Slow And Steady Wins The Race

I am a runner, and I love it! I run at least a couple of times per week, and love the feeling of being outdoors, working my body hard, and developing my strength. Some runs are better than others, of course. If I am tired or distracted, running is difficult. My legs feel like lead weights, and my mind feels like my worst enemy. But on the good days … well, I have the strength of an ox! The speed of a gazelle! The focus of a professional hitman! Those sorts of days make running my favourite thing to do for myself.

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Running into a headwind gives me the evidence to believe I am powerful

My love affair with running started when I was a child. As a bright-eyed, bushy tailed eight year old I would line up at my local track every Saturday morning, and compete against my peers at Little Athletics. I was expected to participate in all of the events, which had me facing my fear of the high jump bar, and blundering my way through races with hurdles. The events I looked forward to most were the ones where I simply got to run. The longer the race, the better. I was never the slowest runner on the track, so my mediocre performance in sprints was never a total embarrassment, but I was always one of the most determined competitors. This allowed me to fare well in middle distance runs, the 1500m being my favourite.

The winter off-season brought cross-country running to my childhood schedule, and I loved nothing more than rising to the challenge of the longer runs. As I got older the runs got longer. Nowadays, I enjoy running a 10km circuit, and I posted my best time of 57mins just last week. I’m certainly not fast enough to compete seriously, but I work hard at shaving every second I can off my time.

Running teaches me a lot about life. It suits my energetic personality, and allows my mind to run free while my body is occupied. The other day I found myself running into a particularly strong headwind that had whipped up along the river on that chilly winter day. It was tough going, and I worked hard to keep my time to a reasonable pace. The lady in my running app is one of my best friends, cheering me along at every kilometer, and commending me when I achieve new personal bests. This headwind guaranteed that there was to be no outstanding achievements in the first half of my run. I struggled to keep each kilometer to a 6min time. I felt tired and my legs were screaming at me. The entire world seemed to have every intention of holding me back. No matter how hard I pushed, I couldn’t maintain my usual performance in the face of this environmental resistance.

At the 3.5km mark, this particular run takes me across a bridge to the other side of the river, where I continue back along for a further 4km. The bridge is quite high, which means that running up the first half offers a brief challenge. On this day though, the bridge felt like Everest. After running into the headwind that was more like a wall for 21 minutes, the last thing I wanted to do was tackle any sort of incline.

Positive self talk is the number one key in running. Without managing the words I am saying to my self along the way, I have absolutely no hope of exerting any authority over my body at all. I refused to listen to the desperate objections coming from my legs, and took another mouthful of sports drink to ease the stitch that was developing in my right side. Instead of yielding to the pain, I breathed deeply into my core. With every breath I told myself that I was powerful. I reminded myself that I have done this run before, and I encouraged myself with the knowledge that any form of resistance has the potential to make me stronger if I will rise to it.

Coming down the other side of the bridge gave me 15 seconds of downhill relief, but then I was back on the flat of the riverside track. I was all ready to tackle the next 4km leg, and continued to push myself through. As the track curved ever so gently off to the left, I noticed that a most marvellous change had occurred.

In running up and over the bridge, I had changed directions. I wasn’t running north any more … I was running south. This meant that the headwind I had run into for the first part of my run was now coming from behind me, pushing me along like a car that needs a roll start. The relief was out-of-this-world amazing! I felt as light as a feather, and faster than a speeding bullet. My time started getting faster and my phone lady was completely ecstatic! This run was the day I posted my fastest time. It taught me three things:

  1. Rising to environmental resistance strengthens me more than anything else can
  2. Slow and steady performance where progress is almost invisible is not always a sign of weakness or failure
  3. Changing my direction can position me to transform any obstacle into an accelerant

 

Ignite Purpose Or Burn Out

Burn out is something that many of us have encountered. We all work extremely hard at meeting conflicting needs and urgent pressures, and often there is no room left for the purpose that once ignited our hearts. Tiredness and despondence is a natural, understandable reaction to days that are filled with rolling compromises, unrewarding efforts, confused ambition, and the relentless pressure of external priorities. The problem is that striving leads to ineffectiveness and exhaustion because we are missing the essential ingredient of purpose. The risk is that when push comes to shove, we sell out on the things that make us uniquely valuable, deeply content, vibrantly alive! We all need a fulfilling, custom-made intention that pulls us through seasons of listless disillusionment into driving conviction. We need to make a stand to establish, defend and advance our purpose in any and every situation.

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Being disconnected from the vibrancy of my purpose caused tiredness and disillusionment

When I lost my voice it took me nearly two years to realise that what I had actually lost was a deep, defining connection to my purpose. Even though I was passionate about all of the things I had built my life upon, it dawned on me that somewhere along the way I had become disconnected from myself. I loved the things that filled my life, but somehow these things had become little more than mechanical operations.

