This past Sunday I completed another Half Marathon. Distance running events have been a part of my life for years, and I can’t imagine ever stopping. It’s hard. It’s takes a lot of dedication and training. You get sweaty and disgusting sometimes. (Actually, most of the time!). Sometimes it’s just downright painful. And no matter how well you feel you’ve prepared, no matter how strong your longest training sessions have been, there is never a guarantee that it’ll go well. No promise that you’ll get the results you want. Nobody can guarantee you that there won’t be some kind of freak occurrence preventing you from finishing (or even starting, for that matter)! Anything can happen out there.
But it’s worth it. Every little bit of it. All of the anguish and toil that comes along with it has always been (at least for me) worth the feeling of crossing the finish line. The accomplishment is yours, nobody can take it from you, and it just might inspire others, too.
Sounds a bit like life, huh?
Yes, it’s well-covered territory that many sports can be metaphorical for life. No doubt that the sport I know best has its parallels, too. This past weekend, though (after a particularly hot, humid, and hilly run in Williamsburg, VA), I was reminded of a phenomenon that can effect so many of us in many areas of life: the scourge of Comparisonitis. (For lack of a better word!) Looking around at everyone else, comparing yourself to what they’re doing, and rather than inspiring it becomes deflating. And for me, there’s no better of a living metaphor of this than pitting your performance against that of hundreds of other people in a distance race. All on the same path and literally surrounding you like a swarm of bees. It’s coming at you from every direction. Sometimes for several hours. And you can’t escape, you just have to keep going. And all of these other competitors just won’t go away. And they’re all taunting you like crazy (or so it can seem!).
It might go something like this:
There you are in a race with maybe up to 30,000 other runners. The gun goes off, and everyone seems faster, stronger, happier than you are. The longer the miles get, the more tired you find yourself (you were prepared, or so you thought!). And the grouchier you might get. You find yourself struggling to keep up with the person a few paces in front of you in the blinding neon tank top who you’re SURE didn’t train as hard as you did but is still somehow beating you. Then there’s the little old lady who must be older than your grandmother who just breezed by you, looking as pert and perky as a 25-year-old Crossfit addict. How about soccer moms in front of you and the arrogant dudes behind of you who chirp along and ramble away as though everyone cares about what they have have to say? Surely THEY are all having a hell of a lot more fun than you are at that moment (and are probably outpacing you!). Right?? Everyone is killing this race…except…for…you.
Whew! Egads, the course can be an emotional minefield! The whole world is doing better than I am, and there’s nothing I can do about it!
That’s what might happen if you find yourself giving in to that mean little voice…and it can happen even to the most confident, enlightened, and happy of people. Really.
I was having a particularly irksome moment this past weekend at around mile 10 (I almost clocked the boisterous leader of the pace group I was trying to outrun) when it hit me–I had a moment of experience to back up something that I already knew: forget what everyone else is doing. This is is MY race. And for that matter, the race belongs to all other runners in their own space, too. EVERYONE is there to run their own race and on their OWN terms, to meet their OWN goals and desires. What anyone else is doing (unless, of course, they’re trying to trip me) should make NO matter to me. It doesn’t help. It never proves anything. It only slows you down, fires up your fears and doubts, and steals your joy.
And friends, that’s NOT why anyone enters a race. You enter to do something amazing. For yourself. And to inspire others. Maybe even for a cause that is close to your heart. You do it do prove to yourself that there’s nothing you can’t do when you decide to do it. You set the pace. You have a say in how it goes. Don’t get distracted by what anyone else is doing, saying, or being. Just run your race. And get the bling at the end because YOU did it!
Sort of like creating your own special, beautiful, heartfelt business, right?
This business and life gig needs to be about you and what makes you special. What you can do for the people you serve that nobody else can do quite like you. Does it matter necessarily that everyone seems to be doing it these days?
Well, first of all, we tend to focus a lot of the time on what we’re doing, and it can seem really quickly that everyone else seems to be doing it too. I enter a race, suddenly everyone I meet is a marathoner. I buy a Nissan Xterra, suddenly everybody’s got one. Surely the whole world is doing EXACTLY what I am doing, it might seem.
