Fostering Curiosity Not Judgement

Judgement takes on many different forms.  It is obvious when you gossip about someone’s clothing or the shape of their backside.  Many recognize these actions as unhealthy and negative and try to avoid this behavior.  However, consider this, have you ever yelled at another driver on the road because they cut you off?  Or have you ever shook your head at the mom who is carrying her screaming child out of the grocery store?  What about when you look in the mirror and berate yourself for your imperfections?

Judgement as a standalone action is neither good nor bad.  It is the mindset we foster when we exercise judgement that makes all the difference.

Judgement is “the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and evaluating”.  When we use judgement after implementing critical thinking, weighing the pros and cons, “discerning and evaluating”, it can help us to learn and grow from our experiences and the experiences of those around us.  But when we choose to use judgement to belittle others and hold ourselves in higher regard, we are only taking a step deeper into the muck. It is up to us to make a conscious effort to judge wisely.

chloe-si-39644-unsplash
It is YOUR choice to approach the world with a mind of wonder – PC:Chloe Si on Unsplash

 

The Dos and Don’ts of Wise Judgement:

  • Do hold judgement in reserve and foster curiosity first and foremost.  Ask questions before forming an opinion.  Is it possible that the driver who cut me off is in a hurry to get home because his child just broke their leg?  We never know what is taking place in the lives of others.  Seek understanding.
  • Don’t hold onto your opinions too tightly.  Once you form an opinion, be open to the fact that new information may present itself that could change your opinion. Stand for open-mindedness rather than righteousness.
  • Do allows others to have their own opinion.  Judgement turns wicked when we try to impose our thoughts onto others.  Everyone is on their own journey and what is right for them, may not be right for you.  This does not lead to wrong or right, just different.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask someone why they believe what they do and to share why you do what you do…when appropriate.  Healthy conversation where people are trying to understand each other promotes growth and increases knowledge.
  • Do allow yourself to use judgement to grow and learn from your actions. It is our judgement that teaches us which actions helps us grow and which tear us down. Whatever adverb you assign to your actions, use that decision to inform how you will move forward rather than dwelling on what did or didn’t happen in the past.
  • Don’t use judgement to belittle yourself or others. Honor yourself and those around you whenever you are tempted to pass judgement!

Reserve Judgement ~ Foster Curiosity

How to Choose What Helps YOU Grow

We live in a culture of do more with less time, less money, less resources.  Your Facebook feed is probably littered with articles such as “Do XYZ every day” and “5 Food to Eat Every Day” and “10 Habits of Successful People”.  The message is always the same….do this or that every day and you will be successful, whatever that means.

Runners further encounter this on a targeted level.  Do more strength training, run more miles slowly, do HIIT training, run hill repeats, do track workouts, eat more protein, eat 100% plant based and the list goes on.  It can get very overwhelming to sort through it all for new and old runners alike.  To make matters worse, the advice can frequently be conflicting.  What is a runner (or any person) supposed to do?

When I first started running, I tried to do it all and I burned out fast, quick, and in a hurry.  As a result, finding motivation was an intense struggle and my depression took advantage of this struggle.  I could not find consistency in my exercise or daily routines and became bogged down with guilt.

I wondered how “real” runners were able to do it all.  I wondered what was wrong with me that I couldn’t be this super human being.  I wondered why I could be successful in other parts of my life, but not this one.  I wondered what I was doing wrong.

When I turned to others (either in person or via the internet or social media), I got lots of advice – all colored by that individuals experiences and needs.  It took me a long time to realize that I needed to focus on what worked for myself, not others.

Sorting through it all and finding what works for you is a process.  See, the meaning of life is all about our journey, not the destination.  Life it not meant to be easy and comfortable.  Life is meant to be raw and dirty and leave us bloody and bruised.  It is only with these battle scars and life lessons that we grow stronger and truly experience life.  We are born with a seed inside that contains the code to our best selves.  Within this imperceptible seed, all the answers exist.

In order to decode this seed, we must nurture and water and put effort into its growth.  It may turn into a mighty oak or a delicate cherry blossom or a powerful eagle.  It may grow into one thing one day and morph a year or 10 years down the road.

