I felt the rain starting at mile 6, trickling down my forehead and into my eyes. My body, while more than ready to do its job and complete this half marathon, felt cold and wet, a scenario I had not anticipated. I had trained long and hard that year, harder than ever before, and now the rain promised to change my time, keeping me from attaining the faster mile pace I had strove for over the past six months. As I adjusted to the new normal of this particular race, I found my way into my zone of the moment, and breathed into the day. I tried to remember that the only thing that was really important was that I had awoke that morning and put on my running shoes.
Expectations often keep us in chains. When we expect a certain score, time, or outcome, we can only have a positive experience if things go one particular way. Most times, this one particular way is out of our hands. Other people’s performance or behavior, difficult thoughts or feelings, and even the wind can impact what happens. So what keeps us pushing through, in light of our limited ability to be in control?
The answer to this lies in our focus on the journey. Expecting perfection, or an ideal outcome, keeps us from experiencing the many possibilities that may occur. While you may not come in first, win the game, or achieve your personal best time, consider what you may gain instead. Did you learn a lesson in what not to eat the night before a competition? Did you make a new friend when you had a hard time controlling your feelings at a meet and had a new arm around your shoulder for support? Or did you realize that you may need to buy some light rain gear for your next summer race? In any case, the wonder of the beauty in your day may end up surprising you, if you let it. A powerful goal is to be able to see that the “perfect” scenario for you may not have been winning that day. Maybe changing your idea of what perfect actually means will enable you to achieve your real perfection more often.
The journey of an athlete is an unending path on which one constantly strives to over come physical barriers. As long as you are training your smartest, building stamina and consistency, listening to your body and enjoying the process, you have already won! Perfection may end up looking a lot different than you thought. On my race day, I learned that what was perfect for me was my newly unfolding ability to let go of disappointment when I did not achieve a certain time and enjoy my hard work anyhow.
Maybe perfect is more like the gooey mess you made when you and your friend tried to bake chocolate chip cookies than the neat and polished cupcakes you could have bought at the store. Those cupcakes may be delicious, but did they make you laugh and will you always remember the day you ate them? Those cupcakes had no process, they just arrived at your house in a box. The chocolate chip cookies, maybe even devoured as dough, were a great afternoon with your best friend. That sounds pretty perfect to me!