That is two months of 2021 ticked off.
In terms of training I’ve not missed a session this year, pretty good start. It has meant a change of routine, but I’m OK with that. It means getting up earlier a few times a week, but I’m OK with that also.
I’ve got around 17 weeks until I take part in the ultra. My training is going to plan so far. Saturday was my longest run so far in 2021 – 12.2 miles. I felt comfortable at that distance and the pace was on the money. The sessions are getting longer. Not just one session a week but an increase in all my run sessions. It means the alarm clock going off earlier, getting out for a run earlier, doing longer mileage and then getting back and starting work for the day – that suits me. As I’ve said in early blog entries this is just some short term ‘discomfort’ for a longer-term gain.
I enjoy the longer run sessions. They give me a chance to really work on both my physical and mental endurance. They provide a real test of patience as well – I’m feeling really good and feeling strong, then being able to hold the pace sensibly rather than hitting it too hard from the start and blowing out at half-way.
Physical endurance is important because I’m training my muscles and cardiovascular system to go further and further and being able to hold off fatigue. There may be times when my muscles are aching or the pace has dropped slightly, and it is having the endurance to complete the session that really counts. This is why it is important that I’m consistent with my training, why I need to take a no excuses, no quitting approach. I need to constantly be pushing myself that little bit further all the time.
Mental endurance is just as important. Mental endurance is training the mind not to quit; mental endurance is training the mind to cope with the demands of the physical training; mental endurance is training the mind to shut out the internal negative dialogue – ‘this is tougher than I thought, maybe quit and try again another day’, ‘the weather isn’t great, maybe call it a day’, ‘I can’t do this, it is too difficult’.
There are things I have no control over when I’m out running – weather conditions for example. One thing I have full control over is my mindset and how I’m using my mental endurance. Sometimes I just switch off totally when running, listening to music and moving along smoothly – ideal. Other times I’m having to dig a bit deeper and am constantly telling myself I’m not going to quit and how I can do this. The internal negative talk soon passes, and I find that if I start focusing on something else it passes even quicker.
Having that positive mindset is essential. I think about why I’m doing this every session and what it means, what achieving the end goal means to me? If I mentally crack on a run of 15-20k then what chance have I got of completing a run of 50k? If that happens then what doubts are going to set in for that overall goal? What doubts are going to be gnawing away on the next training session?
I read an interesting article recently that said when we do quit something difficult, we are usually only 40% done, and we’ve still got 60% left in us. It is our mind that has quit, not our ability. By enduring a bit more how close can we get to 100%? By shutting out that doubt what are we really capable of achieving?
Each time we push through that barrier of doubt our levels of endurance increase, next time you’ll go further, much further, as you know you can do it.
I love endurance training, I love the challenge of it. I love the fact that I need to push myself constantly. I love the physical and mental endurance aspect of it. As the mileage increases each week and the sessions are being ticked off I know I’m getting closer and closer to the finish line of the ultra, I know if I have the endurance to complete the training, then I have the endurance to complete the event.
I have set some milestone sessions for my training based on distances – 13.1 miles (half-marathon), 15 miles, 18 miles, 20 miles, 24 miles, and 26.2 miles (marathon). I know if I complete each of those in the next 17 weeks then it isn’t a case of if, but when I cross that finish line.
When I sat down towards the end of last year to take stock, and initiate a very critical approach to what I wanted my life to look like in 2021, it was apparent I needed to take ownership of those targets and goals I set for myself. These things were not just going to happen by magic. But what does taking ownership actually mean? For me, it means not just doing something, but being accountable for all of it and seeing it through to the very end, until it is complete. It means proper planning and preparation, it means careful consideration, it means learning from mistakes, being accountable for every stage of that target or goal. It also means being honest and realistic, especially if something isn’t going to plan or seems unsurmountable at the time (and if that is the case break it down into more achievable parts).
It also means making certain sacrifices. Sometimes that isn’t easy to do but for a bit of short-term ‘discomfort’ those longer term goals can be achieved. It is sometimes simpler to take the easiest route (part of our brain is actually wired to do that as part of our survival instinct). It was pretty simple to enter the 50k Ultra Trail Run I’m currently training for. Just pop onto the website, fill in my details, pay and enter it. Job done.
It isn’t job done though.
