Yesterday I ran further than I have ever run before, which is what I want to write about in this post. But believe it or not, this post is about you, even if you hate running and never want to run.
I’ll explain that in just a bit, but first let me tell you a brief story.
For most of my life (since I was about fifteen), I have wanted to run. Frequently in the past, I would be lying in bed at night. And I would have a strong desire to go out and run. But here’s the weird thing: I haven’t liked running in the past until very recently.
In fact, I have found running really stressful and overwhelming in the past.
You can read more about this here:
How I Accidentally Became a Runner
Playful Running: for Runners and Non-Runners
You would think I would have made up my mind about running one way or the other. For instance, if I had a strong desire to run, it would seem like I would just go out and run and enjoy myself. Or if I didn’t like running (and found it stressful and overwhelming), you would think I would have just give up running.
But no. Instead, I have simultaneously had a strong desire to run while finding running very stressful. And I have felt that way for about twenty plus years.
This started to change a few years ago when I read a book called Chi Running.
It argues, among other things, that running is a pretty natural and easy activity. But we frequently make it harder and more stressful than it needs to be, which often results in exhaustion and injury. The author of the book teaches people how to get more in touch with their natural running style and momentum. I highly recommend this book.
I have been experimenting with the author’s suggestions for the past five or six years, as well as practicing a few other tricks I have used to help me make progress in other areas of my life. And slowly but surely, it has made a big difference in my ability to run and in my enjoyment of the activity.
A few weeks ago, I started running a mile somewhat regularly. And then soon after that, I hit two miles and then two and a half.
Yesterday I ran somewhere between 3.5-4 miles (I am still not sure of the exact distance of the park loop I run.) This is the furthest I have ever run before in my life, and I am just as surprised by this as you. After I finished my run, I thought, “Who am I? And what have I done with myself?” I’m in my late forties, and here I am running farther than I ever have before and at a reasonable pace.
Here are some geese that hang out at the park where I run.
On the other hand, my running experience doesn’t surprise me because I have great confidence in both you and me. My running experience has reminded me of several lessons I have learned about all of us in my lifetime. I will mention a few of these lessons below, and I hope you will see they apply to all areas of life, not just running.
One: You and I are powerful, imaginative, and resilient.
First, let me say that I don’t think we can be anything we want to be. That’s the bad news. Sometimes we set unrealistic goals for ourselves. And sometimes random life events or other people interfere with our ability to achieve our goals. And failing to achieve our goals can be painful and even heartbreaking.
The good news is that I believe that you and I are incredibly powerful, imaginative, and resilient.
While we can’t necessarily accomplish everything we desire, we can often accomplish more than we imagine. That is because we are capable of visualizing really cool goals, taking steps towards those goals, and bouncing back from disappointments we face along the way.
This process leads us to bigger and better adventures. I think something inside me knew I could run well, even before my brain fully understood it. And that is why I kept wanting to run and trying to run, even thought it was hard for me.
So, I want to say that if you have witnessed the death of some important dreams in your life, I am so sorry. I have, too. I also want to tell you that you are capable of achieving really amazing things, no matter who you are.
Two: Your loving dreams and desires are a roadmap.
There are good things right now that you dream about and strongly desire. They are things that would bring more joy to you and the world in general (in some way or another). You should listen to these dreams and desires. They aren’t crazy. Instead, they are a roadmap to you becoming a larger, more fully-alive version of yourself.
My desire to run has continually inspired me to try to run. And that process has taught me a lot about patience and listening to myself.
And of course it is true that we can’t completely achieve some of our dreams and desires.
But as long as they are loving and respectful to ourselves and others, we always make our lives and the world a better place by pursuing these dreams. And often along the path of pursuing them, we find even bigger and better goals to achieve that we can absolutely accomplish.
So, I want to encourage you to listen to your dreams (as long as they are loving and respectful) and to pursue them. Something excellent will come of it, even if it is not exactly what you thought it would be.
Three: Visualization is a really good habit to practice.
You might be aware that visualization is a common practice in most positive thinking circles. And some advice in certain positive thinking schools is very bad advice. You can read more about this here: Better than Positive Thinking: Resilient Thinking.
