I did a timed 5K this morning. In late April, I ran a 5K in 28:53. Today, I ran it in 29:18. I was slower, and for a split second when I looked at my watch, I was disappointed. Then almost immediately, I caught myself thinking, “Next time.” Not, “That was awful.” Not, “What a failure.” Not, “What the hell happened?” Just, “Next time.”
As I walked to cool down, it occurred to me that I need to talk to myself that way all the time, not just on the track.
I’ve been walking around for months being really hard on myself. I got my heart broken, and I’ve been letting that heartache make me feel small and unworthy. I can walk around beating myself up about all the things I did wrong, or I can say simply, “Next time.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if I could offer myself the grace in my regular life that I offer myself in my training?
I’m not the fastest person out there. I don’t compete to win. I race because I enjoy challenging myself, and I relish in the thrill of doing something that doesn’t really make sense – something I and others didn’t think I could do. That’s what Ironman is for me. I suspect there’s not a person in the world who knew me as a kid who ever thought that I’d do an Ironman one day. When I signed up for the first one back in 2007, I wasn’t at all certain that I could do it. But I was willing to try. I was willing to believe in myself enough to sign up and start training and see what happened. That willingness has paid off now four times over, and at nearly forty, I’m more fit than I have ever been.
In my training, my expectation of myself is to do the best I can and to not quit, even when I’m 80 miles into the 112-mile ride and can’t imagine finishing the ride much less continuing on to run a marathon. I focus on taking the next step and not giving up.
In work, in relationships, and in life, I should have the same expectations of myself – to do the best I can and to not quit. That doesn’t mean I won’t mistakes. That doesn’t mean I won’t make choices I regret – that I won’t need to ask for forgiveness at times. I will. But how would I feel if I applied that same standard to where I am right this minute? Would I be saying, “That was awful. What a failure. What the hell happened?” Or would I be saying that I did the best I could, and I didn’t quit?
Someone deciding not to love me or deciding that, regardless of the love, being with me isn’t worth the trouble is not the end of the story. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a great deal to offer. It doesn’t mean that I won’t find someone who believes in me and in us enough to stay. I do, and I will. I just need to learn from my mistakes, give myself a little grace, and be willing to try again.