I knew that when I hit enter there was no turning back. I had committed to complete that event. I entered an ultra a few years ago, started training, got complacent, got injured, and didn’t take full ownership. It is something that has played on my mind a lot since, and I won’t be at peace with myself until I cross that finish line.
Now I have to take full ownership – those training runs won’t do themselves.
I sat down and made a plan.
How much training I needed to do. How many training sessions I needed to do each week? How long should my runs be and when? What does my recovery look like? What other training do I need to do – Strength? Speed? Core? Other? How do I mentally prepare for it? What kit am I going to need on the day? What kit do I need to do the training? What kit do I currently have? What is my nutrition plan for the race, and what does my diet currently look like? What pace do I need to be running at? Is that the pace for all my training?
By answering these simple questions I was able to formulate a basic plan, nothing more than that, just a basic plan of where I was and what I needed to put into place.
Job done? No way.
I needed to take full ownership of this now.
I decided that I needed to do my runs in the morning (so it was done and out of the way, I tick that session off and don’t need to worry about it the rest of the day) – it means getting out of bed before 6am and getting out there training no matter what the weather is doing.
In order to finish the ultra I need consistent training, not when I feel like it, but when it needs to be done, not missing a session because I feel tired, but when it needs to be done. It felt a bit of a slog to begin with but has now become part and parcel of my routine. A little short-term ‘discomfort’ to achieve a longer-term goal. I need to make certain sacrifices in order to achieve that goal, and I’m happy to do that. I’ve taken the same approach with each of the targets and goals I’ve set myself for the year and taken full ownership of each of them as well. Many of them require me to have short-term ‘discomfort’ to achieve them, that is not a problem because I’ve decided that quitting is no longer an option any more.
I’ve been pretty hard on myself when evaluating what I want to do and how I get there. What do I need to change (then change it), what adds value (then add it), what adds zero value (then get rid of it). I’ve started to fine-tune a lot more, and already I am starting to see some good results of doing so.
I need to be really mindful that complacency doesn’t set in as that can lead to laziness creeping in gradually, eventually that becomes a downwards spiral, training sessions are missed and the goal becomes unrealistic and unsurmountable, and I’m back to square one again – short-term ‘discomfort’ leads to longer term gains, so quitting is not an option.
Each and every day I think about what it would mean to cross the finish line of the ultra (and also achieving the other goals I’ve set myself). Each and every day I ask whether I am taking full ownership of my goals and targets.
One of the areas I learned to focus on quite a few years ago when training for endurance events was visualisation. I would sit down quietly in the corner of the room, close my eyes and focus on a part of my training or a race that would be competing in soon. I would focus and visualise on how I feel, my technique, feeling strong, my power output, and my pace. It was something I felt really worked and allowed me to concentrate on the mental aspect rather than the physical aspect of training. It also gave me that sense of belief.
I’m currently training for a 50 km ultra trail run and a vision keeps on appearing in my mind – I am running smoothly along the trail, my pace is good as I leave a forested section of the trail, it is warm, it is sunny, and I can see the next 5-6 miles of trail ahead of me. I’m feeling strong and motivated and know if I complete this section of trail I will be much closer to the finish line, all I need to do is keep moving forwards. I am aware of the surroundings of my environment even though I am solely focused on reaching the finish line.
I was out for a run on Saturday morning. I didn’t have a mileage in mind apart from the need to do my longest run of the year so far. I set out, and it was pretty blustery in places, then a change in direction and a solid headwind. It is tough and although the pace had dropped the effort had increased to push forwards. I’m fully focused and the visualisation comes into my mind and running along that trail towards the finish line. The next couple of miles seem to flash by. By the time I get back, I’ve run just over 11 miles (my longest run this year) and I feel like I could have run much further than I had.
I reflected on that run a bit later in the day. I seemed to zone out for a large part of the run – I was focused on moving forward, running at a steady pace, was focused on my breathing. How fast and how long I had run wasn’t an issue and not something I’d thought about during the run. That sense of belief came flooding through – no longer was it a case of getting to the start line of the 50k ultra, it had now shifted to how I would feel crossing that finish line of the 50k ultra.
When we set ourselves goals or targets that sense of self-belief is important. Visualisation plays a huge part in that. Do you see yourself in that mental picture of what you are setting out to achieve? What does the journey look like? How do you feel when making that journey? Do you rehearse any of the journey? What are some of the pitfalls or obstacles and how you might overcome them? If we can visualise ourselves achieving something, we are more likely to achieve it in reality. It positively reinforces our sense of self-belief.
