Sunday, March 30, 2014

What You Aren't Seeing

One of the best things about having amazing friends is that they share the best quotes and images.

Case in point, from my friend, Nancy:

As I write this, I'm sitting in a beautiful beach resort, counting down the last few hours before I take part in the Lavaman Triathlon Relay. I've been here since Thursday evening, and I've been sharing photos and fun stories with everyone via Facebook. 

That's my Highlight Reel.

The truth? I am having a great time. But there's been more going on that I haven't shared. I won't go into detail, but I'll just say that two different friends were having pretty bad days on Friday. And it was heartbreaking for me to know they were hurting and I was so far away and unable to do anything to help them. (No, I don't think I can make everything right for everyone, but as a friend, I still wanted to be there to comfort them.)

In addition to what was going on with my friends, I had my own issues to deal with. I'm running this triathlon as a relay with two gentlemen that I met through the race organization. I just met one of them at the expo and the other I'll meet this morning. They are both trained and ready for their events, and they will set a high bar for performance. I hadn't even thought about a time goal, but now I know that my one teammate is hoping for a sub three hour finish. If our swimmer hits his 25-minute goal and our bicyclist rides in his 75-minute goal, I will have 85 minutes to run my 10k. Piece of cake, right? Sure, if they hit their marks. But if they don't, they will start chewing into my time, and that 85-minutes can easily drop down to 60 minutes.

And yes, I realize that a team goal depends on everyone doing their part, but the truth is, all eyes are on the last batter in a game, the last play by the quarterback, and the last swimmer on the relay. And now, today, it will come down to me delivering if we are to hit the team goal.

Am I worried? Oh, yes. I know that all I can do is my best, but that doesn't take the pressure off. I am stressed that I will cramp up, that my pace will falter, that the heat and humidity will take a toll, etc. If there's a reason to worry, I've found it.

Anyway, the point here is that if you were judging my life by what I've posted, you'd think my life was perfect. But there is always so much more going on than what is on the surface. When I posted the picture above on Facebook, I received several comments about me being awesome. But in the dark hours of the morning, I didn't feel awesome. I felt a little sick, actually, worried that I might let my team down.

I know. I know. I will do great, we'll do great, and the whole day will soon be a great memory and a reason to celebrate. But I wanted to share the backstory because it matters. If you are comparing yourself to me, or to anyone else, and you feel like your story is falling short, stop. Knock it off. You are comparing your moments of real-life worry and struggle to the best and brightest moments in someone else's life, and what's the point in that?

You're enough. You're more than enough, in fact. You're amazing. And you're awesome. And those moments when you're down and afraid and insecure? The fact that you fight through them and emerge stronger on the other side is just more proof of your own greatness. Don't forget that.

And now, it's time to prep for my run. Lavaman, here I come!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Just Stop.

I am asking all of my friends to "Just Stop."

Did you run today?
Yes, but just a 5K.

You look great. Have you lost weight?
Well, just five pounds.

Congratulations on the training.
It's nothing, I just started.

I didn't know you started running. That's great.
Oh, not really. I just run at a 12min pace.

What is wrong with us that we feel the need to minimize our accomplishments? Why must be so self-critical, even when someone is right in front of us saying something positive?

I know that I do this myself, and I'm going to work on eliminating that negativity from my life. It's not just a 5k, it's a 5k and it's awesome. It's not just five pounds, it five pounds that I'm proud I lost.

My successes deserve to be celebrated, not minimized or degraded. And the same goes for my friends. If I hear people taking that same cheap shot at themselves, I'm going to say something about it. Because life is too short to not be proud of ourselves every chance we get.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Company You Keep.

Perhaps you've heard it before, but you really are the company you keep.

I hear it often. People tell me that I'm awesome. And they're right. (What, did you expect false modesty? Because that isn't happening.) I am awesome, yes. But more important than being awesome is understanding WHY I am that way.

Here's the answer: I'm awesome because I have purposely and specifically placed myself smack dab in the center of a group of amazing human beings. I have sought out, cultivated, and nurtured relationships with friends that expect nothing less of me.

In other words, I have surround myself with awesome people and work every day to rise to their level.

Just a few of the amazing people in my life.

What about you? What forces influence you?