Or It can wither and die on the vine.  From the day we are born, we are in a continual process of growth or death….it is up to us to decide through our actions which direction we are headed.

How do we decide which actions are going to help and which are going to hinder?

  • COURAGE TO TRY SOMETHING NEW – Try new things, whether it be a new food, new workout, or new way of talking to your partner about an issue.  We can never discover what work best if we are unwilling to try.  It can be easy to get stuck in our ways, but unless we try something new, we will never know.  Failure will occur, but it is only in risking failure that we discover.
  • SELF REFLECTION – With all things, it is only in reflection and assessment that we can learn what works.  Trying something new is important, but it is equally important to ask – “Did that work for me?”  (Word of Caution: Don’t give up if it didn’t work the first time.  It can take several attempts for a new food, workout, attitude, etc. to produce results)
  • COURAGE TO SAY NO – If you determine something does NOT work for you, have the courage to say NO!  If a workout or food or way of living does not work for you, then stand strong and focus your energy in other places.  Social media can drive us to think that we should be just like our friends, but we are all unique and special individuals.
  • SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY – Find a supportive community, either in person or via social media.  A supportive community, no matter how big or small, will not tell you what to do, will not ask you to be other than you are, but will give you the right pushes and nudges and encouragement to grow while providing a softer landing for when you fail.   Do not be afraid to cut out those in your life that do not help you become your best self.
  • BELIEF IN YOURSELF – At the end of the day, only YOU can be an expert in you.  Believe in yourself because if you are unwilling to believe in yourself, no one else is going to do it for you.

Capture

 

I Skipped a Race…Why it was the Best Decision I Could Have Made

A little over a month ago on April 22, 2018, I was registered to run the Dam Run 40K.  I signed up for this race shortly after my Antelope Canyon 50 mile finish, excited for my next running adventure.

Life had different plans however.  My hubby’s school schedule and workload got out of control.  This left me with most of the child and household duties.  I was slammed at work with my normal job, a national strategic project, a leadership development program, and preparations for a 4 month detail to Washington DC.  On top of all that my family had a week of the flu, then a few weeks later, a rotating door of some 36 hour bug that left at least one of us wrecked for almost two weeks.

All this occurred over a 6 week period leading up to the race and I was barely running.  I still got out for a few miles 4-5 times a week to maintain some sanity, but as the race approached,  I found myself feeling raw and detached. When I thought about the race, I just felt empty.

I commonly get anxious before a race and my brain gets cruel.  It tells me that I should skip the race or that I won’t be able to finish or I’ll be slow (for me).   I know that I just need to ignore these thoughts because that wicked little demon my shoulder isn’t telling me the truth.  This time however, his song and dance were more subtle. It wasn’t waves of excitement followed by waves of anxiety.  It was just a low underlying hum of exhaustion, as if even he didn’t have the energy to rally a battle cry.

A few days before the race, I paused long enough to ask myself, “Do I really want to do this race?”   I wasn’t worried about finishing, I knew I would. I wasn’t worried about a fast time, I knew that wouldn’t happen and I didn’t care.  I wasn’t even worried about the heat or waking up early. When asked the question, my heart answered simply, “I just don’t want to.”

And so I listened.

Choosing to skip a race was a huge risk.  Would it open the door to skipping races later?  Would it fuel the flames of my depression? Would I feel horrible and regret the decision as soon as the race started?

I decided to skip the race anyways.

The moment I sent off the email letting the race director know I wouldn’t be coming, I felt peace wash over me.  It freed me to spend quality time with my husband and kids on Friday night and a night on the town with girlfriends on Saturday night.  That Sunday I got to sleep in, relax, and get caught up on household tasks. It turned into the best decision I could have made.

What questions can you ask yourself when trying to decide if skipping a race is the right call?