For me personally visualisation is key. It builds the self-belief, it creates that confidence, it feeds the self-motivation, and builds the resilience required. I know that when the going gets tough I have the mental strength available to keep going. I keep going because I have that inner belief. I keep going because I tell myself over and over that quitting is not an option available.
I know the nature of endurance events throws up many challenges and some of those are way out of my control. I know that the preparation I do is more than the physical training – the miles run – it is the mental training as well, being prepared mentally, being able to be fully focused, being able to deal with set-backs, being able to tough it out, being able to shut out those negative thoughts, and having that unbreakable sense of motivation to get to the finish line. Like the physical aspect of training it requires constant work, constant practice, and constant fine-tuning until it becomes a behaviour and mind-set.
The universe is a vast and a very hostile, uncaring environment, which lacks compassion. We are mere specks of dust, atoms in this vast universe that has been evolving and expanding for billions of years, residing on a dying planet in a dying backyard solar system. Eventually that big ball of fire we look at in the sky which generates life on our planet will die and so will our planet – we have absolutely no influence or control over that fact. I’m guessing the good news is this isn’t due to happen for a few billion years yet, which is cool by me as it won’t mess my plans up for the foreseeable future, so it’s not all doom and gloom and I have a bit of time on my side.
Life is pretty uncaring at times as well and can lack compassion. Unlike the future of the universe though we have a certain amount of control, influence, and autonomy when it comes to life, certainly in the context of how we choose to live it. We can make rational choices and decisions on many aspects of our lives.
At the end of last year I took stock of my life in its current context and decided what I wanted it to look like on my terms – I was pretty brutal in my assessment which is no surprise, as I’m my own harshest critic. So, what could I influence, what was I in control of, what was I happy about, what wasn’t I happy about and what did I need to do, what changes did I need and, most importantly, want to make.
Change, now there is a funny word or concept. Many see change as being linked with negativity – when I think of it in a career context I see changes within the organisation where I work (that ever evolving ‘universe’ of employment where I have very little influence or control over organisational change) linked to the trimming down of human resource. I’ve been through multiple ‘change programmes’ in work (with my current employer and some in the past) and feared losing my job each and every time. The reality is, I’ve managed to move up the hierarchy each time with a better job and a pay-rise to boot. Not bad considering the negative connotation I usually associate with that type of change. I also had a choice – quit and find another role somewhere else or tough it out and see what happens.
People can tell you to change, and it is very rare that those changes take place depending on the context, it triggers a response from our “ego state” depending on how we take that ‘request’ to change and that response is not always positive.
In order for change, in a personal context, to take place you need it to want to happen. It should be on your terms and no one else’s. Those choices and decisions that we make for ourselves are the most empowering ones, if others have taken that control we feel, as adults, we have lost our sense of autonomy.
I’m always suspicious of people who try to change others – what is their ulterior motive? If they need to change a person, why are they bothering with them in the first place if it bugs them that much? Just a personal opinion though.
Making change happen isn’t easy at times. We have evolved into a species that now requires or demands instant results, instant gratification, and instant answers. We are now a species who when this doesn’t happen, think that there is something fundamentally wrong in the universe (and does the universe actually care?).
Real change takes time, it requires patience, it requires practice and application all the time, it requires proper planning and accepting there will be mistakes made, things not going to plan, and that constant threat of failure at any stage that could lead to going back to the drawing board and starting again. Failure is good, we learn from it. Quitting because you’ve failed isn’t so good (this is why many never go to the gym past January, after taking out an annual membership only weeks before – the motivation isn’t there because the results haven’t been instant!).
All the goals and targets I set myself to achieve this year will not be achieved instantly, and I’m happy about that, because these are things I need to work on every day – be it fitness, diet, educating myself, mindfulness, or things to improve the environment I function in. Every day, I ask myself what difference those changes are making, everyday I know that if I remain focused and can answer that question I will achieve those changes, targets and goals way, way, way before that big ball of raging fire in the sky burns out and dies. I also know that as long as I’m working towards them, I will never quit.
That is the first month of the year done and dusted. I’ve made a good start to the year and am reasonably pleased with what I have achieved in January.
At the start of the year I gave myself 10 targets to achieve to by the end of the year. Added to this are weekly and monthly targets to achieve. I feel I need to do this to keep my focus and stay on track with those 10 targets I have that are to improve mind, body and soul. Every day, I’m doing something that is working towards that improvement in mind, body and soul.
