I was on a lunchtime run, pounding up a hill about halfway through my fourth kilometer, when I recognized my fatal flaw. I probably have more than one, but this is a big one. (That’s one of the beauties of running – it leads you to insights that are so deep they’re able to knock the breath right out of you.)
Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to make things harder on myself than I need to. But as I forced myself up that hill — faster, faster — the voice from my phone’s running app cut through my thoughts and the driving bass to inform me I had just sped up that hill faster than I had run the flats, faster than I usually run when I go much further but avoid hills altogether.
I realized that I was forcing myself up the hill as fast as possible, putting myself under strain just to get it over with, instead of settling into a reasonable, steady pace. Interestingly, I never run down hills because I’m always too busy enjoying the view.
And that’s when it hit me. I do exactly the same thing for any challenge I face. I try to fly through it, rush, get it over with, get to the easy part, or the end. It’s like a panic response – get to the end, fast.
I do it in conflicts at home, and it just inflames the situation.
I do it at work when I have a big deliverable looming, and instead of getting through things calmly, I thoroughly stress myself thinking that I have to do it all “now” when, for the most part, it will take several weeks of methodical work.
I even do it when I have a to-do list. I can’t handle to-do lists. I have to fly through them, check off all the little boxes, leave nothing hanging over my head. Get to the end.
All this rushing through things leaves me feeling overwhelmed, drained and as though I never have time to do what I want. It never seems I will get to the end of anything I have to do because, let’s be honest, life is just one big to-do list. It’s impossible to rush to the end of it. Instead, it’s better to keep a steady pace and grab the odd moment to breathe, to look around, to stop and take in the view, to remember that there are pleasant aspects to whatever it is you’re in the middle of, and to even sometimes take a break partway through and do something else.
It was a beautiful day for running. I was able to appreciate that once I slowed my pace and stopped pushing myself as fast as possible every time there was a hill. The sun was shining on the last of the season’s golden leaves while purple-grey clouds created a dramatic backdrop over the river and the Parliament buildings. People were out walking and running, chatting and laughing – enjoying the mild fall day. As I came to the top of the final hill – Parliament Hill, as it turned out – I paused, looked up at the Canadian flag waving on the Peace Tower and smiled.
Life is really very good, I thought.
I know there’s a valuable lesson in all this, but I may just need the equivalent of that running app’s voice to cut through my thoughts and remind me every now and then that I don’t have to rush past where I am to get to the end.