The Story Economy Blog

Momentum, Sacrifice, Forgiveness, and the New York Times

Running_FreeFor those of you who have followed along with my running saga, you know that I’ve been spending the last few months completely relearning to run—to stop heel striking after 20 years and learn the proper form. I got the chance to write a piece about it for The New York Times “Well” blog, which just happens to be live today! It’s right here, if you want to read!

Obviously, there is great satisfaction in getting an essay published! But I still have a few more things to say about the bigger picture of what I learned by rebuilding my stride. Don’t worry, you don’t actually have to run one single step to understand what I learned about momentum, sacrifice, and forgiveness.

#1: Momentum is more about what’s behind you than what’s in front of you.

In the Times piece, I talk about how I finally came to understand speed—that it isn’t about how far you reach in front of you, but rather, it’s about shortening your lever to the ground and pushing. “Speed, I had learned, comes from what you put behind you,” I wrote. That a-ha moment was huge for my running! But it was no less huge for me as a person, because although that’s a physiological concept, I had to rethink a truth in my mind before I could feel it. In that way, it was nothing short of philosophical.

When we want something, we strive. “Reach for the stars!” we say. To move forward, you reach forward. You dream big and take a giant bite of the apple. You connect with the energy in front of you. This is how I thought of achievement. Me—the gymnast, the 4.0 student, the breadwinner for my family, the girl who tackled challenge after challenge, pushing out babies, writing books, landing new clients, PR-ing with a 1:59 at a half-marathon—reaching, reaching, reaching.

But it turns out that you build real momentum by putting more ground behind you. It’s¬† a subtle distinction, but it might be everything. I have this tendency to keep looking ahead, reaching toward the future, trying to grasp that something. You know, the next thing. But the ability to put the past behind you more quickly does more in the service of forward motion than the constant reaching for what’s next. Because next winds up finding you. And no, fellow brooders, I’m not just talking about levers to the ground, I’m talking about letting the past be the past. Push it behind you and feel the fluidity of how you spring forward.

#2 We never change until we’re ready to sacrifice something.

I do most of my best thinking while running. The longer the run, the better. But for more than two months, I couldn’t run longer than a few miles—and even those runs were highly focused. For months, I wasn’t myself. It drove me crazy. It drove my husband crazy. My synapses were clogged. Nothing was firing. My ideas were stale. All I wanted to do was chuck it all and go for a really long run. But I had to sacrifice that for a while to get something I believed would be better in the long run. I also had to sacrifice a certain idea of myself, because I had to put my identity as a runner on hold. It might sound silly. But it messed with me. The thing you have to sacrifice to get something else you want? It could be money, sleep, a bad habit, ego, a belief that you don’t have time, or any number of other things. I think it’s the notion of sacrificing that keeps us stuck. I don’t enjoy sacrifice. I’m not going to rhapsodize about how it’s wonderful. But it’s necessary to get to the wonderful on the other side. Usually, one of three things happens: you get back the thing you sacrificed and probably appreciate it more, a new habit implants itself in the place where you felt the sacrifice, or the new thing you get is so much better, you cease to care that much about the sacrifice.

And yes, I appreciate those long pondering runs even more now.

#3 You need to forgive yourself for everything you won’t do.

Starting the process of relearning to run was disheartening for me, because it brought up all of these fears about everything else I was probably doing inefficiently. It shined a light, and it wasn’t flattering. I stumbled around, thinking that I had better start fixing things. Fixing everything. To be fair, I did change a couple of work process things for the better. But for the most part, I was going about it the wrong way (or as my friend Kate would say, not for a loving reason).

Until you forgive yourself your inefficiencies and demons, you’re sort of just stuck as a victim. You have to forgive yourself the things you probably can’t or won’t change (and own them) in order to focus tightly on what you can change and want to change. This one is REALLY hard for me. But I take a lesson here from my husband. He could list all of his faults (he’s done so many times). I used to hear it as: I don’t feel like changing, so take it or leave it. Now I hear it more as: This is the honest truth about where I’m starting. Admit the honest truth, and just forgive yourself already. (Hint: you probably won’t forgive many other people their crap until you forgive yours.)

So, all of this . . . plus I now run exponentially better and more efficiently! Maybe you’re reading all of this thinking, hmm, so perhaps it’s really time for me to [fill in the blank with the particular thing you want to change]. Can you change it? I have no idea if you’re up for it (reference points #2 and #3). But I think YOU have an idea. If you’re like me, your only regret will be that you didn’t do it sooner.

Photo credit: Andrew Maciejewski from Fort Wayne, USA (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Mount Baldy)

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