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Finish Line - 2011 Eugene Marathon

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Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: ex_magician

You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.

— Frank Shorter

I AM SO HAPPY!!!  I set out to climb a mountain and I made it to the top – on time.  How did I get there?  I got there through the power of whine.

To be honest, the last bit of the journey was a bit hairy… but I made it.

The mountain that I’m talking about is a rather large project at work.  You probably know the old advice about “don’t ever volunteer.”  I never seem to learn.  When people complement me on how I handled something, I jump right up and say that I’ll do it again.  Then, as the deadline looms, I become terrified that I won’t be able to deliver on what I promised.  Somehow, it all comes together in the nick of time, but I still spend some period of time absolutely certain that I’ll never make it.

And usually, in order to get there in one piece, I end up having to work several evenings and over the weekend.  Despite all my writing about choosing how to proceed, mood, attitude, etc… I am a person who can dig herself a nice deep pit and have a hard time seeing over the top of it.  In addition, I resent giving up my evenings and weekends, despite the fact that I volunteered.

The Challenge – Learning From the Experience

Today was my deadline, and in addition to the printed materials I developed, I had to teach what I’d written.  Despite the fact that I love having a captive audience, in this job, once I develop the materials, other people actually deliver the training.  And here’s where the rubber meets the road.  I am terrified that I’ll get up in front of the group and make an absolute fool of myself.  I’ve never done that yet… but there’s always the potential for a first time.

Truthfully, I’m rather good at faking it, but I can’t really do that when what I say must match what I wrote.  Picky, picky, picky!

Having just written a post about my belief that we can all learn how to be happy, I spent a lot of time paying attention to how I was getting through this challenge.  Here are a couple of things I learned on this journey.

Three Happy Lessons

1. Happy doesn’t necessarily mean feeling “good” all the time.

I enjoy my work.  I like the people I work with.  I hate my drive.

I’m sure it’s obvious to you as it is obvious to me that nothing is all good or all bad.  Life is compromise.  On particularly bad traffic days, I complain and whine and swear and…

The reality is that most days, the drive takes about the same amount of time – 50 minutes to an hour.  I can leave early. I can leave late.  No matter how it feels, it still objectively takes about the same amount of time.

AMAZING!  Actual proof that attitude really does matter.  Since the time it takes to drive to and from work doesn’t vary by much, obviously, how I feel about it must be related to my attitude.

2. It’s always darkest before the dawn!

Trite, but true.  On Friday evening, when I’m packing everything up to take home to work on it, I’m sooooo depressed.  I don’t want to work all weekend!  Why do I have to do this?  Our deadlines are just so unrealistic.

You hear that whine?  That is the sound of fear.

Just when I think I can’t mouse and type and think and write any more, I get close enough to know that I’m going to make it.  I may be tired.  I may not have seen the outdoors all weekend, but I know I’ll get across the finish line – with style, not crawling on my belly, but standing upright and smiling as the participants come into the room on the morning of the class.

All of this begs the question… Why is it darkest before the dawn?  Because my fear turns out the lights!  The more I whine, “I’ll never make it!  It’s so unfair!”  The darker it gets.

As Winston Churchill said, “When you’re in hell, keep going.”  You can’t get to the other side unless you keep moving.

3. Whining is part of my process.

As counter-intuitive as it seems, whining seems to be part of my process.  It helps me get through hell.

I relish the challenge of delivering a quality product.  I hit snags along the way.  My anxiety goes up… And the only thing that helps is whine.

Somehow complaining about how much there is to do, or how little time there is to do it in, or that nobody could be expected to get this all done… makes me feel better.  I can not tell you why.  I have no clue.  But, for me, it works.

Oh, you need to understand, I’m not whining to anyone else.  I’m whining to me.  Blah, blah, blah.  Poor me.  Nobody cares that I’m working so hard… Yada, yada, yada.

I’m actually rather skilled at whining.

Getting Back on the Happy Path

So this is how I got to happy, again.  I felt yucky.  I kept moving through hell.  And I whined.

What’s your process?  You have one, you know.  You just need to become conscious of it.  It makes all the difference if you know that it’s all part of getting there.

It’s like flying, these days.  Part of the process is little bottles of liquids and removing your shoes and getting to the airport early enough to get through security.  It’s a pain, but it’s what’s required.

What’s required for you to get back on the path?  There’s a way.  You just need to figure it out.

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Cup o’ Inspiration

cup with steam swirl

Take a short break and consider the following:

“Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter; long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform at our best.”

Michael Johnson

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