Blue Skies, Clouds, and Flying

A few miles into a guided run on my Nike Run Club app the coach, along with the co-founder of Headspace, started talking about motivation and being enough.

They described us as having enough (motivation, inspiration, or whatever we needed to keep doing this hard thing) but also as being enough. They wanted us to picture that place when we feel motivated, inspired and enough as a blue sky.

That blue sky is always there and beautiful.

But clouds make their way in and cover that sky. Those clouds represent our doubts, fears, feelings of not being enough.

When those feelings come in, they cover the blue sky and become what we focus on.

Those clouds are what stop us from finding the motivation, inspiration, and feeling like we are enough.

But they reminded us that despite the clouds, that blue sky is still there. Sometimes we cannot see it through the clouds, but it still exists.

Even when the clouds break, sometimes we are still so focused on the clouds, we miss the blue sky coming through.

This guided run and approach reminded me of my wife’s grandfather. A grizzly and tough man who flew planes in WWII and went by Gramps but made me call him “Commander.”

I once asked him what he liked the most about flying.

“Every single day is a sunny day with a blue sky if you just fly high enough.”

Gramps (aka Commander)

Will clouds come into our lives?

Yes.

Will those clouds of doubt and fear, and not being enough be our focus?

Maybe we just need to remember to fly high enough to find that blue sky.

P.S. Thanks Commander for the laughs and conversations and for the inspiration to be Captain.

What’s Your Pace?

During a recent dinner with a few friends, the conversation turned towards running. They run. I run. We are all runners. Put a few runners in the same room and talking about running is inevitable.

We started to talk about upcoming runs, past runs, and our favorite routes.

We started to discuss weather and water, getting outside and getting older.

We started, and then the focus shifted.

“What’s your pace?”

Instead of talking about nutrition plans.

“What’s your pace?”

Instead of talking about the mental game of running.

“What’s your pace?”

Instead of talking about why we run and what it means to us.

“What’s your pace?”

Instead of talking about good runs, and bad runs, and the entire running journey.

“What’s your pace?”

It was the narrow and continuous focus that caught my attention. They kept asking, and I kept trying to steer the conversation away. I wanted to know so much more about them and their journey. I wanted to share more about running through my 50’s, trying to remain injury free, and the mental game of running.

Maybe I am the outlier, but I had an advantage that helped me notice what was happening.

Over the past few months, I have been both participating in, and coaching a Mental Fitness program. This program raised my awareness of my own tendency towards an overuse of achievement. This “hyper-achiever” inside me creates a cycle of constant performance and achievement for self-respect and self-validation with a focus on external success.

The conversation’s focus on pace, was triggering this “hyper-achiever” inside me. Combined with my internal narrator (or Judge) who judges myself and others (especially through comparison) wanted to share my pace and talk about my faster runs.

But comparison and competition is not what I want in conversations.

That goes for all conversations, not just the running ones.

What is the alternative?

Recognizing this pattern is the first step. The next step is learning to shift away from these default approaches, and establishing being curious as a practice. This curiosity helps you ask better questions and explore with the other person.

Instead of “What’s your pace?” try a few of these questions:

What are you struggling with?

What have you learned after all these years?

What has been your greatest success?

When do you feel at your best?

How can I help/support you on this journey?

Magic Bonus Question: The AWE question – And what else?

These questions apply to all of our conversations. Being curious and exploring brings us closer instead of creating competition that drives us apart.

For me, pace doesn’t matter, exploring and getting to really know other people brings the real magic.

Interested in improving your Mental Fitness? I have a few spaces remaining for the next group program. Contact me for details.

Who Gives a Sh!t

I’ve been on a bit of a creative hiatus.

The past year has been full of stress, survival, and isolation.

Writing has been the furthest thing from my mind.

Most weeks are filled with solving new problems and trying to achieve goals while feeling like I am treading water to stay afloat.

To help come up for air (and rest my tired limbs apparently), I recently embarked on a mental fitness journey that helps to provide relief from those parts of us that become overextended through fear and anxiety.

The program includes meeting with fellow coaches weekly to discuss our collective journey.

During a call last night with these amazing coaches we were reviewing when achievement is an insatiable burden where we seek validation, competition, and comparison instead of being self-directed and satisfying.

Our conversation drifted to how this overextension impacts our weekends, and our ability to rest or take time for ourselves.

“I cannot believe I slept in until 10 AM on Saturday. I kept thinking about it and how I was not going to be able to get my stuff done.”

“I make a list of all the things I need to get accomplished each weekend, and if I don’t get it all done, I feel bad.”

As we each shared our own version of this “hyper-achievement” we saw the pattern. The ugly self-judgement that comes from pushing hard without taking a break.

It was that very moment that Tammy, one of the coaches provided the Sage-like words of wisdom for all of us. While pondering if it was okay to rest a little or if we had permission to not accomplish every single thing on that list.

“Who Gives a Sh!t”

Wise advice.

Who Gives a Sh!t if all your stuff gets done when you are tired and worn out all the time.

Who Gives a Sh!t: It’s okay to take care of yourself.

Who Gives a Sh!t: Sleep in if your body and mind are tired.

Who Gives a Sh!t: Rest when you need it (let’s hear it for naps!)