I’m very mindful that a year ago I did dry January with an emphasis on improvement in many areas of my life. The following month or so the plan fell apart somewhat prior to the unforeseen lockdown – a year later, and I’m much wiser, much more driven, feeling mentally stronger and much more determined not to just achieve those 10 targets but to utterly obliterate them. I’ve not made those targets easy either, that would be lazy and a bit of a cop out. These are targets that push me every day and every week.
So reflecting on January. I’ve made a good start, but I know I can do better, much better.
In work, I’m striving for continuous improvement every day, I’m being a lot more subjective and critical about my input – what difference will it make, what impact will it have it and what I need to do to make it better. Forget that it looks good, what I want is that it looks exceptional.
I’ve made a good start to working towards the qualification I’m currently studying for. My end of year appraisal was much better than I anticipated, as someone who doesn’t feel comfortable being complimented on what I have done well it did feel a bit cringy at times, but the feedback was good (especially from a 360 review from colleagues). I’ve identified a few areas I need to work on to improve.
A few things happened in January that would usually have left me feeling a bit down, moody, negative and flat, but I didn’t let those things do it – I either worked through what the actual issue was and come to a workable solution, or I put them into perspective within the bigger picture.
I can spend days without talking to anyone due to the lockdown. The solitude isn’t bothering me at all. I’m keeping myself focused and occupied. I’m reading a lot, in January I finished reading 7 books. I’m more mindful of my moods, more mindful of how positive 'me' achieves much, much more than negative 'me,' every day I’m working on this. Every day, I look at my targets and visualise how I will feel when each of these is achieved, I tell myself why I’m doing it and the long term benefits of why, how it factors into being a better version of myself. Every day when I look at those targets I tell myself I am accountable, and it is down to me and no one else to put the effort in.
Training is going well. I’ve scheduled in 26 training sessions in January and completed them all. I know that I need that consistency and commitment if I’m going to achieve two of my goals this year – not being in the mood to train or rubbish weather is not an excuse for not training. No excuses and completing the sessions no matter how tough they are, ‘harder than you think, it’s a beautiful thing’ as Public Enemy said. My runs are now done early in the morning so that I know they are done, and it isn’t hanging over me for the rest of the day. On Saturday morning I completed the recent virtual challenge I had signed up for, pleased with that, but it is just a small stepping stone in the larger plan.
My diet is improving each week, and I’m looking at what I’m eating and how it can improve my physical and mental health.
January has been a good start, I put down a marker and nothing else, I need to continue to build on this. Build, complete, reflect, plan, build, reflect, develop, improve, push, deliver continuously.
I consider myself as a person with limited talents and resources, but I’m starting to work on how I use these more and more to my advantage to realise my full potential. January set the momentum, nothing else, the momentum needs to be constant and continuous.
It’s early morning, dark, cold, windy, really windy actually, and it is raining. The rain feels freezing cold as it blows into my face. I carry on running as the wind does it best to push me backwards. It feels as if I’m getting nowhere, it feels like every stride I take is getting me no further forwards, at times it feels like I could remain static and just be running on the spot. I don’t stop but push forwards and push onwards. The wind isn’t easing, and the rain feels colder and colder the further I go. The landmarks I pass take longer to get to, I’m slower than I am usually on this route – a few thoughts pop into my head like ‘this average pace is going to be way slower than usual’, ‘my time looks awful at the moment, I’m going to have to pick up it massively on the way back’ – I don’t stop and push onwards.
Pushing forwards and onwards. I refuse to quit; I refuse to allow the weather to get the better of me. I keep my focus solely onto getting to the midway point and the benefits of a tailwind may have on the way back, hoping there is a tailwind. I refuse to quit and refuse to let my thoughts focus on turning back earlier than planned. Every time it seems tough I tell myself I will not be defeated and how I will feel for the rest of the day if I do quit early, how I will see myself as being weak, see myself as a quitter. I carry on, I push onwards and gradually get nearer to the turnaround point.
The wind and rain continue as I reach the turnaround point and rather than turning to head back, I carry for another mile. I have this sudden urge to tough it out a bit more to prove to myself I can do it, and I am not a quitter. I love training sessions like that and love training in conditions like that – I feel alive.