However, practicing visualization regularly is great advice. Some positive thinking folks believe that visualization is like a magic trick by which you attract things that you visualize and really believe.
I think of visualization a bit differently, I call visualization Using Your Imagination Like a Boss.
Using your imagination like a boss helps you to tap into the energy and creativity you had as a child. It’s still there somewhere. This is me today after running yesterday, feeling alive, childlike, and playful.
When I use my imagination like a boss, I imagine things I want to achieve. And I imagine what it would feel like and how I would look doing it. And guess what? The more I imagine myself doing these really cool things, the more energy, momentum, and creativity I build in relation to that goal. It’s not too surprising, then, that I often figure out new ways to pursue my goals and that I feel propelled towards them by the excitement I have cultivated.
That’s what happened with running. I imagined and felt myself running several miles and then eventually did it.
Believe it or not, you have used your imagination like a boss before.
Remember when you were a child and you imagined yourself being a pirate or private detective or a spy? And remember how, the more you got invested in your imagination, the more creative and inspired you became? And remember how it inspired you to greater and more elaborate endeavors? You were using visualization, but to you it was just playing.
Playing with your imagination isn’t just for kids. It’s for grown-ups, too. You might like to read about imagination games here: The Infinite Playground: A Player’s Guide to Imagination
So, I want to remind you that you should absolutely spend time imagining and visualizing goals that make you really excited. You will likely astound yourself with what you accomplish because of it.
Four: It’s okay to take your time.
One of the hardest things in life is to have a dream and then to feel like it is taking forever (and may never) come true. Often in these cases, we feel like we are doing something wrong. And we want to give up.
I want to remind you that sometimes dreams take a while to come true because we are figuring out our own path or style. Or sometimes it is because they are just really big dreams with a lot of intricate parts. In any case, there is nothing wrong with you because your dreams take a long time to come true.
And often the best dreams do take a while to come true.
Five: The Gentle Way is the Best Way
In the past when I tried to achieve various goals (like running), I have often used shame, insults, and criticism to try to motivate myself to action. Shame as a motivational technique rarely brings success. And when it does, that success is often short-lived.
On the other hand, when I am kind and encouraging to myself, it always brings success because I help myself feel safe and cared for. And when I feel safe and cared for, I am always ready for more adventures. That’s the gentle way.
So please remember to listen to and care for yourself in whatever goals you pursue. You and your personal development, not the goal itself, are the most important thing.
You can read more about being a good friend to yourself here:
Why All This Talk of Goals and Adventures and Dreams?
Sometimes when I write about things like dreams coming true, I feel a little silly. After all, I am a grown woman, and it seems like dreams coming true is something teenagers write about in sparkly, unicorn-themed journals.
On the other hand, I don’t feel silly at all writing about it. We value the dreams of little children and teenagers because we know that it is through such dreams that younger people develop their potential.
But somewhere along the way, someone decided that play is for childhood, and grown-up life must be very serious and devoid of magic, dreams, and playfulness.
That’s too bad because very few, if any, people profit from this approach. And it’s not making the world a better place.
While it’s certainly true that grown-up living carries with it certain responsibilities that childhood does not, your imagination and dreams are still essential. They are still a powerful tool that helps you develop your potential and express your unique goodness.
And one of the greatest gifts you give to yourself, your loved ones, and the world, is to keep imagining, having adventures, and sharing your unique goodness.
These are some of the things I was thinking about while running this weekend, and I wanted to share them with you.
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Published by shellypruittjohnson
My name is Shelly Johnson, and I am a writer and philosopher with a Ph.D. in philosophy. One of my primary personal and philosophical interests is how we can learn to love ourselves and each other better in order to cultivate personal and political resilience. I teach ethics and a variety of other courses at a local college. I am the author of the blog Love is Stronger. I am also the author of three logic and critical thinking books for high school and middle school: _Argument Builder_, _Discovery of Deduction_ (co-author), and _Everyday Debate_, published by Classical Academic Press. You can reach me at email@example.com.
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