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Personal Development Lessons from a Marathon

Personal Development Lessons from a Marathon

Personal Development Lessons from a Marathon

    The Pleasure and the Pain

    I recently went along to the Melbourne Marathon, here in Australia, to watch some of my team (Fiona, Johnny and Mikey) punish themselves for 42.2 km’s (26 miles). Aaah the pleasure and the pain of it all. The agony and the ecstasy. They all finished and they all did great. Well done guys. I rode my pushbike to the course so I could pedal beside those crazy kids for a while to offer a little support, some momentary distraction from the pain and some timely encouragement. Gotta say, on my current list of things to do, running a marathon ain’t anywhere near the top. While the idea of completing a marathon kind of appeals to me (in theory), I don’t know that my 95 kilo (210 lb) body-builder-ish physique would enjoy the experience or get me over the line (in reality). Having said that, I must admit that I totally love watching them and being part of that incredible energy. Even as a cheer squad. If you can’t get inspired watching thousands of ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things, then you don’t have a heartbeat. A sea of humanity all moving in the same direction; both literally and metaphorically. Where else could you see such a massive cross-section of people all working to their absolute max and fearlessly and passionately exploring their potential to achieve a common and a personal goal?

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    A Feelgood Event

    Watching people explore their boundaries and discover their own version of ‘amazing’ gives me goosebumps. Ironically, when people are exhausted and in pain is often when we see them at their best. Their genuine selves. No bullshit, no acting, no ego, no lies, no meaningless dialogue. They don’t have the time or the energy for pointless crap. Despite the obvious physical pain, a marathon is a feelgood event. There is universal and unconditional encouragement, friendship, care, compassion and support. To see complete strangers (both runners and spectators) encouraging, supporting and helping people along their way is both uplifting and moving. If only mainstream society was a reflection of the Melbourne Marathon. Over the course of a couple of hours I saw thousands of people and witnessed no anger, no rudeness and no negativity. In fact, quite the opposite. I rode beside an old(er) guy for a while and apart from getting his sixty-something body through the distance, he seemed to be on a personal mission to encourage every other runner over the finish-line as well. He was constantly talking, cheering and even clapping for the runners going in the opposite direction (it was an out and back course).

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    The Runner Salad

    Elite athletes, high-performance running ‘machines’, Ethiopians who ran without actually touching the ground, hard-core guys in army boots and backpacks, a girl running in bare feet, a woman with her head fixed at forty five degrees, two old blokes wearing shiny running shorts from the eighties, young alpha-males who only started training three weeks ago, the guy with the tennis racquet (racket) and ball, the woman with the worst running technique in the world who appeared to be jogging on the spot, the chubby woman who will “finish no matter what”, the eleven year old kid with the backward light-weight headphones who sang as he ran, the hi-tech crew and the old-school brigade… they were all there. They all lined up side by side.

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    Much More than just ‘a Run’

    Being a born motivator, coach and encourager, I couldn’t help but get totally drawn into the moment; the emotions, the psychological battles, the physical pain, the barriers being broken down, the incredible stories being written, the fears being overcome, the courage, the discipline and even the lives being changed. I know that all sounds somewhat melodramatic but for many people, running a marathon (or achieving any significant goal for that matter) is indeed a life-changing, mind-altering experience. It has the potential to change the way people think, behave and achieve – in all areas of their life. For life. It re-defines their standards, their expectations and even their beliefs. They become stronger, more courageous and have a greater insight into, and understanding of, their own potential. It’s truly amazing what we can achieve when we stop talking ourselves into defeat and we find a way, rather than an excuse.

    Doing What Most Won’t

    When we persevere and do what most people won’t (not just in a marathon but with any challenge), we learn, we grow and we change. When we endure the discomfort, face the fear and work through the challenge, we become a better version of us. We get stronger. More courageous. More capable. We develop new skills. We see things differently and we start to produce better results in our world. Why do the vast majority of people who start the marathon complete it? Because they have prepared. They did the work. The got uncomfortable on a consistent basis over an extended period of time. They got fit and strong. They did what the majority wouldn’t. They did what needed to be done to produce an exceptional outcome in their world. Marathoner runners understand what it takes to succeed. They understand the concepts of discipline, self-control, over-coming fear, dealing with discomfort, determination and perseverance. They understand that, more often than not, success has almost nothing to do with potential, age or genetics and everything to do with attitude and hard work.

    Thanks and congratulations to all the brave runners who inspired me that day.

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    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2020

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Over time, we all gather a set of constricting habits around us—ones that trap us in a zone of supposed comfort, well below what our potential would allow us to attain. Pretty soon, such habits slip below the level of our consciousness, but they still determine what we think that we can and cannot do—and what we cannot even bring ourselves to try. As long as you let these habits rule you, you’ll be stuck in a rut.

