November 29

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The Power of Story Part 5 – Changing Your Story


For the past four years, I have a tradition of running a 5k race on Thanksgiving morning. There is an organized event called the Anthem Turkey Trot that is just a few minutes from where I live.

​It’s a great event with around 1000 runners who choose to run either a 5k or 10k race. I run the 5k. While some people take the race very seriously, it’s also a family event with lots of kids, strollers, and dogs.

​Some are dressed for speed while others have their Turkey hats or Turkey tutu’s on. Because the course runs through the neighborhood, lots of neighbors come out and cheer the runners along.

All in all, it is a truly wonderful way to start the Thanksgiving holiday weekend!

The story that’s playing in my head leading up to this event is as follows…

I haven’t done the training I wanted for this race because of lots of travel in the past 6 weeks, a busy time at work, and a research class I’m taking at the same time.

I also caught a bad cold at the end of last week and spent most of this week trying to get over it. On the morning of the race, I am still coughing and sneezing and have a runny nose.

The Negative Story in My Head

I start to tell myself…

…I can just stay at home and tell myself I need the extra rest to get over the cold.

…or the least I can do is go for a nice walk with all the nice, happy people. If I walk the 5k, it will take me about 45 minutes.

…or I can go out and do a slow trot. Surely, I can gut out 3 miles (which is 5k) if I just go slow. If I do my slow trot, it will take me about 36 minutes to finish.

…or I can just go out there and be grateful for the fact that I am still able to run, that I live in a beautiful place where the weather is nice, and I have lots of nice, friendly people around me. I won’t worry about my time but just do the best that my body will let me do.

Now just to put this in perspective. In the last two years, I have finished the race in just under 30 minutes. I was healthy and in better shape both times.

I Changed My Story to Something Positive

So, I show up to the race this morning. I begin to change my story to something more positive.

I tell myself that I’m going to focus on being grateful. Enjoy the weather, enjoy the people around me, enjoy how my body feels as I am running. If I start to feel pain or fatigue, I will focus on relaxing and breathing better.

And we’re off and running. I focus on breathing, finding a rhythm, and working into a mental state of flow. I am enjoying the cute kids, the happy dogs, the young and the not so young, the tall people, the squatty people, the skinny ones, and the bulky ones. And then, there are the badass moms and dads who are running uphill while pushing their kids in strollers and passing me!

I’m grateful for all of it.

The first mile is all uphill. I pass the 1-mile mark. Hmmm…11 minutes. Better than I expected, and my body and breathing feel ok. I settle back into my rhythm and keep going.

I pass some people, while others pass me. Pretty soon, the lead runner in the 10k race whizzes past all of us. He is a serious runner and there to win the race. He is a beautiful mixture of grace and strength bounding down the road.

Pretty soon, I’m at the 2-mile mark. I’m not even sure of my time, but I’m still feeling good. So, I keep pushing.

I try to keep focusing on the good things going on around me. All the people who have helped to organize and run this event. All of the volunteers who came out to man the water station. All of the neighbors who come out to cheer us on.

Pretty soon, I see the turn for the last quarter mile which is an uphill run to the finish line. I pick up my pace a little bit. Darn, that finish line always seems farther away than I remember.

I focus again on my breathing and rhythm. Pretty soon, I can see the finish line. I pick up the pace and finish strong. Right at 32 minutes. I placed 23rd out of 49 people in my age group.

I am happy. I did better than I expected. I definitely did better than the story I was previously telling myself. Mostly, I am happy because I was able to change my story.

The Power of Gratitude and Joy to Change Your Story

I potentially had a very bad story going into the race. I was focusing on my LACK of training and my LACK of lung capacity from my cold.

But instead, I focused on what I was GRATEFUL for and found JOY in the journey – the running journey.

I found joy in the outdoors, the people around me, and the sensations as my body was moving. I even found joy in the occasional achy joints, tired muscles, and burning lungs. It meant I was alive!

Here’s the Midlife Lesson:

Gratitude and Joy are two simple tools to change any negative story into one that is positive.

Do I want to do better next year? Absolutely.

​I have plans to create and follow a much better training schedule.

​But the best part is, I am now confident that whatever physical shape I show up to at the race…

… I will be fully in charge of my story. It will be a story of joy and gratitude. And, it will serve me well.

Here’s the Mighty Challenge of the Day:

1. What is the one area of your life where you are telling yourself a negative story?

2. How can you change the focus from LACKING to GRATITUDE and JOY?

​3. How can you change the story so that you will enjoy the journey regardless of the outcome?

Bruce Fleck

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