A quantum leap – in one small step
I’ve just discovered that I love short to medium term goals. Goals that I can reach out to and nearly touch. Big dream goals which are meant to emotionally move you and therefore motivate you simply don’t do it for me. Maybe I can’t dream big enough, maybe I am (mostly) happy with my lot. For sure I love success – when I was younger I was naturally competitive and I loved to win! As I have got older, that has tempered and now rather than compete against others, it’s more about making my own progress and making improvements for myself.
I have never really had a big dream – well, I guess when I was younger, although quite career minded, I really wanted to get married and have a family. Conventional! I didn’t set out with all my might for this to happen – you can’t really! – it happened over time, when the time was right, albeit slightly later in life than for some. But in terms of other personal goals, nothing outstanding, nothing exceptional. Not very inspiring is it?
In the last couple of years, I have been encouraged by various mentors to ‘dream big’ and to ‘create a vision board’ to help me do this. I dutifully did this – but it failed to move me in the way I had expected and in the way it’s meant to. It’s because I defaulted to what those around me were talking about in terms of success – as well as my own personal happy times (pictures of my family, a picture of a trail runner, an apple to denote healthy eating), it featured an expensive car, a big house and a photo of Maui. Not that I would turn these things down if someone turned up one day and offered them to me! But they simply hold no emotional attachment for me. They are not the things that get me up in the morning. I tried, I really tried, to think of a big goal – what does personal success look like for me? If it’s not material things, what is it? But you know, I failed. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough. Or maybe that process simply doesn’t work for me.
So the other day, I had a revelation! I had just come back from my longest ever training run and I was pumped, I mean really pumped! I was excited, I felt strong, I felt like I could achieve anything! Achieving this one, relatively small thing, was motivating me. It was a quantum leap.
The original definition of a quantum leap, in physics, is: “The discontinuous change of the state of an electron in an atom or molecule from one energy level to another.” Taking a tiny thing, and changing its energy level. This was what I was experiencing. All I had done was increase my training run by a couple of kms, but it had motivated me and was therefore a catalyst to further change.
It got me thinking about my fitness journey over the last 3.5 years. I started exercising again when our youngest child was nearly 1, and I took it slowly – I had one personal training session at our local park each week. I needed to exercise with someone else to keep me accountable and it was great – until the personal trainer moved town and my sessions stopped. However, by this point I was feeling a bit more motivated, so I did a few short trail runs that winter. I was lucky if I managed to fit in a weekly training run between events. But I felt like I had made a start, and that was a ‘win’ to me.
Having enjoyed the trail running so much, I was determined to do the whole of the winter series the following year (2016). It didn’t happen as I had just started a new business on top of full time work, and something had to give. It was my running. Six months later, once I had got on top of my nutrition and lost a few kilos, plus I had a bit more control over my time, I decided to start exercising again, so I started running once a week. And over time it got easier. The next year (2017) I did complete the trail running series and my times on the Short courses started to improve.
This year I challenged myself again and set the target of running the Mid length trail run events (around 12-14km). I didn’t have a big plan, just an outline – do a couple of 10km road events to get some distance under my belt, and increase my weekly training run to 7-8km. I was also by this point doing a weekly small group fitness class – an hour and a half of cardio/core/stretching. So all in all exercising a couple of times a week, nothing groundbreaking, but progress nonetheless.
Then I had a gear shift, my quantum leap moment. As I completed my training run that day, I started to see how I could increase my distances further, and I set a new goal. To do the Long distance trail runs next year (17-18k).
Now this goal didn’t even cross my mind 3 years ago. It didn’t cross my mind 6 months ago if I’m honest! (Someone suggested to me earlier this year that I should train for a half marathon and I all but laughed in their face.) But by making progress, step by step, feeling good about my small personal achievements, I started to feel it was possible. So, the Long courses is what I am aiming towards now, and I am confident I am going to get there.
I guess what I am trying to say here is, don’t fret if you haven’t got a set of goals mapping out the rest of your life; don’t worry if you’ve just run your first 5km and haven’t yet signed up to run New York marathon; don’t feel you have to rush out to buy a pin board and design a completely different life.
Your life is yours and yours alone. If you want to make changes, you don’t need to do something ground-breaking. Let’s face it, that approach can be overwhelming. Do what makes you feel good and happy right now. Sure, challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone, but don’t try to become someone you’re not. Be proud when you get simply get started and take that first step towards whatever feels manageable. If you can look a few months down the line, that’s great; set a realistic goal that will help you move forward in that time. Then set another one. A series of small steps, with quantum leaps along the way.
Be open to change, take opportunities, celebrate your successes – you never know what is around the corner to excite and motivate you next.
And you may just look back one day and realise how far you’ve come.