Thursday, September 10, 2015

Step by Step, Mile by Mile, Risk by Risk, We Learn

            Step by step, mile-by-mile, trail after trail, a runner subjected his shoes to miles of use. Many times he ran alone. The tread on the front of his shoes was worn almost smooth in places. The cloth uppers were torn. He got used to the lack of traction and compensated for it by using the tread on his heels that was almost fully in tact. When running down a slippery slope the runner back on their heels is sometimes too far-gone. Their feet are just that much closer to sliding out, leaving them on the ground.
            Our runner finally got new shoes. The well-made tread gave him traction as he navigated a technical downhill path, but he still found that his habit of using his heels, forged during miles of running in worn out shoes, manifested itself.
According to Albert Einstein insanity is, “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” We sometimes wear ourselves out doing good things. Our body, mind and spirit tire from repeated use. It might seem like we no longer have traction to move forward and we start to fall back on old habits. Habits that might even feel like the most secure footing we have at the time. Since we are not getting the results that we want, we just do whatever seems to be the most comfortable. Just like some people’s reaction to frightening downhill running might be to lean back and use their heels. Can’t break an old habit? Struggling with your goals? Not getting the results you want from the gym? Forget it for today. Say you’ll do it tomorrow. It’s not that hard to relapse into old habits.
We sometimes get the opportunity to, “buy a new pair of shoes.” A new semester comes. A new job opportunity gives us a change of pace. A friend decides to do something we have been thinking about doing for a while and wants us to join them. We jump on the opportunity and are bent on achieving our goals, but then it happens. We trip on that first rock. We slide on that first patch of gravel and we find ourselves right back on our heels.
We don’t need another pair of new shoes. The pair we have are working just fine. After all, we just got them. Finding motivation in such circumstances can be difficult sometimes. We feel like we have slid so many times that we couldn’t possibly gain the confidence to do what we need to do. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” Judith E. Pearson stated, “The way to recover from a mistake is to observe it dispassionately, take whatever corrective action is appropriate, regain your composure, focus on what to say next, and get on with it.”
So how do we regain confidence after developing a bad habit? We start taking calculated risks. Dr. Susan Jeffers wrote, “The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.” A runner’s brain calculates the sound of their feet against the ground to assess the extent of their slippage as they fly through the mountains. It calculates the steepness of the hills and the horizontal angle of the trails in front of them. It carefully measures the rocks in their path and chooses whether to go around, jump over, step on, behind or beyond them. It assesses their breathing and muscular fatigue. It sends signals to their body to compensate for different types of footing, whether it be muddy, rocky or smooth. Then their feet come down with a vengeance and they have to live with every decision. Stephanie Freeman wrote, “Each success will increase your self-esteem and help you become the individual you need to be to grow.” Every time a runner’s foot comes down and they don’t fall on their face their confidence level rises. Every time we find success in taking a calculated risk our confidence grows.

What are you going to do next time you get a new pair of shoes? Are you going to stride out and take risks, or are you going to lean back and stay on your heels?