    Like the tiny, soft bodied creatures that build coral reefs, habits start off small and flexible, and end up by building massive barriers of rock all around your mind. Inside the reefs, the water feels quiet and friendly. Outside, you think it’s going to be rough and stormy. There may be sharks. But if you’re to develop in any direction from where you are today, you must go outside that reef of habits that marks the boundaries of your comfort zone. There’s no other way. There’s even nothing specially wrong with those habits as such. They probably worked for you in the past.

    But now, it’s time to step over them and go into the wider world of your unused potential. Your fears don’t know what’s going to be out there, so they invent monsters and scary beasts to keep you inside.

    Nobody’s born with an instruction manual for life. Despite all the helpful advice from parents, teachers and elders, each of us must make our own way in the world, doing the best we can and quite often getting things wrong.

    Messing up a few times isn’t that big a deal. But if you get scared and try to avoid all mistakes by sticking with just a few “tried and true” behaviors, you’ll miss out on most opportunities as well.

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    Lots of people who suffer from boredom at work are doing it to themselves. They’re bored and frustrated because that’s what their choices have caused them to be. They’re stuck in ruts they’ve dug for themselves while trying to avoid making mistakes and taking risks. People who never make mistakes never make anything else either.

    It’s time to pin down the habits that have become unconscious and are running your life for you, and get rid of them. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Understand the Truth about Your Habits

    They always represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully, tried the same response next time, and found it worked again. That’s how habits grow and why they feel so useful.

    To get away from what’s causing your unhappiness and workplace blues, you must give up on many of your most fondly held (and formerly successful) habits. and try new ways of thinking and acting. There truly isn’t any alternative. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas. No new ideas, no learning. No learning, no access to successful change.

    2. Do Something—Almost Anything—Differently and See What Happens

    Even the most successful habits eventually lose their usefulness as events change the world and fresh responses are called for. Yet we cling on to them long after their benefit has gone.

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    Past strategies are bound to fail sometime. Letting them become automatic habits that take the controls is a sure road to self-inflicted harm.

    3. Take Some Time out and Have a Detailed Look at Yourself—With No Holds Barred

    Discovering your unconscious habits can be tough. For a start, they’re unconscious, right? Then they fight back.

    Ask anyone who has ever given up smoking if habits are tough to break. You’ve got used to them—and they’re at least as addictive as nicotine or crack cocaine.

    4. Be Who You Are

    It’s easy to assume that you always have to fit in to get on in the world; that you must conform to be liked and respected by others or face exclusion. Because most people want to please, they try to become what they believe others expect, even if it means forcing themselves to be the kind of person they aren’t, deep down.

    You need to start by putting yourself first. You’re unique. We’re all unique, so saying this doesn’t suggest that you’re better than others or deserve more than they do.

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    You need to put yourself first because no one else has as much interest in your life as you do; and because if you don’t, no one else will. Putting others second means giving them their due respect, not ignoring them totally.

    Keeping up a self-image can be a burden. Hanging on to an inflated, unrealistic one is a curse. Give yourself a break.

    5. Slow Down and Let Go

    Most of us want to think of ourselves as good, kind, intelligent and caring people. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t.

    Reality is complex. We can’t function at all without constant input and support from other people.

    Everything we have, everything we’ve learned, came to us through someone else’s hands. At our best, we pass on this borrowed existence to others, enhanced by our contribution. At our worst, we waste and squander it.

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    So recognize that you’re a rich mixture of thoughts and feelings that come and go, some useful, some not. There’s no need to keep up a façade; no need to pretend; no need to fear of what you know to be true.

    When you face your own truth, you’ll find it’s an enormous relief. If you’re maybe not as wonderful as you’d like to be, you aren’t nearly as bad as you fear either.

    The truth really does set you free; free to work on being better and to forgive yourself for being human; free to express your gratitude to others and recognize what you owe them; free to acknowledge your feelings without letting them dominate your life. Above all, you’ll be free to understand the truth of living: that much of what happens to you is no more than chance. It can’t be avoided and is not your fault. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it.

    Final Thoughts

    What is holding you in situations and actions that no longer work for you often isn’t inertia or procrastination. It’s the power of habitual ways of seeing the world and thinking about events. Until you can let go of those old, worn-out habits, they’ll continue to hold you prisoner.

    To stay in your comfort zone through mere habit, or—worse still—to stay there because of irrational fears of what may lie outside, will condemn you to a life of frustration and regret.

    If you can accept the truth about the world and yourself, change whatever is holding you back, and get on with a fresh view on life, you’ll find that single action lets you open the door of your self-imposed prison and walk free. There’s a marvelous world out there. You’ll see, if you try it!

    More About Stepping Out of Comfort Zone

    Featured photo credit: teigan rodger via unsplash.com

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