All too often, we find ourselves immersed in routine; whether it’s with work, fitness, even our relationships. We’re naturally creatures of habit and I’m sure many of us find comfort in our daily rituals-I for one never feel quite right if I haven’t started my day with hot water and lemon or a nice cup of tea. And occasionally moments may arise that jolt us out of our routines, or we’re feeling particularly pensive that day and take some time to reflect on our journeys up to that point. Anybody experience that?
Right, now how many of you have felt frustrated with what you felt was lack of progress?
Guilty as charged, right here.
For starters, our feelings are always valid. You are 110% allowed to feel irritated, dissatisfied, any number of negative (or positive!) emotions. But it’s also important to realise how far you have come, the good side, rather than dwell on where you haven’t quite gotten.
Fun story, in high school (or secondary school, depending where you’re from) I was lucky enough to have an amazing theatre teacher who ultimately inspired me to focus on what I was passionate about for a career. We’d rehearse scenes or learn new theatrical skills and, after presenting a scene or monologue to the class, he’d ask us to reflect on our work before opening the floor for constructive criticism from other students. Without fail, his first question for every single person was always the same:
What went well?
Just as we’re creatures of habit, we also have a disconcerting tendency to focus on negativity in our lives. And the first few times I performed a monologue, or a scene, I struggled so much with that question because all I wanted to talk about was what went wrong! But he forced us to look back on what we had done and find something good in it, even if it was “I didn’t forget a line” or “these few seconds were pretty cool.” In pushing us to reflect on our work and journey positively, he helped change our thought process.
It can be hard to give ourselves credit where it’s due, and even if we do acknowledge our accomplishments we like to undermine them with some qualification, as though we didn’t fully earn it. I do this all the time-after my half marathon people kept sending me congratulatory messages and instead of an enthusiastic thank you my response would sometimes be “thanks, I almost made my goal time.” And every time those words came out of my mouth (or even floated around my mind) I would kick myself mentally. Why was I discounting the fact that I ran 13.1 miles?? After an injury that meant I couldn’t train for the 3 weeks leading up to it?! It was ridiculous! I deserved to be proud of myself, and now I can fully embrace it and just say “thank you.”
It’s taken a good 8 years but I’m at the point where I’m actively focused on allowing myself to own my accomplishments. I may not have run as quickly as I wanted to, I might still be stressed at the prospect of finding work after graduation, but that doesn’t mean the work I’ve put in to get to this point means any less. I’m continually building a stronger foundation for myself, so when I reach a new milestone I can be more secure in the challenges it will inevitably bring. I want each and every one of you to feel that you can take ownership of your achievements, too! Be it earning a job, reaching a new personal best, even cooking something new…give yourself permission to be happy for yourself! Remember:
“Always focus on how far you’ve come, rather than how far you have left to go.”
Keep your sights set on whatever goals lie ahead, while embracing the milestones you’ve already surpassed.