I used to be a good quitter.
For most of my life, I looked for the easy button. I loved short-cuts and life-hacks. If the job was hard or not fun, I’d cut corners to get it done as fast as possible and with the least amount of work.
Oh, I set goals, every once in a while. But I never had a strategy. I never made a plan. I was a dreamer. I saw myself doing great things. But I quit when things got hard.
The result was that I only set small, easy-to-reach goals.
This is how I quit being a runner.
Do you remember the movie Forrest Gump, where Forrest started the national running craze? I was part of that running craze. (I mean, the real running craze. I’m pretty sure the movie was fiction.)
I was in my late twenties, and I realized I was overweight and out-of-shape. “Everyone” was running. So I decided I’d join in.
We were in the Stone Age compared to what runners have today. There was no internet. You had to be part of a running group or subscribe to magazines to get scraps of info about training, nutrition, and equipment. Most of us just strapped on an old pair of shoes and went out and hit the road.
I was a poor runner.
I mean, I was “poor” in two ways.
I didn’t have enough money to buy great shoes or special clothing. And I didn’t have the natural ability to run fast.
But, even with my disadvantages, I decided I would run a marathon. So I trained hard, and we scraped together enough for the entry fee.
I ran and finished the Lincoln Marathon!
I finished at the back of the pack. And the walkers weren’t going much faster than I was at the end. But four hundred people didn’t finish at all. So I celebrated that as my victory.
I quit being a runner long before I knew I’d quit.
But I made a big mistake after my “win.” I reached my goal, but I didn’t set another one to keep me motivated. I still told myself I was a runner. But I quit training hard. I didn’t have the passion to keep going.
Oh, I’d still go out and knock out a few miles. And I still thought of myself as a runner. After all, I still had the T-shirt and finisher’s medal from my marathon! But, in reality, I was in a long, slow fade that led me to quitting.
And I spent the next several decades overweight and out of shape.
I’ve been a good quitter for most of my life.
I’ve done this “slow taper to quitting” with other stuff in my life besides running. I’d start something new. Work at it for a while. Then I’d lose interest, and I’d taper off and quit.
I finally made real changes in my life!
Being a quitter didn’t mean I gave up trying to make my life better. I read all the books. I went to seminars. I tried positive self-talk, affirmations, NLP, and prayer. But I was still looking for a magic bullet. I wanted an easy button.
Then, three years ago, something clicked. It wasn’t an easy button. But it was like a switch was flipped in my mind.
Since then, I’ve made amazing changes in my life. That’s why I say I used to be a quitter. I’ve learned to focus my thoughts and direct my mind to create the kind of life I’ve dreamed about for years.
The thing is that my old habits didn’t vanish. Sure, I’ve got new habits now. I’ve set big goals to live a life of excellence. I’ve rewired my brain. And the strategies I used to change my life are the tools I share with my coaching clients.
But those old habit pathways are still there in my brain. They’re like abandoned highways. The grass and weeds have grown up. And I don’t use those roads any more. But it doesn’t take much to start traveling them again.
You see, old habits never die. They only fade.
You don’t really erase a habit. You have to override it with a new habit, a stronger one. But that old habit stays there in your brain.
Think about those smokers who have quit smoking for years, and then, one day, they start smoking again. The same is true for alcoholics. You’ve probably had this experience if you’ve ever tried losing weight. You change your habits to get the result that you want. And, then once you get the results, you relax. Then you eventually slip back into your old habits.
So what do you do to not quit on yourself? Let me tell you what I’m doing the second time around.
I turned my “quit running” into a long pause.
I started running again last year.
I became an ultra marathon runner in 2018. I went from running 0 miles to running and finishing the Hawk 50-mile trail race in Lawrence, KS.
It was only a few days into my recovery when I said to myself, “Self, I think you might be able to do the 100 mile version of this race next year.”
I kicked that idea around in my mind for about a week. Then I realized what I was doing. I was saying to myself, “I think I can,” rather than “I’m going to.”
You see, I made my zero-to-fifty mile goal a no-doubt-about-it-I’m-gonna-do-it commitment. I had no doubt I’d do it!
But here I was thinking about my 100-mile goal with a well-maybe-I-can-if-things-go-right seed of doubt. I thought, “What am I doing? I’m planning my excuse to fail even before I start!”
My “goal” was better than nothing.
Don’t get me wrong. Setting my sights on something bigger gave me a better shot at not quitting this time.
But I so you see how my self-talk was way too weak?
So I went through a bit of self-evaluation. Do I truly want a bigger goal? Can I set this goal as a certainty rather than a wish?
I rolled this around in my mind and answered “Yes!” So I started planning and training.
I saw the early signs of QUIT coming back.
My inner transformation went deeper than just becoming an ultra runner. My whole approach to life is different now. Running and changing my diet were the two most visible results of my inner changes.
And it was my diet and my running where the signs of the slow fade to a big QUIT showed up.
My first compromise was sugar.
I didn’t really cut sugar out of my life. I just cut way back. But last Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years tempted me into eating too much sugar and too much food.
The result was that I gained seven pounds. And those seven extra pounds stayed with me.
At the same time, we had a wet, cold winter in Kansas City this year. I let the deep snow, the mud, and the rain be my excuse to stay inside and warm.
This was the same pattern that led me to quit running the last time.
I told myself my inner compromise wasn’t a big deal. I kept doing my other “good habits.”
You know how this works, don’t you? You can be killing it in some areas, and really sucking in others.
The problem is that when you let a few things slide it’s that “quitting” attitude spreads like a virus, and pretty soon your whole life sucks.
This time I’m paying attention!
This time I’m not taking that slow fade to a big QUIT.
The me from the past, that go-with-the-flow, Que Sera Sera quitter is over!
I’ve vowed to stop living from my past and take charge of my present and my future.
So I’m having smoothies for breakfast, and salads for lunch. Also, I’m doing intermittent fasting. (That means I only eat breakfast and lunch.)
And I tamed my sugar dragon!
My body no longer feels bloated and sluggish. I’m seriously training for my 100 mile trail race in September. This time will be different. I’m not a quitter any more.
I’m dealing with my crap.
As a life coach, my goal is to be transparent. The strategies I share with clients are the same ones I use myself. There is no Easy Button. But that doesn’t mean changing your life for the better has to be hard either.
It helps to have a coach.
I’ve worked hard to change my life for years on my own. I finally had some success. But hiring a coach was one of the best decisions I made. My coach has a coach.
So what I offer my one-to-one clients are tools to help them pay attention. The greatest power God gave us is the ability to choose our thoughts. Knowing how to use this truth was what changed my life. It can change yours too.
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