Being your best; learning to walk.

This blog was finally pulled from my mind by a friend who sent me a quote:

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough” – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

I love reading inspirational quotes on social media – they resonate with people, for good reason usually. As much as I like reading them, I try and use them to help me develop my own inspiration.

Whilst I don’t really personally see that I have done anything particularly amazing with my life, I have overcome a number of challenges. Some challenges fell in my path, some I have set myself. Some I’ve overcome easily and some have been a real battle. People call me resilient. I don’t know anything else, I’m me.

I had been trying, for a while, to develop a thought about how sometimes, occasional success is better than occasional failure. I don’t like the word failure. There is not getting to where you want to be, but that isn’t necessarily failure. Only the person who is experiencing it can call it failure. And that one label can be so extremely damaging, I honestly don’t feel it has a place in most peoples vocabulary of thought.

To totally explain where this blog sits, I think ‘success’ needs to be explained. Having worked in a National Governing Body for sport that was driven by success being defined by Government criteria I feel very strongly about the definition of this in sport. Success isn’t necessarily Gold medals, the top coaching award or number of national caps won. I’d agree that this is the pinnacle of sport for some. In fact a very few. But success is how the participant defines it. It is personal. We can talk about athlete centred coaching. That is important, essential. But what about the 1,000’s of people who volunteer at parkrun every Saturday morning. Their contribution, in itself, is success. The run/walker who completes a 5km run for the first time in whatever time, I would suggest is a massive success. A kayaker may not choose an Olympic discipline, but instead be an expedition paddler, or coach educator, or use his skills in a rescue team – more or less of a success than a Gold medal? Who has the right to ask that question?

The same in work, create your own business, create your own success. Earn a squillion pounds, or earn a little. Invest time in your children, grow vegetables, mend cars, stitch blankets, anything, anything that makes you feel proud of yourself. That is success, however you feel it compares to anyone else. Comparison, I think, is nearly as destructive as defining failure, it needs using very carefully.

Being your best then, is about working towards success. There are two parts to this. One is where you’re going, but the other bit is how you get there. In formal speak, one is outcome, one is process.

Success is very rarely about hitting the goal first time. Sure, if your dream is small, then yes, it will happen easily. And, that is the important part to why I see myself as resilient. I will often see success in small things on the way to bigger things. Using an example of climbing a mountain in a certain time. That’s my big goal. I might not get it the first time, the fifth time or the fiftieth time, but I’ll get back up there and give it another go. That isn’t necessarily resilience, just stubbornness! I’ll look at where I’ve gotten better, or where I can improve. Sometimes it is as simple as enjoying the view, and knowing that being outdoors is better (for me) than being in front of a laptop.

And, you know what? For most people I can give them a number of examples where they have taught themselves how not to feel that way. How they’ve been ‘resilient’ and then forgotten it.

I believe that if I’m talking to someone, walking with someone, then they have lost the ability. Somewhere along the line of life, for whatever reason, the joy of being resilient disappeared. I believe we’re all born to succeed. I believe that we teach ourselves to lack belief in achieving our goals. Here’s why. The process of learning to walk, and talk is the same as running up a mountain in a certain time. Ever seen a baby learning to walk? The way different babies achieve it is different. Some crawl, some bum-shuffle, but all develop strength over a few months. Then, they develop balance…keeping that relatively heavy head over relatively small feet happens bit by bit. And then, chaos reigns, they walk. Babies don’t give up because they can’t walk the first time they try. They even chuckle and laugh as they bump back down when they got it wrong. The same with speech, rarely do babies get it right first time, but they keep trying, keep practising.

If you can teach yourself to walk, and talk, what can’t you do? Somewhere along the line we get taught what is ‘normal’. People who choose to challenge that, not to accept mediocrity can be seen as high achievers, obsessive or something else. Perhaps however, they just haven’t forgotten how they learnt to walk?

Once the wall blocking success in our mind has been built, then dreams can be scary, as per the opening quote. However, if you accept that occasionally bumping down taught you to walk, you can also accept that occasionally bumping down when you’re chasing a goal doesn’t make you a failure. That wall will crumble. Obstacles won’t stop you, they might slow you down, but you’ll keep moving. Life isn’t about occasionally not reaching goals, it’s about occasionally achieving success. The journey isn’t smooth. But, just like a coach load of kids love a humpback bridge, learn to love the bumpy. It makes the journey less tiring, less stressful.

Set where you want to go. Then remember, you learnt to walk, and talk, against the odds. So, go where you want. Fly!

Keeping the direction.

Trigpoint on the summit of Cader Idris
Trigpoint on the summit of Cader Idris

Life. It just gets in the way sometimes. Kids, Work, Jobs… for most of us it takes priority over our leisure time.

I’m gently working away at changing that, confident that the balance will get driven back the right way.

Every now and then, snatching a run, making it count, but nothing that has been as consistent as the training during 2015.

That said, the moments, and journeys have offered up more views, more memories than the competitive running, and as I take time to capture them, there is a growing portfolio of running shots that I value.

But, the reason to write this note was inspired after a ‘big three’ 59km, 2,600m of ascent in 6hrs 50 mins – all within 48 hours. I sit here now, my legs feeling ‘shelled’ but my mind feeling inspired.

Work, volunteering with Dolgellau parkrun, cooking, and jobs, all fit within that 48 hours. But away from the numbers I’ve seen amazing views, Deer, Raven, Kites, Buzzards, Barn Owls, Frog spawn, Woodcock, Buffalo, Llama, Black Sheep, heaps of tracks, little birds and little animals. And, in those runs, only a handful of people.

As I ran with Katie around y Garn on Sunday morning, I talked about what it is that defines me as a runner. It is very personal. It is not the runs I do to maintain my fitness and mental health. It’s not the progressive sprints, or hill sessions.

What defines me is new routes, new places, new views, new experiences. It is adventure through running that motivates me. My love of Navigation, my love of wild places and my love of journeying. The times and distances I accumulate as a runner are useful distractions to the fundamental, vital engagement that running gives me with the outdoors. 

Here’s to a year of footprints left, and memories taken.