Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Control, Risk, and Cliche

I realized after I posted my blog last week that I had completely lost the little spark of inspiration that led to me wanting to write about that topic at all.  In my haste of following my rigid and totally arbitrary standard of posting something every Tuesday no matter what, I found the random idea I had jotted down and went with it...totally forgetting about the root and revelation of it all.

As I was running in a race last month, I had found myself thinking of the 2017 NYC Marathon - which is not unusual, as that's where my thoughts usually tend when I'm running these days.  Then my thoughts shifted to a few variations on the theme of crossing my fingers and hoping that I'd be able to make it through this marathon uninjured and relatively unscathed.

And that's when the thought occurred to me - so much of that is in my control.

We don't realize through the course of living our lives just how much of what happens to us is in our control.  How much control we have over our reactions to events that befall us.  How much influence our previous actions have over those events that befall us.  How much responsibility we bear, how much of a difference we can make.

In the context of running, that of course led me to figuratively smacking myself upside the head and realizing that I could wish and hope that I can do this without getting injured and continue to live in my comfort zone - in this case, doing some PT and strength training when I'm inclined to, but mostly just rigidly following an intense running schedule - or I could actually change my behavior which might actually change my result.

Do I want to change my behavior?  Hell no.  The ways in which I've prepped for a race are challenging but familiar in their challenge.  Changing that will be uncomfortable and require way more effort, but I know it will lead to the results that I actually want.

Now, I know there's no such thing as being totally injury proof, but if I make an active, concerted, real effort to do the work that I know in my head I need to do to prevent injury...that's not just me wishing and hoping and throwing it to the Gods that I don't get injured, but that's me putting in a real effort, making a real change, and actually contributed toward that hoped-for outcome.  And hell, I might make this big change and put in all this effort and still get injured, and that sure would suck.  But it probably wouldn't suck as much as it would if I made a half-assed effort and just crossed my fingers for the other half.

So yes - that's the running context.

In the larger context, I think it has to do with putting yourself out there.  Or with choosing optimism over cynicism.  To admit that you're actually trying to do something hard or new or different or risky or something that doesn't come naturally.  From the small and mundane (attempting to keep a house plant alive would be on my list) to the bigger and bolder (making a career switch, moving to a new city), just making the decision to try, and just making that attempt to succeed is a brave act.

It sounds very simplistic and obvious, I know.  And more than a little superior and preachy despite my best efforts.  But the older I get, the more I realize that often the lessons that are the hardest to learn, the most profound, and the most valuable are the simple cliche's that you've heard repeated a thousand million billion times before.  You hear them, repeat them, let them fly in one ear and out the other thinking that you get it, but then some sort of life circumstance befalls you and you really hear that advice for the first time and get it.

The phrase "putting yourself out there" is probably the most neat bow I can put on what it is I'm trying to talk about here.  It's often easier to accept challenges in life without challenging back.  It's easier - in the short run - to play the victim of your circumstances instead of seeing what kind of space there might be for you to change the course of things.  Because what if you put yourself out there, what if you try to take control, what if you try to make a change - and you fail?

Well, then.  You fail.  And that sucks.  And that's embarrassing.  And sometimes it's even heartbreaking.

But what's the alternative?  I'd rather not find out if I can help it.

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