I've tried running a time or two. I've gone to the gym equipped with my ipod fully loaded with my workout music. I would hop on the treadmill, insert headphones, and quickly increase my pace to a respectable jog. At first, I would enjoy the rhythm of my feet in sync to the music. I would start to find a groove where I really felt like I was "getting it". That would last for about 3 minutes, and then I would feel my heart pounding in my chest, and my lungs would tighten up, and I became convinced I was going to drop dead right then and there. My hand shot out and pounded the red STOP button as I gasped for breath, and I walked away, promising myself "I'll never do that again". I was sure that if I were a "runner" this thing would come easier to me. If I were a runner, I would be able to go more than 3 minutes. If I were a runner, I would think it was FUN instead of a near death experience. Can you relate?
About 2 months ago, my sister brought up the possibility of our whole extended family running in a 5k on Thanksgiving morning. "It will be so much fun!" she said, "Anyone can do a 5k". In a weak moment, I agreed. I decided that any self respecting person could run a 5k, and I promptly recruited my husband and all of my children to join in. Now there was no backing out. I downloaded this handy little app called "Couch to 5k" on my iphone that very day to solidify my commitment.
The next day at the gym, I hopped on the treadmill ready to do battle. I opened the app and almost laughed. I was going to warm up walking for 5 minutes, and then alternate 1 minute of jogging and a minute and a half of walking for the next 20 minutes, and then cool down for 5 more minutes. This seemed lame. I felt insulted. Really, WARM UP to jog for 1 minute? But I was committed, so I decided to try it anyway. It was super easy for the first 2 weeks. I felt great. No knee pain, no near heart attack, nothing. And I was now running for 5 minutes at a stretch. I only had 3 weeks to prepare, so I wasn't totally ready when the race day arrived, but I finished with an average pace of 11 min and 59 seconds per mile. Faster than walking;) I call that a win.
Now its been 6 weeks since I started the program and I can run 22 minutes! I am running! What took me so long to get here? What can I learn from it? Why am I telling you guys about it?
All those years when I would tell people "I'm not a runner" what I really meant was
'Running is hard for me"
"I'm not as good of a runner as you are"
"I'm not confident I can do this running thing perfectly, so i'd rather not try"
I was taking counsel from my fears instead of trusting in myself.
How many things in life are you not doing because you are afraid of failure?
Have you always wanted to dance, or play the drums, or learn martial arts? Have you envied the sewing projects your friends post online? Have you ever thought about signing up for a dance class, but opted to fold laundry instead? How could you possible do something as selfish as dance when there are meals to be prepared, children to be taxied, and bathrooms to be cleaned? And then, because someone really should learn to dance, you sign your daughter up instead.
Why do you think there are so many over scheduled kids and under-satisfied moms in our culture? Because it is easier to enroll our children in all of the things we are afraid to try than it is to risk vulnerability and try something new ourselves. When therapists work with children, they often use puppets to create a safe space for kids to talk about themselves without really talking about themselves. In parenting, our children too often become our puppets. Things outside of ourselves that we can manipulate to communicate our real thoughts and feelings without risking vulnerability.
My challenge to you today is to stop. Stop avoiding things that are uncomfortable because of perfectionism. Perfectionism is the great thief of joy. Perfect is good, done is better. The truth is that you will miss every shot you do not take, so why not take the shot? Whatever it is that you have been avoiding because you are afraid of imperfection, JUST DO IT. Start today. The thousand mile journey (or marathon, or 5K) begins with one step. Take it.