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.
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.
I started this blog around a year ago, give or take a couple of weeks.
At the time I wasn’t in a very good place for various reasons and I had a lot of questions that I needed to ask myself at the time. Some of the answers I probably didn’t want to hear if I’m being honest. I had also entered an ultra marathon and had begun training for it. I never made the start line of the ultra marathon for many reasons.
A lot has changed in those 12 months.
Reflecting on the last 12 months and not being in a happy place at the time there were multiple things I needed to change in my life – some of those I have achieved and others are a work in progress. Compared to 12 months ago I am in a much better place now. I have moved and now have my own space – it is utter bliss.
I wasn’t happy where I was living and craved for my own space. The move has brought a lot of structure back into my life. I need structure in my life otherwise I get distracted and side-tracked and lose focus on the things I should be doing. When this happens a bad habit kicks in – procrastination – and when that happens I start drifting almost aimlessly. I’m aware of the things I should be doing but due to a lack of focus I put them off. When I put them off I feel guilty for doing so and that pushes me into a very low place as I feel I am letting myself down and selling myself short.
12 months ago I was bored in a role that I could do with my eyes closed. I’m much happier in my job as well. It involves a lot of travel at times but compared to my previous role it is more challenging and has allowed me to develop new skills and gain fresh knowledge. It has also allowed me to push myself professionally and I think that this has been noticed by senior managers. This could be useful for future opportunities.
12 months ago I had been knocked to the floor again. Very much like when this has happened in the past I refuse to stay down (even though that may look like the best option at the time). A few people have pointed this out to me over the last couple of months – there is something internal that refuses to stay down and give up, it is almost like I should be broken but it is just the start of something new and I’m just breaking myself in, having to start with a blank canvas refusing to accept defeat.
I’ve faced some very tough challenges over the years but have a huge inner reserve that always pulls me back up. It takes a certain amount of mental toughness to do that.
So things are much better than 12 months ago, lessons have been learnt, challenges overcome, opportunities taken and others missed. I’m constantly asking myself those tough questions and never accepting complacency.
Since moving I’ve got back into a training routine. Not being on the start line of the ultra marathon in August has been niggling away at me. It is something I need to complete for my own reasons. I’ve seen the event I want to do and now I’m happier with things. I will be on that start line next July and believe me I will cross that finish line as well.
It has been a little while since my last blog post and there have been a number of reasons for this. Work has been really busy and I seem to be travelling more and more with the role – it is tiring but on the whole I am enjoying it. I also felt I needed to take a break from writing the blog whilst I sorted out some aspects of my life, take a look at where I want to be and how to get to that point. I’m also in the process of moving as well which is fantastic and I’m really looking forward to that.
I’ve been busy buying furniture, house-plants and other stuff I need for when I move.
Due to several factors I’ve decided to pull out of running the ultra-marathon in August.
The training took a bit of a back-seat and there were a few minor niggles that had I ramped up the training could have led to longer term injuries – it is disappointing but I’m looking at what I can aim for in 2020.
I plan to start running again in the coming weeks – it does feel like it is going back to square one but once I get out there and start forming a decent plan it won’t take too long to get back into it and hopefully the niggles will have disappeared.
I have been getting out on the road the last few weeks cycling – it had been a little while since I had last been out so it was a bit of a shock to the system, especially when tackling some of the hills on the routes I train on. In a few weeks I should be back to a decent level of fitness.
I’ve also decided to return to fencing. It was a sport I took up when I left school around 30 years ago and I participated in it for around 5 years. It was a sport I really enjoyed and I had always said I would give it another go but over the years I never really looked into it. A quick google search last week and I found out where the local fencing club meets – it is literally opposite to where I am moving so I have no excuses really. Rather than waiting to join after I move I’m heading along in a couple of weeks and am really looking forward to participating again.
I’m naturally a competitive person so this will also be a great opportunity to start pushing myself in a different direction that isn’t all about long runs and long bike training.
Since my last blog entry I feel that I’ve grown as a person as well – work is pushing and challenging me a lot and that is a good thing. I feel that over the last couple of months I have really developed in my role. I feel that my moods have been a lot better over the last few months. The focus on the move has really helped with that. I’ve lived in Portsmouth for 2 years now and have made some fantastic friends, have a fairly decent social life, am looking forward to another season as a season ticket holder at Fratton Park and the roller-coaster of emotions that brings on Saturday afternoons, and on the whole feel settled down here.
