“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.” Anthony Robbins
Several years ago, I decided I wanted to participate in an adventure race. These are grueling events that take place in the wilderness. Contestants are given a series of coordinates that they must get to by hiking, biking, white water rafting, or some other self propelled method. The one I wanted to do was a day long event that traversed 50 miles through the Rockies.
I have a bit of an adventurous heart when it comes to physical activities but I’m no high performance athlete. My biggest problem is that my mind is always trying to cash checks that my body can’t fulfill. This adventure race was a bit of a pipe dream for me because when I first started training, I couldn’t even run a mile. I was grossly out of shape and weighed a fair amount more than my recommended BMI. My wife and I had 4 kids in less than 7 years and while my wife was still the same weight she started at, I had gained a good 10 pounds for each of my kids.
I had tried to get in shape over the course of those seven years of building our little family and injured myself several times. You see, I tend to approach things with real intensity. I get all fired up and I want to see my dream happen almost immediately. I will go out and run 4 miles off the cuff. It may almost kill me, but I don’t waste time dithering around. At least that’s what I tell myself when I start something new. Hence, the injuries. After spending months Netflix binging, I get off the couch and promptly run myself to the point of injury. Then I find myself back on that couch trying to find a new binge worthy series while I recover. A perfect recipe for destroying all my motivation and stopping me from doing what I really want.
After injuring myself many times, I finally listened to my wife when she said, “Take it slow. Pace yourself.” Good advice from a person who always seems to accomplish whatever she sets her mind to. I didn’t like the advice, because I don’t like doing anything slow. But I determined to make an attempt.
My first work out was nothing more than a brisk 1 mile walk. I pumped my arms really hard to make it feel like I was running. The progress was slow and painful (physically and emotionally), but I didn’t get injured. Slowly but surely I began to gain some momentum. I quit trying to measure my pace with that of other joggers who seemed faster and fitter than me. Instead I compared what I did each day to what I had done the day before. It was incredible to see the progress. In the end it took me 2 years to get a level of fitness that would allow me to complete my first adventure race. I was so pleased with my accomplishment that when I crossed the finish line, very near last place, I was overcome with emotion. By pacing myself, harnessing my own emotions, and reigning in my own desire to achieve quickly, I had actually done the impossible.
Each of us has our own pace. There will always be people who are better, faster, thinner, or smarter than you. Ignore them, they don’t matter. What matters is how you see yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Find your own pace for whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. Moderate your approach. As you slowly improve, your success at whatever you are doing will dictate your pace. Too many of us go out, guns a’ blazing, and we lose our steam, or get injured, or give up because we cannot maintain the intensity that we start with. True accomplishment comes from incremental consistent effort. Pacing takes patience but it will get you to places you only dream of.