It’s amazing how educators and coaches can have such an impact on us even if at the time we don’t realize it. When I think back to my schooling, I’m often brought to my middle school days when I ran track & field.
Which I was abysmal at.
I ran the mile…rather I attempted and usually came in last or close to it. During practice, I was able to jog the 30-45 minutes with my team but on the days of actual races my pace wasn’t enough. This was my M.O. for two years. My placement never changed, no matter how much I thought I improved. My coach though, knew better and kept telling me it’s not my legs – it’s my mind. He believed I could be faster but as a twelve year old, I heard him and nodded, but didn’t truly listen.
Instead he turned to action. On my last track meet of middle school, instead of running the long and daunting mile, he had me race the 400 meter. One lap was all I needed to focus on. My coach before the race said “Count every turn as a 100 meter race and sprint it.” Seemed pretty straightforward, I can count to four.
After I crossed the finish line, had I had been able to breathe, I would have gasped. Runners were behind me? That’s a new view! At the end of middle school track & field career I placed 5th and earned one point for my team. I likely celebrated that night, with Dairy Queen, and after a few days I moved on oblivious to the incredible lesson my coach had proved to me.
How It Shows Up
There are two ways I use this experience in my life. The practical use appears most often in exercise. “I’m on fifteen push-ups and I think I can do eighteen so I’ll stop there.” Wrong, I can do twenty three. We sometimes sell ourselves short when we focus on what’s remaining. If what’s left is too much, we self-consciously either decide a quicker end or slow down. During the mile, I thought “I’ve finished 1 1/2 laps so I have 2 1/2 left but I’m already tired and breathing too hard, I have to slow down to make it.” In the moment, what matters most is the present. You can do more than you believe.
The other use has a broader application. When faced with a decision in which you think you can’t, who is really saying no? There are things we can’t do because we’re told so and others we tell ourselves. The things we tell ourselves are out of fear of failure, judgement, or consequences. Instead of confronting the fear we make excuses. I made plenty of excuses in starting this blog before realizing no one but me was saying I couldn’t. My fear was putting words into the world and being judged for them.
My challenge to you is the same. When you find yourself saying I can’t, who says? Once you’ve confronted it and find yourself in the moment, believe that you can do more.