When the alarm went off, and I heard the wind and rain outside the temptation may well have been ‘leave it today’ and go back to sleep or ‘I’ll train later the weather will be better’. No way, lets get out there, lets push. It isn’t just a battle with the elements and whatever they can throw at me but also a battle with myself – as much as I could make it easier and turn around I refuse to do so, I want to push myself that bit further. It is those sessions that really count I think, those when you need to dig deep and carry moving forwards no matter what is thrown at you, keep going no matter how difficult it feels, keep going and remain focused on getting through.
Those nagging self-doubts will creep in. Shut them out, push them away, keep the focus on what is in front of you and not on quitting. It is something I have done constantly over the years when training and racing, it is those training sessions that get me to the finish line, it is because of those training sessions I can tough it out when things have been tough in races and I feel like quitting.
Times are tough. There are going to be times when we want to quit, want to throw the towel in, and feeling like you are static and just running on the spot. There is a turnaround up ahead and things will get easier when we get there but for the moment being focused, being able to shut out all the negative thoughts, being able to silence the nagging doubts, overcoming the temptation to crumble and quit is what counts and is a small step to getting to that finish line. Each time you overcome each of those see it as a victory.
Celebrate the small victories each and every day, focus on those small victories, those moments of not quitting. Build an internal mantra on how to silence those nagging doubts and every time that happens see it as a victory. Take those negative thoughts and think what I can do rather than not what I can’t do, every time you do that it is another small victory. Once those small victories start adding up you realise you are able to achieve more than you originally thought possible, it is a change of mindset and rather than focusing on the negatives you start looking at the challenge and how it won’t defeat you, and you won’t quit even though you know it will be tough at times. Keeping thinking small victories and push towards them.
It is a sunny July afternoon in 2004, and I’m sitting at a pre-race briefing for an ironman-distance triathlon I’m racing the following day. I’ve spent months training for this, but I’m having nagging doubts about my ability, I’m asking myself if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, I’m looking at the other competitors at the briefing, and I am thinking you look a lot fitter than I do.
It is a June evening in 2007, I’m in Belgium two days before the European Long-Distance Triathlon Championships as part of the GB age-group team and I am sitting in the restaurant of the hotel. On the next table are some of the GB elite team. I start to have similar doubts again around being good enough, my ability, and being good enough to be in the team, even though the race results from the previous 18 months are screaming YES, MORE THAN GOOD ENOUGH. I want to go back to my hotel room, pack my bag and head back to the airport.
It is a March morning in 2019, and I’m sitting in a meeting with the new team I’ve joined in work. I recognise quite a few faces, talented people within the team. I’d worked hard to get the opportunity to join this team and had really impressed at the interview. I feel out of my depth, and I am asking myself whether I should have gained more experience before joining and whether I will struggle with the standards and output required within the team.
It is an October evening in 2020, and I’m speaking to a friend about running and the Great South Run. They ask how many marathons I’ve run, then how many long-distance triathlons I’ve completed. I try and shake the answers off by saying it wasn’t really a big deal, they tell me it is, and they don’t know many people, who’ve done that, and it is an amazing achievement. Again, I dismiss this making out it was no big deal.
It is a January evening in 2021, and I’m watching a documentary and the person being interviewed said they had always felt that they had imposter syndrome. What they are saying rings a bell with me in many ways.
What is imposter syndrome?
According to the definitions I’ve explored, it is an internal dialogue that you are not as good as others see or perceive you to be. It can see success or accomplishment as something that was achieved through pure chance or luck, rather than talent or ability. It is linked with self-doubt and being inadequate.
Yeah, I can relate to most of those definitions I’ve found and relate to them in some way or other, to the way I’ve felt in many situations over the years.
I went and did a few online tests and the scores were pretty high (75-85% in favour of having imposter syndrome).
When doing some of the tests, some of the questions really resonated with me. I find it hard to take compliments and usually try and deflect it, the same with praise when I’ve done something worthy, again deflect it. Things I’ve achieved, the same thing, deflection and not seeing it as a big deal.
I’d like to think I’m a fairly driven individual – even with high levels of self-doubt. When I set myself goals or targets I achieve them. I don’t undertake these goals or targets with a complacent attitude and make sure I have done everything, so I am able to give it my best shot. I’m also aware of my limitations as well.