We comprehend the defining Purpose of our Infinite Self by expanding our awareness of our Original, one-of-a-kind inner person

The source of my mistake was thinking that my actions defined my identity, and assuming that my life would never change. As I worked through my recovery I realised that life’s different roles and structures can only serve us if they are flexible to evolve. At the heart of the perfect life is the realisation that our humanity demands growth, and this growth relies on change. Our Infinite Self thrives when we understand that we exist to pursue a cause that sets us on fire, and that this cause can only be enlivened through change. In hindsight, I needed to learn that living a life fuelled by passion for my purpose relied on me embracing my need to continuously grow in myself.

From a biological point of view, growth is something we have in common with other living things, and it is simply an increase in measurable size. This is distinct from the development of the living thing, which involves the transformation that takes place while undergoing growth. In some living things growth can lead to dramatic transformation, as in the case of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, a tadpole becoming a frog, or a small seed growing into a large tree. All living things grow, and for complex animals such as human beings, this growth provides the vehicle for development and transformation. We simply can’t enjoy the fullness of our Infinite Self if we don’t champion our need for growth, and this growth comes from strategically responding to change.

When we watch ourselves acting powerfully in the world we begin to realise that we each have a unique reason for living that suits us down to the ground, and that this purpose will take us on a journey of unearthing our greatest assets. In real terms, knowing your purpose will highlight what you want in life, and also what you are willing to give up to get it. In coming to know your price like this, you will fortify yourself against compromise so that you no longer back down on things that are important to your identity. Knowing your purpose will also mean that you learn to choose your battles, because you will only want to engage with challenges that allow you to fulfil your reason for living. You might even see that you have been spending far too much time and energy on meaningless drama and useless activity that brings no reward whatsoever. Finally, knowing your purpose will mean that you are able to find the work that energises you. The work that you will do with passion and flow will be the work that targets your purpose and allows you to shine in the fullness of your strengths.

As I recovered my sense of purpose, I unearthed the deepest parts of my identity, and this allowed me to recover my voice. Tightness in my throat was replaced with the liberty of free flowing wholeness. Disillusionment and despair gave way to direction and strategic action. Mundane activity was replaced with work that set my heart on fire and my imagination racing with possibilities. These are the three things that I learned about growth as I emerged from the trauma of the voice strain injury:

  1. GROWTH IS CONTINUOUS: There is a valuable opportunity tucked away in every situation, and knowing our purpose will highlight specific ways that we can exploit every single situation for our greater cause.
  2. GROWTH IS DRIVEN BY PURPOSE:  We each have unique superpowers, and when we establish what they are and operate in them, we can live for our purpose without ever stopping.
  3. GROWTH ALWAYS WANTS MORE: This sort of life inspires an insatiable desire for expansion, and as we extend into living our purpose we find that our capacity for life, love and wholeness is perpetually enlarged.

Silent Treatment

Looking bankruptcy square in the eye is an intimidating thing. But rising to it, and standing firm in the face of that threat, brings new urgency to possess every reward available in the midst of the challenge. As Alec and I settled into the journey of defying that financial death sentence, it saw us going hard at life. We worked day and night to reclaim the territory that could have been lost, our sights firmly fixed on building our online business at the same time as my teaching career. I would love to say that we worked tirelessly, but after a few years of non-stop effort with work and kids, and a commitment to being actively engaged with our friends and community, the cracks started to show.

Alec’s passion for his business really was relentless, and drove us through the years as they passed. I must confess that I struggled. Although an over-supply of teachers makes it difficult for many to get work, I quickly developed a strong reputation in my area. I enjoyed working full-time hours, but even back-to-back temporary contracts left me high and dry over the Christmas break. I felt vulnerable financially, because I knew that my teaching income served our family with much needed stability. It seemed that no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t get ahead. Any gains we made were lost through school holiday periods, and in keeping up with the ongoing flow of debt repayment.

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I hung everything of my identity on things I did with my voice

After a few years the endless stream of work got the better of me and I became increasingly run down. Disillusionment started to creep in and take over the conviction that I had for the importance of the task at hand. I was tired and frustrated, and the well of fulfilment that I normally drew from was becoming dry. Honestly, I really just wanted to give up most days.

Term 2, 2009 saw me commence a position teaching in a private primary school library for four days a week. The contract was to see me through to the end of the year. It was absolutely perfect because it gave me that one spare day to keep up with my admin and, of course, join Alec with our online business building.

Starting that job was exciting and I had my best optimistic pants on for my first day. I was hopeful that this four day balance could give me just a little bit more time to invest into our business in a way that made a difference to our bottom line. Our demanding lifestyle marched steadily onwards through my first week of the new job, and then my second, but by the third my momentum was waning with a cold that I picked up. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt the deflating squeeze of the steam-roller of life. With no reserves in my personal tank, my sickness quickly developed into a sinus infection. I soldiered on through as long as I could, but decided to take a day off at the start of the Easter break. I figured that this would give me six days at home to help the antibiotics work their magic, and knock this sickness on the head.

It worked … sort of …

I did recover well enough for my sinuses to clear and my energy levels to return nearly to normal, so I went back to work. And then on the next Sunday I did what I always did and lead songs at my church where worship was more like a concert. I continued everything as I normal: teaching, singing, training my dog, and taking my usual extroverted energy to animated exchanges with my friends and family. Despite feeling under the pump emotionally, I loved living and threw myself into everything with abandon.

