‘Follow your Passion!’ ‘Dare to Dream!’
There is a whole 'inspiration' industry out there and nowhere is it more apparent than on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media. I have had many discussions with athletes and clients over the years and ‘inspiration’ can be a sticky topic. My opinion is that real inspiration for your own health comes from the hard feedback you get after actually doing some positive action. Running makes you feel good, so you do it again. The action inspires you on many levels, much more than looking at a photo on your phone ever can.
I have been asked a few times where or who I got my inspiration from in my career. The first time this happened I actually looked blankly at the interviewer for a moment, and then my mind started racing through a possible list of people - Lynn Kanuka, Lynn Jennings, Joan Benoit, Ed Viesturs. We are all supposed to have a hero that inspired us. Truth be told, while I admired these individuals, I didn't idolize them. I liked their story.
It's not that I haven't been impressed and in awe of other athletes or other brave and daring people, or that I did not have role models and great coaches, but the only thing that really inspired me to get out there, was simply that I loved being out there and I would remember that every time I felt awesome after and how much I like to race (racing felt better when I was prepared).
However, to the interviewer I responded: I am inspired by anyone who has done what they love to do, found a way to do what they love to do despite the naysayers, the odds, the doubts and the handicaps (which we all have).
It could be a writer, a gardener, a coffee roaster, a singer, a nurse, an athlete, or a scientist. People who want to find a way to live a life with purpose inspire me. In my post high performance life, I now see it everywhere.
As a coach, I am pretty simple in my approach to sport as far as inspiration goes. Give me your true goal, define your purpose, align your priorities and follow the schedule. My task as a coach is guide the first 3 and deliver on the last.
Dream goals are the very strong visions you have for yourself. Dream goals set the emotional stage for your passion. Dream goals may never come true, but by acknowledging your dreams you are opening yourself up to vast possibilities that would not exist if you could not let yourself see your true potential.
Dreams are often private and personal, but also very strong. We can only share them with the people we feel safe. Even in our ‘everything is possible’ culture of ‘follow your passion!’ our dreams are also what makes us most vulnerable. Dreams are the huge positive hopes we hold in our hearts that help us create the sort of life we want to live. The pursuit of dreams is the real path for many people, yet often we ignore our strongest voice out of fears that others will think us ridiculous or that it may never come true.
Many athletes spend their lives only seeing the goals not met, obsessing about what they want, and pinning their hopes on extrinsic desires. Our goals can cause our path to become narrow and, ends in themselves. We are led to believe in our society, that the gains of these extrinsic rewards validate our existence, our path, or at the very least, the vast amounts of time and effort we put into our training. Whatever outside rewards we have heaped our hopes upon, we get stuck there, in the messy frustrating, anxiety of it all—the fear of not achieving this thing we so want to strongly we can taste it-- which leads us to the endless questioning of our abilities and every aspect of our environment. Focussing too much on the ‘wish’ kills the passion for the now.
For years, I have mulled over the closely related cousins of the athlete mentality of passion and flow, as often, the passion goals can become so egocentric as to stop flow in its tracks. To buid personal excellence, you have to get expert at being both audaciously goal oriented and intrinsically motivated to train with commitment because you love it. Even on a deeper level, using running as an example (since I know that one the best) how to strive while continuing to love and build your passion for the act of running, that one thing you do that started with a love for a base action (running) and a raw feeling (love of feeling fast, of your heart beating and lung burning: whatever it was that made you feel so amazingly alive!). I have felt flow many times as a runner. Sometimes in a race, but most often I experience it in random moments in training. In fact, I actually practice the skills that lead to flow on a regular basis, and the more I practice, the happier running becomes for me.
Flow is really about what ‘I can do’ right now and less about ‘what I want to have happen in the future’.
The next time you go run you can practice this:
A few things will make your practice easier at first. Run in trails where it is quiet and you don’t have to stop for cars and crossings. Run flatter so you don’t have to focus on hills and changing pace or gait. Run without music so you can only have this one thing going on. If anything distracts you—dogs, cars, people—pretend they are the fish. Notice them (stay safe) but don’t throw out your hook. Eventually you will be able to turn on the flow whenever you run and wherever you are, even in races, on hilly courses, and while running in crowded areas.
The point of the exercise is to allow you to focus on what is happening right now.
Sometimes when I run, I think:
Clear roads behind, open road ahead, FLOW right now.
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Writing about the art of moving well and the lived experience of a life in sport.