I could see the end of the trail just up ahead. The problem was, I didn’t think I was going to make it there. My lungs were on fire, my legs felt like dead weight, and I wanted to give up so badly. As I plodded along, putting one foot in front of the other, I willed myself to keep going. I absolutely could not let myself quit.
I bargained with myself - if I could just make it there then I could stop running and walk at a leisurely pace. I would reward myself later with something that I wanted. A treat of some kind. Just don’t quit on me.
I cajoled - come on man, you can do this. You are good enough. You are worth it. You deserve this.
I pleaded - please don’t stop. I know you want to. But please keep going.
I berated myself - stop being a pussy. Keep running! You got this! If you quit now you are going to be disgusted with yourself. Don’t you dare quit on me!
That last little bit actually helped. It made me angry at myself for coming so far and then wanting to quit with the end so close. I don’t recommend this strategy necessarily, but in my case, at that moment, it spurred me on.
By this account you may assume that I was taking on some giant undertaking like running a marathon or competing in a triathlon. Maybe I was doing some SEAL training in my spare time or finishing up the 75 Hard program.
Nah. I was trying to finish a mile without dying.
See, I hadn’t run for any meaningful distance at all in over a decade. Although I had recently lost a significant amount of weight, I was in no shape to run anywhere. A mile might as well have been a marathon.
But, I had slowly been working up to that goal of running a mile without stopping for a couple months. I started by running for one minute without stopping. Then I bumped it to 3 minutes. Then a quarter of a mile, then a half mile and so on. Until finally, that day, I made it a mile without stopping.
As I crossed the “finish line” I slowed to a walk, hands on hips, breathing deeply in gasping breaths. I looked up at the sky and emotion overcame me. Tears began streaming down my face and I contemplated the progress that I had made.
Just months before I had begun this journey in an act of desperation. It was much more than my health. More than just being overweight. I didn’t care for myself much at all. I was literally eating myself to death. It was the only comfort I had as my entire life crumbled down around me.
So that mile wasn’t just a mile. It was a tangible result of my grit, my ambition, my determination. It was something for me to point to and say (at least to myself), I conquered that mountain and I am proud of you for not giving up. The mile was representative of the internal transformation I had gone through to make my life better, and by extension, the lives of my family, my friends, the people I work with, and dare I say, my community, better.
As we embark on a journey of transformation, we necessarily improve everything around us. Like a virus (but a good one), our positivity infects everyone in our vicinity. They see us working on ourselves, they see the struggle, and the wins, and the pig-headed determination to not let setbacks become permanent, and they say, “I want that too.” And they begin their own journey of transformation. That then spreads out to their sphere, infecting others around them, like infinite ripples in a pond.
Your life is felt by many. Start with yourself, and watch how it makes the world a better place.
If you don’t believe in yourself, well I do. So there. Go be the person you know you are capable of becoming. Start small if you have to. But start. The world is waiting. And so is your future self. Make them proud.