing is that everyone tells Their Story in their own head. But how often do we test our assumptions? How often do we verify that we have The Story right? This whole concept was illuminated in Brene Brown’s powerful book, Rising Strong.

Here is how to unravel your story:

  • Curious.  As Brene wrote, “Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty.” It is so much easier to live in our self-deprecating assumptions that everyone is out to get us. When we open ourselves to curiosity, we open to possibility. This helps reframe or re-write the story. So how does this play out? Hmmm. Maybe my boss is in an important meeting. Maybe my assistant didn’t forget to copy me intentionally. Maybe I should ask my friend why everyone was snickering. Remain curious.
  • Wabi-Sabi.  Wabi-Sabi is accepting imperfection and uncertainty. As Brene wrote, “It’s always helpful to remember that when perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun.” Striving for perfection is exhausting. You will never be ________ (fill in the blank: good, smart, thin, funny) enough. Seeking perfection is inviting shame. The shoes will never be right. The report not all encompassing enough. Shame will not help the story in your head. Embrace the wabi-sabi in your life.
  • Enough.  This is one of the best quotes from the book: “Many of us will spend our entire lives trying to slog through the shame swampland to get to a place where we can give ourselves permission to both be imperfect and to believe we are enough.” It’s so important to tell yourself that you are enough. Try this: Shoulder’s back, stride into the room, smile and make eye contact. The next time you are walking into a room of new people, try it. It makes a remarkable difference in how you show up and how you feel. You are enough.
  • Own it.  Brene wrote, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” I’ve done this a few times with my husband over the last few weeks. When I started believing that he was mad at me or was upset about something, I would start by saying, “So I have two stories that I’m telling myself. One is that you are working really hard and are stressed and can’t be as attentive. The other is that you don’t love me anymore and you are seeing someone else.” Guess which story was true. Now I can own the real story.
  • Discomfort. This can be uncomfortable. It takes bravery. As Brene posits, “People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real bad-asses.” Think of yourself as a New York Times reporter fact-checking your story. It’s definitely uncomfortable to step into the vulnerability of uncertainty. If it’s too comfortable, are you really challenging the facts of the story. Engage in discomfort.
  • Ditch comparison. Comparing yourself to other’s is another way of writing the wrong story. As Brene wrote, “Stay in your own lane. Comparison kills creativity and joy.” Comparison is a limiting belief. In addition, it invites in perfectionism. My neighbor has a nicer car. My boss has a bigger office. I don’t make as much money as my colleague. Not very inspiring. Nothing to compel you onward and upward! We are all on our own path. As Brene says, “Stay in your own lane.”

I have slowly tried to incorporate this into my life. I take a step back when I am angry or resentful over something and try to reframe my story. It’s not easy but I do feel more present and I am able to re-write the story. What story do you need to reframe?