I sometimes reflect on what I could have done better and focus on this rather than on what I have achieved. I rarely stop to reflect on what I have achieved and tend to move onto the next goal, the next opportunity to push myself, the opportunity to prove to myself I have that that constant drive. I’m not one to brag about my achievements. I set myself goals or targets to see how far I can push myself and at times it becomes an internal battle to quell the self-doubt.
On Monday I start another 14 months of study alongside my ‘day job’ – again those thoughts of ability and capability are there. Deep down though I know that I will eclipse this goal because I’ve done it countless times in the past, when the doubts have been there.
Who told you that you need to feel the way you are feeling? Is there an expectation that you need to be the strong one all the time, that any chinks in the armour will leave you appearing as being weak? What is the impact of not being the strong person all the time?
I’ve been doing some reading and research for my role in work around well-being, mental health, how things like PTSD, stress, anxiety, and depression affect people even when they need to be mentally strong (especially in their peer group which can then effect their status within that group), and the link to our own emotional intelligence.
It is perfectly OK and perfectly normal not to be OK sometimes. We are in a third lockdown, it is sucking the fun out of life for many. Plans go out of the window, circumstances change (or is some cases don’t, causing a sense of monotony), socialising isn’t happening, we are limited in the things we are allowed to do, some are suffering from ‘cabin fever’ by being stuck indoors all the time (which is made even worse by the winter conditions and a more transmissible variant of the virus), and it can sometimes be frustrating with a routine of wake, work, sleep, repeat.
We’ve been through lockdown before and the novelty factor has worn very, very thin for most. Sensibly the government and scientists haven’t put a timeframe on this one as they had with the initial one (12 weeks at maximum I believe) – though that in itself can be a double-edged sword – by not putting a time-frame on the lockdown they are not giving unrealistic expectations but on the flip side we have no indication when the lockdown will lift. That is going to affect people and moods can change daily and weekly due to it.
It is OK not to be OK sometimes. We can all feel low, especially in winter. This winter now has the added challenge of the lockdown. It is OK not to be strong all the time, every minute of the day, 24/7. The way that we manage both our moods and emotions is vital to our individual well-being. Having that awareness of how we are feeling or how we might feel. Acknowledging that we are not always going to be our normal, fully energised, super-selves and there are going to be times when our energy levels and moods are low. If we feel guilty about not feeling our best, our moods and emotions are only going to remain negative and lead us into a downwards spiral and that may be difficult to get ourselves out of in the longer term.
Having an awareness of what is triggering these moods or emotions is important – it could be focusing on the things that we are not able to do, it could be constant news coverage on the pandemic, or it could be the monotony of the lockdown restrictions – wake, work, sleep, repeat. Ask yourself how many of these you can control or influence – not many is probably the answer. Focus on what you can control, what you are able to influence, and what matters – control the controllable. Acknowledge that you are not always going to be at your best and accept that, don’t be too hard on yourself, and be kind to yourself.
Do things that are going to make you happy. Do things that are going to have a positive effect on your emotions. Keep a mood tracker – record your mood at lunchtime and at night, are there patterns emerging? What can you do to change those patterns if you are not happy with them?
What can you do to be kind to yourself?
We are 11 days into the new year as I write this. Not a great deal has changed and, in some aspects, not a great deal to get excited about either.
This is the third lockdown we have been placed under and each time we are reassured that this will only last a short amount of time and/or once this is over things will get back to some form of normality. We are reassured that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and then it seems we are taking even more steps backwards. There is so much finger-pointing and blame taking place at the moment – who has done things wrong, how some are finding things tougher than others, how some just don’t understand what it is like to be experiencing certain conditions. These are tough times for all no matter what the personal circumstances are. I don’t think anyone thought we would still be experiencing a lockdown at the moment, but we are.
Being placed into another lockdown is tough, and I think there is a certain amount of lockdown fatigue that people are experiencing. Being placed into a lockdown during winter is tough – it is colder, it gets darker earlier in the day, our energy levels might not be as high, our motivation lacks, and do we really want to venture outdoors for a walk when it feels pretty arctic outside? Do we really want to venture out with a new strain of the virus which we are told is more transmissible than the original variant?
As a species we are social animals – as we have evolved over thousands and thousands of years we have done so in groups and communities not as individuals – and this can have an effect on how we are feeling due to the isolation and the solitude.
We need to be kind to each other, but before we can do that we need to be kind to ourselves.