All an illusion, of course! Sometimes we all just see what we think we should see rather than what the Universe is trying to tell us.
It may seem that the market you serve is “overcrowded”. Maybe there are a lot of people doing what you want to do. But ask yourself this: are any of them you? And would any of them deliver the services or products in quite the way you do? Of course not! Especially when an idea is young and growing, it can be quite vulnerable to these kind of mental attacks (most of which are self-imposed anyway). Don’t do that, everyone is doing it–you’ll never be able to compete. I’ll never be as smart as she is, as brave as that guy, my website will never look like that. It can be at this point that dreams die, never having had the chance to become what they could be.
Don’t let this happen to you!
True, there are lots of people getting into the act in the entrepreneurial world. But also true is this: nobody else out there is you. The thing is to explore, contemplate, and test out ideas that share your unique spin on things. In other words, dream about it, then give something a try! Even if it is just something small–say, interviewing someone who you think might be a potential client or customer and test out your ideas on them using your own special creative flair. If you have an idea, entertain it! Give it a chance. Dream up something cool and give it a go.
It bears repeating: Protect and nurture your idea when it is in it’s infancy: this is the time it is most vulnerable! Don’t be talked out of it before you even try. Just take it a step at a time and start to find your voice. And whatever happens, happens. It’s your creation. It can change as it must as you go along. But do it–take that chance. No matter what the rest of the world might think (or perhaps more accurately, what you THINK that it might think!).
Not sure how to start doing this? Maybe go grab a notebook and a pen and give this a go:
—Step 1: With respect to your idea, what are three special things that you can bring to the table to share with a potential audience? Any special experience, enlightenment, or creative flair that you have that you haven’t seen elsewhere in your potential field? Maybe you’ve been a teacher and have learned from your time in the classroom. Perhaps you’ve raised children and have parent experiences that apply to your area. Maybe you have crashed, burned, and risen from the ashes like a phoenix and have a tale of personal triumph that gives you an edge. Give yourself credit. Toot your own horn! Write it down!
—Step 2: What, if anything, bothers you about trying your hand at this idea in terms of “competition”? Is it that there are too many people doing it? Or is it that you fear you’re not good enough to try? Jot these things down, too. Be honest. Don’t tear yourself down, but be honest. Now, ask yourself this: what if you could see this as an exciting challenge rather than a reason to stop? Or, what if everything that you wrote down just isn’t true, and it is your mind giving you grief? How would that be? Now go ahead and write down the reasons why your idea would be awesome by referring to step one.
—Step 3: Now ask yourself what might happen if you never got started. If your idea never got out into the world. What would happen to the people who need you the most? How would you feel if you didn’t bring your magic to the world? (George Bailey, anyone?) And even better…..how awesome would it be if you did?
So how’s that for a bit of motivation and inspiration? And what is the most important thing to remember here? It’s your idea. It’s your business. Yes, there will be course correction along the way, and of course, you will eventually need to bring what you do to an audience that is willing and able to pay for what you offer. But particularly when your just getting your idea honed, it can be VERY easy to get discouraged by looking around the course and seeing everyone running faster than you are. One of the fastest ways to stop a dream before it starts is to pay too much attention to what the rest of the world is doing–and believe that you could never succeed because of what the rest of the world is doing.
Keep to your lane. Ask for help and support when you need it, get honest feedback from people you trust, and correct course as you progress. But don’t get lost in matching up your business or your life to someone else’s. If you find yourself doing it, don’t worry, we all do it from time to time. But don’t let this nasty bug kill your spirit. Or stop you. Run your own race, be your own you.
Just try not to run over anybody at the water stations!
So tell me, what is it that you’ve been wanting to do? Are you feeling any fear because of what others are doing? Or are you a fearless go-getter who doesn’t care what anyone else is doing? Tell me all about in the comments below!
This weekend’s bling! Run For The Dream in Williamsburg, VA.