I think back to October 2018 when I wasn’t happy, didn’t feel settled, didn’t want to live here at all, was fed up with work, and fed up with life in general. I have had to take a long hard look at myself quite a few times since then and look at who I am, look at what I want to achieve, look at whether it is possible, look at alternatives, and really had to dig deep at times. Sometimes making changes to life doesn’t happen instantaneously and there are going to be disappointments along the way. There are going to be times when things don’t go to plan. There are also going to be times when you need to change your mindset, your goals, and even your approach in order to get to where you want to be.
Happy New Year and welcome to my first blog entry of 2019.
I tend not to make new year resolutions but I do look at what I can change in order to make improvements in my life.
I already feel that 2019 is going to bring a lot of change to my life and I am determined to get to the end of the year and feel I have given it my all. I feel that I am at a bit of a crossroads in my life and I have the opportunity to make quite a few changes for the better this year. I have a job interview next week which is a great chance for me to focus a bit more on career progression and development.
I need to change my mindset a lot this year – I’ve spent the last couple of years dragging myself down or being dragged down by others and have been left feeling that I am not good enough. That is going to change now and I am not going to place limitations on what is achievable or obtainable.
I feel over the last couple of years I’ve taken a bit of a kicking both mentally and emotionally and it has left me feeling a bit numb and very cautious of who I really trust in life. I need to remove the barriers I put in front of me at times – again this is probably due to feelings of not being good enough. I need to remove those things from my life I don’t need because they drag me down. The past is the past and I can do nothing to change that but I can learn from it – actually I can learn a lot from it and make sure I don’t make those mistakes or poor decisions I have in the past.
I need to change my mindset regarding training for the Ultra in August. The training will really ramp up in the next couple of months and I need to be prepared both mentally and physically. There will be times I will just want to throw the towel in and give up but I must learn to push through and keep going. There will also be times of self-doubt and I need to believe that I can achieve the targets and goals I set for myself.
With winter being here now it can sometimes be a bit of a chore to get out of the door to train with the option of staying indoors where it is warm and comfortable seeming more sensible – I need to tell myself I haven’t entered an ultra to feel warm and comfortable, I’ve entered to push my boundaries and to challenge myself.
As we approach the end of the year I always find that it is a good time to reflect on what I have achieved and what I want to achieve in the forthcoming year.
I have had to do a lot of soul searching this year and there have been some really tough moments. There have been times when I have felt that I was not good enough in certain situations or where I have been really hard on myself, beaten myself up over things, and dragged myself down quite a bit.
I hit a downward spiral this year and it hit me really hard. I think it was the culmination of a few tough years and suddenly I became overwhelmed with things and events. I think it has made me a stronger person but not always a better person though. I still feel that I let people down at times and also let myself down.
There are times when I seem unapproachable and ‘prickly’ though I do not intend to be that way. I’ve thought about this over the last few weeks and I think it is because I have a habit of putting the barriers up as I try and figure out how I am feeling about things. When I do this I have a habit of completely shutting people out and that is not always a good thing.
A couple of months ago I was on the verge of moving away and starting again somewhere else – I don’t think that it would have changed much though. Same issues, different location.
Quite a few people told me I was making the wrong decision and I can see that now.
I have lived in Portsmouth since last August and have made some really good friends down here – they know who they are and I appreciate them being part of my life and my world.
I’m looking forward to 2019. I’m not placing any expectations on myself or what the year will bring. Instead I am seeing it as a totally blank page and I am determined to fill that blank page with achievements that I will be proud of and finish the year feeling I couldn’t have given any more.
I achieve my best when I am pushing myself well outside of my comfort zone and I am determined to push myself a lot in 2019.
It isn’t just about running the ultra in August. Although that is really important it is just one goal I have next year and is an important part of the overall journey.
I need to challenge myself professionally and push my career onwards. I enjoy my job and I am good at what I do but I need to progress in order to grow.
I need to challenge myself personally. I can be a bit of a creature of habit a lot of the time – part of that is due to being organised and liking a routine.
I don’t want to get to the finish line of the ultra next year and be thinking ‘now what?’ which is why it is important that I have other goals to work towards.
As I reflect on 2018 and how some of it has been tough going I do feel I needed to go through that so I could look deep inside of myself and ask myself some tough questions and see what I am really made of.
Richard Guy, 47 years of age, born and grew up in London and have lived in Portsmouth since 2017.