Who Gives a Sh!t: Stop making so many lists.

Who Gives a Sh!t: Go do something fun.

What fun thing will you do this week/weekend?

As for my never-ending weekend list – Who Gives a Sh!t: I’m going to get some Gelato.

Tell Them

There are people around us that make our lives better.

The friend who reaches out at the right moment.

The coach who notices something is off and offers an encouraging word.

The partner who makes your favorite meal when you arrive home after a long day.

The running friend who drops you off on the route and carries all your stuff and periodically shows up on the route to offer a “you’ve got this!”

The person who pauses and asks us again, “no really, how are you doing?”

The friend who calls and says “hey I miss you” let’s connect.

The one who reminds you that you are enough, you are special, and you matter.

They are around us.

They make our lives better.

They make a positive impact in our lives.

Sometimes in the midst of our own journey we forget to tell them the impact they have on us.

Sometimes we forget to tell them how important that small gesture was to us.

Sometimes we get so used to their actions that we forget to tell them that they matter.

So as you reflect on those that make such an impact, let’s tell them today.

Pause right now and picture their face and send a text, or make that call, or (even better) write a card or letter and tell them.

Tell them.

Amy the Phlebotomist

6:15 AM and an empty parking lot.

No lines, no waiting. Just a quick blood draw for that annual event.

Smiles behind masks and a friendly greeting.

Sign in and I get to keep the pen.

“Which arm do you prefer? And is there a vein they typically use?”

I offered my left arm and pointed out the visible vein on my inside elbow.

“Oh, that’s the easy one, but I prefer to use another one. It is on the outside and a little harder to find, but there are less nerves there so you will experience less pain afterwards. It’s a little harder for me. But this isn’t about me, it’s about making you have a good experience.”

As the blood flowed into those tubes with little to no pain, I learned a little more about this Phlebotomist. This was not Amy’s first career.

Hospitality, bartending, and customer service built her foundation. She spoke about how these skills shaped her perspective and how she does her Phlebotomist job now. The lessons simply flowed from her conversation.

Customer Service Lessons from Amy the Phlebotomist:

It is not about you.

It may be more effort on your part.

It is about making and/or creating a good experience for your customers.

Thanks Amy.

What a great reminder to close out this year and start the new year fresh. Imagine the difference when we make these small efforts that create a better experience for our customers, our coworkers, our family, our friends, and others around us.

Who’s ready to apply these lessons today?

Here’s to applying Amy the Phlebotomist’s lessons in the year to come!

Achieving and Grieving

“This could have been better.” – I should have been better.

“It didn’t turnout the way I expected.” – I didn’t do a good enough job.

“I am disappointed in the results.” – I failed.

During a conversation with a friend I noticed a pattern. Whenever they talked about something they achieved, it was immediately followed by reasons why it didn’t either go as planned, or why it could have been better.

This pattern applied to all achievements, big or small.

Released something big and creative into the world? It was not the right time and it could have been better, and it wasn’t perfect, and it had “wrong notes.”

Connected with and helped someone else? It really didn’t go as planned and didn’t really provide any value, it perhaps even wasted their time.

It was as if every time they tried to build a small reminder of their achievement, something would come right behind them and start tearing it down.

They couldn’t take a moment to savor achieving anything, without experiencing a loss. As I spoke it out (despite sounding rhyming and goofy) it rang true.

“You don’t seem to be able to experience any achieving without experiencing a loss, almost like you are grieving at the same time of what could have been, or should have been.

Achieving and Grieving.

Patterns are so easy to recognize…in others.

As a reflected, I experience the same pattern. Trying to celebrate, only to be frustrated and sad when things do not turn out “good enough.”

Some of the grieving of what could have been is easy to shake off, other times it seems to linger in my mind. One particular example has stayed with me longer than I thought.

A little more than a year ago, I got to run a race with one of my kids. I trained hard and was ready. We started off and everything felt good. We joked and chatted. Shortly after the halfway mark, I stared to slow my pace. Something was wrong. During the last few miles I couldn’t keep going and had to walk.

They were totally patient with me and we did a run/walk combination to finally finish. We got our medals and went to the celebration party afterwards.

As I look back, the grieving completely took over any chance of being able to celebrate the achieving. This grieving would find its way into my mind during other runs, and I found myself walking again. The grieving from a prior event kept invading the present.

Unfortunately, the Achieving and Grieving pattern is not exclusive to running.

That presentation that didn’t seem to connect with everyone.

That proposal that was only partially accepted.

The [insert your achievement here] that [insert your grieving here].

Realizing my own Achieving and Grieving pattern was a great first step. Often I failed to celebrate the achievements along this journey because they are viewed through this cloudy lens of grief.

It is time to clean this lens.

It won’t be easy but I am practicing a new pattern.

I am working to separate the Achieving from the Grieving.

When I achieve something, no matter how small, I pause to recognize it.

And since my mind seems to want a second step, I am replacing the Grieving with Appreciating.

Appreciating the work involved in the project.

Appreciating the creativity in that new idea.

Appreciating writing (this blog) again.

Appreciating these 50 year old legs that will still carry me for miles.

Let’s experiment together.

For the next 30 days, let’s try this new pattern: Achieving and Appreciating.

Keep us posted on your progress.