Unfortunately, this season of my life was neither the time nor the place to splash my natural exuberance around recklessly. As time passed I did continue to regain physical health, but my voice remained hoarse, and became progressively worse. I took my frustrated self off to the doctor once again. I was tired of facing road-blocks to my progress, but I had to admit that I would not be OK unless my voice got better. Everything I did in my life relied on my ability to express myself vocally. In hindsight I know now that I used all of these different parts of my life to define my very identity.

You can imagine my concern then when my doctor sent me off to the ENT specialist with a worried look all over her face. And you can imagine my worry when the ENT specialist referred me on to another specialist for further examination. And you can imagine my distress when this specialist inspected my throat with a small camera on the end of a thin flexible tube before giving me the diagnosis that would change every part of my life as I knew it. At this last stop, I learned that I had sustained a voice strain injury that would see me out of action for at least a year. I learned that I might not recover unless I was strict with my prescribed therapy. What was this treatment? Silence.

Literal silence.

For three months I was not allowed to speak at all. Not. A. Word. My prescribed vocal activity was restricted only to trilling, vocal exercises, and therapy. In that one doctor’s visit my ability to function in my daily life ended. Without a voice, I couldn’t teach, or sing, or share with my friends, or converse with my kids, or my husband. I could not even train my dog. Talking was replaced with emails and notes, head shakes and nods, gestures and clicks of my tongue. Communication was now a privilege that I had been withdrawn from.

In an instant my life had become an echo of a world I was instantly disconnected from. And I was devastated.

 

Possess Your Power

People watching is one of my favourite activities. We human beings are mesmerising subjects, and under the microscope of observation the fascination only gets better. When I look at the people around me on a good day, I feel great, and the world looks grand. On that day, people look how I feel. They look smiley and confident and generous and kind. People look like they have everything they need to make progress in their life, and I am happy for them, down to my core. I want each person I see to take their own powerful steps towards growth along their own unique path. When I am operating out of my fullest, most liberated self I have not even the slightest inclination to compare myself with others because I am too busy enjoying the fact that I am enough. I am too busy embracing the fact that my journey, with all its challenges and all its spoils, are satisfyingly mine.

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Comparison with others is swapped out for wholeness when we champion our  own power to move strategically

On a bad day, people look different. On this day I look out at the world around me and I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I am mind-numbingly aware that I work too hard at working hard, and I sit back wishing that it could all be different.  From this outlook, we are entitled, acting as if we are somehow destined to have the successes we want in our life, without making the choices we need to transform moments into opportunities. We haven’t done what we need to do to enjoy the spoils of our success now. People do look different from this perspective: they are always further ahead than I am. They seem richer, smarter, healthier, happier. The sight that meets my eyes triggers the misery of my own internal bitterness. From this self-righteous mindset I risk being corrupted by my own jealousy, unless I take action towards my own progress.

We Possess new directions for our Infinite Self in Opportunity by taking strategic action in the world around us

I have found benefit in comparing ourselves not to other people, but more broadly, to other living things. It is a wonderful thing indeed to celebrate simply being alive, and to pull wisdom from a more intuitive way of being. Living things move their bodies. This movement is not initiated or caused by an external force but it is independent and directed by the living thing itself. The movement of living things allows them to source energy, to obtain essential requirements such as water or air, to respond to the environment, to reproduce, or to protect itself from a threat. The movement of the living thing is central to its ability to sustain its own life. As a human being, my health and happiness depends on my ability to move purposefully towards the things that I need for my own unique fulfilment.

Time passes and things will never stay the same, but our ability to redirect the flow of our circumstances is what defines us as unstoppable. When my back is against the wall in my health, my relationships, my business or my emotions, I must do something different. Strategic action is the only way that that I can actively Possess a new outcome. It is not enough to survive in this world. Thats what we have been doing all along. Simply pulling yourself out of bed and doing activity while time passes is a lifestyle, but it’s not living. To enjoy a freedom that can’t be stopped we must exchange surviving for thriving by moving strategically.

  1. MOVE ONLY TOWARDS INTENTION: I direct everything I do towards my Plan A. There are no short-cuts to the fulfilment of Plan A, and there is no prescribed route either. When life throws me off course, I respond by rerouting back towards my aims, intent on pursuing only what I need in my life to be happy.
  2. MOVE ONLY TOWARDS AUTONOMY: I know that I am the only one who can move myself, and I embrace that responsibility as a privilege. I am most powerful when I am taking ownership of my happiness. It is always up to me to move
  3. MOVE ONLY TOWARDS REWARD: I run at the point of no return like a bull at a gate, energising the steps I need for my future by enjoying the spoils of the steps I took in my past. I know that my daily journey is the inheritance I give myself so I squeeze every bit of joy from my Have-It-Now inheritance.

Activating our Power in the world opens our eyes to the fullness of the gains we can make only if we follow through to Possess these gains. Our Infinite Self will come into its own like never before when we drive every Powerful action towards success in areas we have defined for ourselves.