Let's start with an easy source. Facebook. People love it, people hate it, but everyone seems to be on it. And it has become a part of most people's routine.

What happens when you log on to Facebook each day? What do you read in your newsfeed? If you're me, you read post after post from truly wonderful people doing what they can to have another great day. There's silly pictures, clever banter, and a lot of motivating and inspiring words that remind me to get out there and have a great day.

Of course, I live in the real world with real people, so not every post is good. Bad things happen and friends struggle with problems. Sometimes, they share those problems. Maybe they need help to find a solution or maybe they just need to vent. It happens, and both of those things are just fine.

But there is a difference in a person working their way through a tough time and a person who wallows in the negative. There is a difference in a person temporarily upset and a person who is always angry at the world. And there is a difference in a person who needs comfort and a person who is a black hole of emotional need.

I share these distinctions because I think people can get caught up in the negativity of others and not see the damage it does. It's so easy to read negative post after negative post, your mood getting worse and worse until you find yourself trapped in that same crappy mood.

Fortunately, there's a solution. Pay attention to what is coming from the people around you. Look for the positive, the upbeat, and the happy. Celebrate it when you see it. Notice the kindness of others and spread it around. Share the songs and the photos and the stories that make you smile. Be the positive force of nature you want to see in the world.

It doesn't mean dumping friends in need. It means helping them find a reason to smile, even if it's just for a moment. It means leading as an example, avoiding the temptation to see everything in the world in the worst way possible. It means not giving in to the anger and stupidity running rampant.

So, log into Facebook. Catch up with your friends. Join in the silliness. Be quick to laugh and slow to judge. Choose compassion over criticism. Choose happiness over anger. And choose to lead as an example. Believe me, the rewards are so worth it.

P.S. Thanks to my circle of friends for consistently bringing joy to my life. You help me be the person I want to be, and the ripple effects of that are truly amazing.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Yes, You Can Be A Success Story.

Not too long ago, I spent a year working for a health and fitness company. I had started there as a member and then became their Success Story Manager. I won't say much about the company or my time there, just that it wasn't the fit I had hoped it would be. But I wish them all the best and I still consider some of the members that I met while on the site to be among my favorite people. So all's well that ends well.

There is a specific reason I bring it up now, though.

One of the biggest challenges I had was convincing the powers that be that a "success story" was more than just those people who had lost half their body weight and were magazine-cover ready. Don't get me wrong, those people are truly amazing. But there are other success stories that deserved to be celebrated.

Jane loses 50 pounds. She still weighs 300 pounds, but her weight loss is enough that her doctor decides she is able to discontinue one of her blood pressure medications. That's a success story.

Joe loses 10 pounds. He still weighs 240 pounds, but he has successfully completed the Couch to 5K Program and is now working on his next challenge, running a 10K. That's a success story.

Mary hasn't lost any weight at all. She's just starting her journey. But she has spent the last week sticking to her plan to track her eating and to walk 10-15 minutes each evening. Yes, that's a success story.

And here's the kicker. We all love the dramatic weight loss stories. We see the before and after photos and we think, "wow, that's amazing!" But many of us can't see ourselves ever achieving that level of success. It's like trying to find the courage to sing out loud and having someone say, "just watch the Grammy's and you can see people doing it."

No. That doesn't help everyone. Some of us need to start on a smaller stage, so to speak. We need to watch someone sing karaoke in a darkened bar somewhere. That's a big enough leap for us but still one that makes us think, "yeah, I could do that."

Again, dramatic weight loss stories are amazing. Those people who accomplish that do so with dedication and commitment, and they are to be celebrated. Definitely.

But there is room for other success stories. Smaller successes, perhaps, but every bit as meaningful to those people on their journeys. So I share this blog to remind people that you are not competing with other people, you are challenging yourself to do whatever it is you are capable of doing.

Start a streak of eating healthy lunches for a whole week? That's success. Walk a full mile three times a week? That's a success. Whatever your first step is, take it. And be proud. And celebrate every bit of success as it comes.

And now, the kicker. The reason this came to mind? Because when I worked for that company, I remember telling my boss that I considered myself a success story for finishing a full marathon, even though I was never going to be one of those elite types featured in Runner's World magazine.

Never say never, right?