  1. Am I injured and could racing lead to worse or permanent damage? – The greatest benefits to running come from consistency and longevity.  If one run or race will put that at risk, it isn’t worth it.
  2. Does a loved one need me and my time more that I do? – Running is a lot about self-love and it is important to make that self-love a priority.  But it can quickly become selfish if we put it above the needs of our loved one. A child’s important soccer game or a husband’s final exams might require sacrifices from your running.  Running should make you the best person you can be, but if you allow it to always put your needs above others, it is no longer supporting the best you.
  3. Am I Mentally Burnt Out? – this is a tricky one, especially if depression haunts you.  Read my post about burnout for more thoughts and ideas on managing burnout.  Yet from time to time, one more hard push might put us over the edge.
  4. What will I gain from this race? – If the race will give you a much needed confidence boost, a break from a stressful home or work life, or just an energy surge from being out on the trails, then it is worth it, even if you won’t run a personal record.
  5. What will I gain from skipping this race? – This turned out to be the critical question for me.  By choosing not to run, I gained time to relax with my kids, enjoy comraderie with friends, and catch up on some of the undone tasks that had been creating extra stress in my life.  I gained more by skipping the race, than running it. This was definitely a new experience for me.

In the end, the biggest key for me was HONESTY.  It can be so incredibly difficult to be honest with ourselves.  We fall into justifying bad choices or pushing when we should rest.  At the time, I was afraid I wasn’t making the right call, but in hindsight, it was the best choice I could have made.

What helps you be honest with yourself when deciding how hard to push and when to rest?

Becoming an Ultra Runner Started with the Courage to Face My Fears

I recently ran 50 miles for the time at the Antelope Canyon UltraMarathon. It was an amazing accomplishment and I am immensely proud of myself. As I reflect on this latest accomplish, I can’t help but turn back time to the first time I ran 4 miles where the dreams of being a long distance runner all began.

I was living in Clarksville, TN and I had been going out for 2-3 mile runs pretty regularly. The moment I decided I wanted to start going longer, the idea of going farther than 3 miles was daunting and terrifying. But I wouldn’t be deterred and I went out for one of my regular 3 mile routes. When I got back to the beginning, I shot down a different road to add another mile. I felt determined.

As I turned down the road, two old ladies walking their Pekingese were coming straight at me. I swerved and ducked around them and the yappy little dog. They called out, “Great job, how far are you running?”

I sang back, “I’m going on my fourth mile!! Can you believe it?”

These ladies didn’t know me from Eve. There was no reference for them to either believe or not believe that I was capable of this monumental feat. But I wasn’t speaking to them, was I? I was telling myself, proud and out loud, to make sure that I knew, beyond a doubt, that I was capable of such a feat. That fourth mile was a door that I busted open to greater possibilities.

0407180818c_Film1.jpg
I was afraid I wasn’t going to fit…talk about a tight squeeze!

The significance of this moment rises to the ranks of my wedding day, the birth of my children, and completing a 50 mile race.

At that time, 4 miles was epic, almost beyond comprehension. Today, 4 miles is as easy as walking to the mailbox. I have to push myself to new heights and new challenges to get that same sense of pride and accomplishment. But as I conquer new feats, I am grounded in the understanding that it all began with a single step and the courage to conquer a fear.

The courage to put on running shoes and step out for the time – I was terrified I couldn’t do it, but I did it anyway.

The courage to go to a running store to purchase running shoes – I was terrified they would laugh at the newbie, but I did it anyway.

The courage to register for a race – I was terrified I would be a laughingstock, but I did it anyway.

The courage to show up for a group run with strangers – I was terrified no one would talk to me or run with me and that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but I did it anyway.

Each time I had the courage to overcome a fear has brought me one step closer to where I am today. And it gives me the foundation to know that each time I face a new fear I have within me the courage to do it anyway.

Gary “Laz” Cantrell, infamous Barkley Marathons race director said, “If you are going to face a real challenge, it has to be a real challenge. You can’t possibly accomplish anything without the possibility of failure”.

0407180757a_Film1.jpg
Trail running used to be a big fear and now it is my sanctuary

Once upon a time, I took a risk to give running a try knowing that I could fail. Today it is longer and longer runs, running with stronger and stronger runners and most recently going to the gym to do strength training – but I seek out those things that scare me, the places I am vulnerable and try them anyways. Through these actions, I have proven to myself I am stronger than my fears, stronger than my depression, stronger that I realized. I surprise myself time and again and my goal is to keep surprising myself for a long time to come.

