It was just above freezing, the rain was coming down and the wind was whipping the few remaining tree leaves through the streets. Despite this less-than-ideal weather, for nearly an hour I was out running in my shorts and t-shirt. An acquaintance who drove by me that day later asked, “Aren’t you cold?”
Honestly, I was. Or I had been. Until I decided I wasn’t going to focus on the cold anymore. It got me thinking about what happened on that run and how it was a template for adversity I may face in my life. Pretty simply, it was four steps I had gone through in those cold, rainy miles.
- Acknowledge it. Yes I’m cold. There’s no point in lying to myself about it. But what if tomorrow I’m too hot? What if in Mile 19 of the marathon my stomach hurts? Or I get a blister? Or I just want to quit? What if I’m not able to maintain the pace I had trained so hard and long for? There are countless things that can go wrong over 26.2 miles. And there are just as many things that can (and probably will) hurt. Perhaps some will try to block everything out, grit their teeth, let out a primal scream and continue on. Fine. But there are other ways to deal with adversity.
- Embrace it. Rather than pout or shrink, embrace this obstacle and recognize it as a learning, growing or strengthening experience. Yes, it’s cold. And I’m cold. But is it hurting me? (No). Am I still running? (Yes). Can I continue? (Yes). If this is the case, then why not turn what was initially thought of as adversity into motivation. Heck yeah it’s cold– but I’m out here anyway, putting in the miles, putting in the time, putting in the effort, working towards my goal. And nothing will get in my way of that. Certainly not being wet and cold for a bit.
- Push through it. At some point, I no longer felt the cold or the rain or the wind. I had already acknowledged it and decided it wasn’t going to affect me and now it was time to move forward. Emboldened, my pace quickened. I laughed as a semi-truck passed me (going the opposite direction) and a wall of wind and water spray barrelled into me as I ran on the sidewalk. I was not going to be beaten or slowed by the elements.
- Be better for it. I finished my run and I felt great. It was just one run and only a few miles in a long process, but a lesson was learned. Limits were pushed back just a bit more. Confidence increased.
These lessons are no different for trials or obstacles in our lives. We can choose to lie to ourselves and try to bury our feelings of disappointment, struggle, and pain. Or we can acknowledge that there is adversity of some kind in front of us — whether it has been self-imposed or not it makes no difference — and begin the process of overcoming it.
By embracing what we are going through we stop looking to the past and begin looking to the future. We can’t change the past but we can choose to become better and stronger because of it. Is it keeping us down or are we choosing to let it keep us down? What are we going to do to get up off the mat, put one foot in front of the other and start moving again?
Ultimately, as we push forward we begin to learn things about ourselves that can and should convince us that we are strong and that we can choose how we will respond to adversity. Bolstered by this blossoming confidence and with continued effort we will, at some point, be able to look back at the person we were and the trials we faced. It is then that we will see how far we’ve come and that we know how to handle future obstacles on our journey.