As a devoted runner, I find life lessons from this movement that help me get through difficult times.
Journey with me for a moment.
We have signed up for a distance running race. For some of us, this is familiar territory. For others who consider paying money to cover long distances on their own feet a ridiculous contractual agreement, just play along.
As we nervously approach the starting line, our race director tells us that today we will be running a race with no defined finish line. Imagine the emotions we would feel together at hearing this news. Confusion. Frustration. “I want my money back.”
Instead of a well-defined journey, say 5K or 10K, this race with unclear distance and unknown finish line requires us immediately to switch our mindset.
Running races, like much of life’s challenges, give us a clear finish line. At age 16, we can get a driver’s license. At 18, we can vote. We know how many credits we need to finish a degree. We have clear deadlines at work for submitting a given report. Many working people right now can cite for you the exact month at which they are eligible to retire, even if it is decades away.
So, as the gun goes off to start the race, we have a decision to make. Do we run the race disgruntled and depressed at our predicament? Or do we turn this into a chance to settle into a new challenge and enjoy the experience?
Is it possible that we could enjoy nature’s beauty, the chance to see what our own body can do on that day, and the camaraderie of runners around us even more because there is no finish line to distract us?
By detaching from a “finish line mindset,” could we become more present, the goal now being to enjoy each moment?
Let’s now step into the race we are all running, the COVID race on the pandemic course.
This endurance event that has us at a point of exhaustion and fatigue has no clear finish line.
We are on the course, facing daily and weekly questions that runners often ask aloud on the racecourse.
How much longer?
Can I really finish this thing?
Why aren’t there more aid stations out on this course?
I offer a simple reframe as we all try to figure out our pandemic race strategy.
Let us change our gaze from looking for the finite end of the race, a finish line that is yet to be marked, and instead focus on the progress we are making.
Say these three simple sentences to yourself:
Today, we are one day closer to the finish than we were yesterday.
This week, we are one week closer to the finish than we were last week.
And this month, we find ourselves a month closer to the finish than we were last month.
We avoid the runner’s pitfall of incessantly asking, “How much more is left,” and instead focus ourselves on our journey toward the finish, one step at a time. Enjoy the moment, listening to life’s symphony playing its beautiful music through your children, family, co-workers, and the sounds of nature. Appreciate those in the race around you.
“One day closer” now our mindset, letting go of “finish line mindset” and its accompanying worry about where/when the finish lies, we might also look over our shoulder. Appreciate the year we have endured and struggled and overcome since March 2020 forced a new reality upon us. We have already run a long race together, and we should take moments to be proud of the ground already covered.
Brothers and sisters, we are getting closer to the finish with each passing day, week, and month. That is true regardless of when/where the finish line lies.
Sit with that for a few moments. Better yet, take this new mindset, lace up your shoes, and go run with it.
See you at the post-race party!
Image credit: Shutterstock.com