I recently finished reading Chrystal Evans Hurst’s book, She’s Still There. She writes about drifting off your path and your life not turning out as planned. I can identify with this, as I am sure you can as well. I don’t know anyone who is living the life they were expecting back in the 1st grade, a time when one decided to be an astronaut, physicist, or doctor. There are lots of unexpected obstacles in our paths and we wake up and wonder how we got here from there.
What I love about this concept of run your race is that it’s so easy to get caught up in comparisons to the races that others are running. The friend with the ski chalet and new Cadillac, or the sister with no student loans. I’ve run many races in my life, both literally and figuratively. The 5ks where I was the very last to cross the line, and the master’s degree while mid-divorce with two toddlers. They were my races that I survived, thank you very much, and I have the scars to prove it. I have owned a sports car convertible and two failed restaurants, even with a degree in Hospitality. There were highs and lows, but it’s my race and I own it.
Here are some ways to run your race:
Don’t Compare. Being jealous of someone else’s life is soul crushing. As Hurst writes, “We look at the lives of other people and construct opinions of them – and ourselves – based on what we see. The problem is we’re never operating with full intel.” That friend with the ski chalet and caddie? They may be mortgaged up to their eyeballs. They may have a substance abuse problem they can’t shake. It might take all the effort they can muster to get out of bed in the morning. Don’t skim social media and assume that you are less than just because you didn’t go to Iceland this year. As Hurst espoused, “Comparison can kill.”
Know your values. I have always had wanderlust. My parents instilled in me the value of adventure and travel with several trailer trips when I was kid. I have brought this wanderlust to my children. I value adventure over material objects. It’s not that there isn’t anything under the tree at Christmas; it’s just I would rather experience something than to have one more thing to store. My son competes at the national level in weightlifting. I want to be there when he competes. My daughter loves to hike. I value my time in being there for my son in competition and for my daughter experiencing the great outdoors. Make sure the race you are running aligns with your values.
Practice gratitude. As Hurst writes, “Gratitude is the practice of being thankful and showing appreciation. When you focus on what’s right in your world, you limit the power of what’s wrong to steal your joy.” I write in a gratitude journal every morning. I take stock in what went right the day before. It might just be a text from my son or a coworker’s compliment on my blouse. It starts my day off right and keeps me on the path of what’s right in the world instead of what’s wrong. I always find gratitude in something that I did for myself like my strength workout, sobriety or staying positive with a coworker. Self-gratitude is important to stay the course of the race.
Encourage others. My boyfriend Roy recently ran his third triathlon. It took a lot of training and practice. I was his support team. I was his timer when he practiced his transitions from swim to bike and bike to run (yes, a ten-second saving matters). In the weeks leading up to the race we focused on his sleep, his training, his race. Having run a marathon about five years ago, I could identify with the amount of focus and anxiety that can come with a big race. As Hurst writes, “A compliment paid to someone else can have the effect of freeing you.” Try to focus on what is going right for others as they run their race.
Pay attention. As Hurst writes, “Comparison is a habit. That means you can choose not to practice it. There is nothing good about practicing an activity that only results in a feeling of competition, envy, or strife.” When you start envying someone’s new dress or vacation or new iPhone, notice it and redirect it. This won’t happen overnight. Sometimes awareness alone can help you break the habit. Remember what you value, what you are grateful for and lift other’s up. It’s the antidote to comparison. That’s their path; their race. What’s your race looking like?
Live intentionally. Hurst posits, “Stop letting where other people are in their run determine how you feel about your own. “This shows up for me as I see retirement some decade or more off. I can be jealous as I see other’s around my same age either retiring or eyeing it some three years from now. I start comparing and beating myself up for not deferring more into my 401k in my 40s. It’s OK. It’s my race. So, I get to enjoy the camaraderie of going to work each day and continue to further my career. It’s a waste to sulk about what could have been. Be here now and enjoy the experience.
I identified with this concept because Hurst wrote about how speed walkers would pass her as she ran in a marathon. I have experienced that several times. How come my run is slower than their walk? We are all different, we are all talented and unique to ourselves. Don’t let comparison kill your race. How is your race going?