What are you afraid of doing for fear of failure? Whatever your answer…..put that at the top of your to-do list! The journey continues…..

Antelope Canyon: 50 Miles to Find Myself

FAIR WARNING _ THIS IS A LONG ONE!!!  But I didn’t have the heart to break it into two parts.  It just couldn’t be done.

On February 24, 2018, I woke up in Page, Arizona to freezing cold temperatures.

I desperately wanted to stay in my sleeping bag and skip the race.  I wanted some excuse…a broken leg maybe…..that would allow me to graciously step down from this commitment I had made.  I wracked my brain for that excuse and came up short.  I knew that I needed to face my fears.

Putting on a brave face, I dressed within the confines of the sleeping bag that was my only warmth the night before, and stepped outside to toe the starting line of the Antelope Canyon 50 mile Ultra Endurance Run.

Read more

How to Rise Above Depression When Dealing with Burnout

Burnout.  We’ve all felt it.  Life is going great.  You are loving your job or enjoying your marathon training or head over heels in love with taking care of your kiddos.  Then, one day, you wake up and it takes all of your energy to get your running shoes on or make one more peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The symptoms of burnout – fatigue, lack of passion, loss of enjoyment -are all too often daily feelings for a depressive.  Because of the similarities, I find it a major challenge to recognize when burnout has taken a hold.   To complicate matters, the best solution to burnout is a short break to reinvigorate and re-energize.  But when managing depression, taking a traditional break can be the first step into a dark and gloomy spiral of never ending sadness.

Finding the yellow-brick road back to the light of day can feel as daunting as eating rice a grain at a time.  Might as well not even be worth the effort.

I am an overachiever by nature.  I want to be at the top of my game…best of the best.  I want to do everything and actually believe that I CAN!  And while I have come along way in balancing my priorities, I still struggle with exercising moderation.  I go go go until I drop and burn up.

My first problem is recognizing burnout versus depression.  Even when recognize I am starting to get a little burnt out, I struggle to simply ease off the gas.  Instead, I slam on the brakes.   Once those breaks are slammed, it takes a force of nature to get me moving again.

Since exercise, particularly running, plays a major role in healing my depression, eliminating it is like taking away my oxygen.  While I am at rest, the burnout may go away, but I have no way of knowing because the depression grows stronger than ever before.

Additionally, proper physical recovery is largely dependent on mental well-being.  If you are dealing with stress because of the extra weight of depression, the physical body doesn’t have access to the tools it needs to fully heal.  And when the physical body isn’t nurtured and properly cared for, the mental aspects deteriorate as well.

So when exercise is your anti-depressant, what do you do when you burnout slaps you in the face?

Here are some strategies that have helped me get through while rebuilding my motivation:

  • Give Myself Permission to Slow Down: Taking off entirely leaves me feeling lost and hopeless, but running shorter or slower, making simpler meals, putting off a difficult to-do list task….these strategies give me room to breath.
  • Don’t Take a Day Off from Exercise: Related to the first point and contrary to logic, taking a day off entirely usually exacerbates my problems rather than solving them.  Don’t skip workouts.  In fact, add in an extra one, but do so with intentionality.  For example, instead of going to a HIIT class, go to a Yin Yoga class.  You maintain your routine, but modify it to treat yourself with kindness.  Or do something fun like cranking the music and dancing around your family room naked!!
  • Refocus on Daily Gratitude: When I notice myself getting burned out, it often coincides with a few days of skipping my daily gratitude journaling.  Whip that journal back out and write down at least 3 things, big or small, for which you are grateful each and every day.
  • Breathe: Set an alarm for each hour and when it goes off, take 5 deep breathes.  Slipping into flight or fight sympathetic nervous system happens when we are under lots of stress.  Breathing deeply resets the nervous system and moves the body into the parasympathetic system, calming and rejuvenating.   Quite literally, adding oxygen to a fire is fuel that allows it to grow rather than burn out.
  • Look Outside Yourself, Then Treat Yourself: Look at your friends and family and ask, “If they were having a hard time right now, what would I do for them?”  Then do that same thing for yourself.  If you would take a friend out for a glass of wine or your partner for a walk on the beach, then do exactly that for yourself.  Best done alone and really enjoy the company you are with….you are an amazing person to be with!!