Taking time for our own well-being over others is important, it is not being selfish, it is about making sure we are resilient. Being hard on ourselves can be an easy thing to do – after all we are pretty powerless in the decision-making, regarding the lockdown and how long it lasts. Being hard on ourselves can be a reaction to the frustrations of the current situation, being hard on others can also be a reaction to the frustrations of the current situation. At times, it may not be intentional and just a reaction due to a series of things escalating.
We can be kinder on ourselves and kinder to others. Being kinder on ourselves by not putting so much pressure on ourselves. We may want to change things and this is probably easier done (especially in the current circumstances) by taking smaller steps rather than much larger ones. It may seem that the prospect of that change is daunting and somewhat unachievable or insurmountable – by breaking it down into much smaller chunks that are easier to work towards and achieve is more likely to lead to longer-term achievement or success.
11 days into the new year, and I’m just looking at the small wins I can make. I’m just looking at how resilient I can be from one day to the next. I’m just focusing on what I can achieve in the next week (and how it contributes to much longer-term goals and targets). I’m just focusing on being the best I can be each day and each week, is that helping me to become a better version of me. Every day I’m achieving that, I feel I’m doing well.
As we leave 2020 behind I think a lot of people will be glad to see the back of it. Personally I will view 2020 with bitter-sweet memories. It started off well, got better even with the pandemic and then descended into disaster. I know some of the reasons why and others not and will probably never know.
So onto 2021....
My aim is to become a better person and a much better version of myself. I’m not perfect and will never claim to be so. I have many faults and realise this. The aim is to work on the faults I’ve identified.
There is a lot I want to achieve in 2021, and I will achieve all those things I’ve listed. I sat down a couple of nights ago and made a list of 10 things that were important to me, that will help to improve me both personally and professionally.
A couple of months ago I entered the Serpent Trail 50k run – the training is going well. The training is consistent, and I am as focused as I have been in years. I won’t be taking my eye off the ball with this one for certain. I feel I put a decent base down in 2020, I completed the virtual challenge I entered (and have now entered another with a few others planned to keep the motivation and drive going).
I’ll also be returning to study as well for another professional qualification. I gave it some thought mid-2020 but didn’t feel it was the right thing to do at the time, didn’t feel that it was the right time professionally to take this on. Things are different now, and I feel prepared to undertake this. The people in work I’ve spoken to have highlighted that I have an amazing work ethic and a very positive attitude – nice to hear that sometimes though I don’t always see it myself. I’m guessing that is the difference between how we appear and the internal dialogue we have with ourselves.
Over the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of reading and have rediscovered my love of literature – I’ve earmarked some books I really need to read in over the next few months, some have been sat on the bookshelf for a while and others I need to purchase.
Over the last few months I’ve had to really make sure I’m looking after my mental health. Like many I’m still working from home, I live on my own, and like many I feel isolated a lot of the time. Sometimes I really enjoy the solitude. Other times not so much – it is these times when I need to be very mindful and not be too hard on myself – this is something I really need to address in 2021. I am my harshest critic, always have been, always will be. However, I do need to give myself a pat on the back a bit more, be more realistic about the things I have achieved rather than focusing on what I could have done better when I’ve achieved something (I think as long as I’ve put my best effort and best version of myself into it then that should be celebrated). Yes, there is always room for improvement, but it is how we evaluate that. Again it is the internal dialogue. How many times do I tell myself something I’ve done is not good enough?
I sometimes think a lot about the impact I make and the impact I can make. One person is not going to the change the world – that is totally unrealistic. I do believe that small actions can make a difference and small actions can provide a positive influence on others to change to make a difference as well. If enough people do this, then maybe the world can change to become a better place. I’ve already started taking those small actions and hope in 2021 to influence others to do the same. Changes take time and are sometimes not instant.
No year is ever going to be perfect, that is impossible, and we are all going to have regrets on things that have happened, been said, not done, not said, or even missed opportunities. As I reflect on this I realise this more than most. I think 2020 has taught me a lot both about myself, how I view the world, and how I view other people. 2020 has highlighted many things to me on many levels. I’m certain that in 12 months time I will view the year based on what I have achieved and how much impact I have made personally, professionally and the impact that this has had. Like 2020 there will be things I would like to be different, some of those things may be out of my influence or control and I need to accept that and focus on those things where I became a better version of myself – not perfect just a better version.
Richard Guy, 47 years of age, born and grew up in London and have lived in Portsmouth since 2017.