I feel the weight of life right now.
Work is stressful, four little kids at home is stressful, and balancing life is just overwhelming at times. With my history of depression, I’m well acquainted with the process, and I can feel it coming on.
So I run.
Like, Forest Gump run.
To be honest, I don’t like to run. It’s really hard to get motivated sometimes. But there is one enormous reason why I continue: it forces me into a mental battle.
I used to think that running was about proper technique, having the right shoes, and breathing rhythms. While those things are important, for me they only define about 10% of whether or not I’ll be successful on my run. The other 90% is whether or not I can convince my mind to press on.
Today was a really tough day, and on these kind of days I set what Jim Collins calls “a big hairy, audacious goal.” So for my current ability, that goal was to run for an hour.
The first two miles are pretty easy. But somewhere shortly after, my mind starts reminding me of everything that hurts, of how I should really just take a break and walk for a minute, and it tries to talk me out of doing what I set out to do. It’s in those moments–when it’s just me against negative thoughts–that I’ve learned a really valuable skill.
I replace negative thought patterns with positive messages.
I replace I should just quit with I am a finisher–I finish what I start. I replace let’s stop at that corner and walk for a minute with a mental image of what it will be like to cross the finish line. I refuse to substitute my ultimate goal for what would make me feel good now, knowing that pain in the short term brings about results in the long term. I repeat in my mind the quote from Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.”
This skill of replacing negative thought patterns with positive ones can carry back over into the difficulties of life. When I’m ready to walk away from work and let the place burn, I need to remember that I am a finisher–I finish what I started. When the kids have me on the ropes and I’m ready to just give them away, I should picture the finish line: four mature adults who know their place in God’s kingdom. I need to think, “I can.”
I don’t do these things well. But running is a discipline that’s teaching me how to do them better.
In this journey of life–whether it’s mile by mile or day by day–I press on.