Burnout results from a fire that burned too bright and ran out of fuel.  To reinvigorate passion, it is critical to find and supply proper fuel to keep the fire going.  If a fire burns out completely, it takes a lot more resources to get it rekindled.  It is easier to let the fire die down a little and when the fuel becomes available, the fire is ready and waiting to accept it and grow right back to a glorious bonfire.

The journey continues……

2018 ~ Setting Focuses…Not Resolutions!

At the end of each year, I like to reflect on what the last year brought into my life.  Much like a daily gratitude journal, a yearly reflection allows me to assess how far I have (or have not) come.  Before I look forward to the next year, I take account of my lessons learned.

2017 brought much into my life.  I proved to myself that I am a capable endurance runner and much braver than I thought.  I tackled trails all alone that would have scared me in years gone by.  Kenny’s and my relationship grew to a whole new level of wonderfulness.  I was given the opportunity for a temporary promotion which I feel I tackled successfully.

On a rougher note, our boys had a difficult year in a few ways.   By association as parents, we did too.   And juggling Kenny’s return to school was a tough transition for the family.  But through these experiences, we grew to be an even closer family.

While in a few ways, 2017 was one of the most difficult years of my life, in others, it was a year of tremendous growth, love, learning, and adventure.

Learning from the past is critical to plan better for the future.

Looking ahead to 2018, I do not care for New Year’s Resolutions.  Like many, I do not see value in making a promise that is destined to be short-lived.  Resolutions like, “I will never eat another piece of candy again” are bound to fail!  Instead, I prefer to use any new beginning as a chance to determine how I would like to grow and commit to focusing on those actions next.  This happens at various times throughout the year, but after the winter holidays, and with the returning of the warming energizing power of the Sun, the New Year is a fitting time to re-examine my focuses and commit to them out loud.

As I step into 2018, I have established three areas of focus for my life:

Intimacy in My Most Important Relationship

I cuddle with my kids. I share meals and stories with friends.  At times, I spend more time with co-workers than I do my spouse.  But oh sweet intimacy, only my best friend/partner/spouse receives that.  I divulge thoughts and feelings I would not share with anyone else.  I give my physical being to my spouse.  I trust him with every bit of my vulnerability. Yet despite the importance of intimacy in setting this relationship apart from all the others in my life, it is easily lost in the daily chaos.  For 2018, I would like to focus on making intimacy in my marriage a higher priority.

Getting my Children Outdoors More Often

My boys are pretty active.  They jump on the trampoline every day, play on their swing set, love bike rides and swimming.  Inevitably however, they get overly excited about playing on their tablets or wanting to find “easy” entertainment.  Yet, whenever we venture into the great outdoors, they always find joy in it.  Getting dirty is good for the body, mind, and soul and while I do it regularly for myself, I don’t drag my kids along often enough.  For 2018, I would like to focus on getting my boys into the great outdoors more often.  Camping, hiking, swimming in lakes and rivers, kayaking, paddle-boarding, mountain biking….anything that leads to fresh air, dirty feet, and a joyful heart.

Running with Women Who Are Stronger and Faster than Me

I love the times when I have runners who join me to push themselves.  I find great joy in helping other women find their next level.  But when I am destined to be the slower runner, I get nervous, anxious, fearful.  What will they think of me?  Will they assume that I am a terrible person because I can’t run as fast as them?  What if they never want to run with me again or even be my friend?  HAHA….It is just ludicrous the ideas that go through my head when vulnerability knocks down the door.  Yet, the times I have overcome my fear, I have found great pride in myself at pushing to a next level.  For 2018, I would like to focus on allowing myself to be vulnerable and dare to chase that next level of accomplishment.

Setting focuses for the year remind me of the intention I like to set before a run or yoga class.  There are always areas I want to improve in my life and if I try to do them all at once, I will fail at everything.  Breaking down my goals into smaller focuses will give me a chance to make some real progress towards the woman I want to become while not losing the beautiful parts of who I already am.

The journey continues……