Re-evaluate your life today
by Kevin Light
Parties are interesting. Stuff happens. Four-year-old parties are more interesting. More stuff happens. Fascinating stuff. Recently I got to watch, at terrifyingly close range, how one stout chap used a tissue in multiple ways. It was during the cake cutting and gift opening part of the party.
Sam (* his real name is used here to reveal his identity), who was dressed in a red vest revealing his chubby biceps, started by wrapping the end of one fat finger in a tissue and digging away in his left nostril. There was something happening up there. Something stubborn and mysterious. So he had to remove the tissue repeatedly for inspection. Being a creative, tenacious type, Thabo then twisted the hereto business end of the tissue into a sharp point and had a go with that. But then it was time to sing “Happy Birthday,” so our man on the ground ceased excavation activities and waved the tissue like crazy. It had become a flag. The birthday girl noticed. Good job! Next the tissue became a weapon for combat with one of the birthday angels armed with a small wooden sword. The heavenly warrior stood no chance. Later, tired from all the activity, Thabo needed a little break. Snuggling the soft tissue into his warm neck, he leaned against his neighbour and had a small rest.
Like you, I have multisport constantly in the back of my mind, so observing Thabo’s close and enduring relationship with his favourite tissue got me to thinking… Each of us probably has a couple of favourite items among our multisport kit. Some of them should be retired now.
There’re those frayed socks that are just so comfy and we know when we wear them we play better squash, run a quicker time-trial, enjoy that dirt cycle more. Or that ridiculously old speedo that we keep “just for training”, or that pile of worn running shoes that have stories to tell, and anyway, we might use them for painting, or gardening, one day when the old pair from the ’04 Om Die Dam we’re using now get’s another hole in the toe. There’s also that bicycle, or paddle, that still works even though interior designers are starting to use things like that in shop displays. We know our kit and it knows us. It’s familiar because it’s been around for a long time. We know how it works and how to use it.
Life’s a bit like that. We keep using the things we use, doing the things we do, and hanging out with the people we hang out with. They’re familiar. We know how they work and they know us.
But just because you’re used to something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. You can develop a running style to accommodate that chronically sore knee. Your skew gait feels familiar. You know it. Your friends recognise you by it when you come up the hill to the meeting point for the Thursday run. But it’s not healthy. You’re hurting yourself in the name of keeping something you’re used to.
We tend to do that with smelly old cycling gloves, traffic clogged training routes and negative people too. We maintain patterns that we wouldn’t wish for a friend just because we’re used to them.
Of course, some habits and patterns, things and relationships are healthy too. They provide a foundation of behaviours, practices and people that make us great.
It’s a basic truth about human beings – we get better at what we repeat. When we practice healthy things, we get better at them. When we practice unhealthy things we get better at those too.
That’s why getting the basics right in your swimming stroke, your paddling rhythm, your running style, your cycling cadence, etc. is so important. When you’re under any form of stress, especially when you’re hungry, angry, lonely, tired or afraid, you’ll revert to your familiar patterns. So having good ones is hugely important.
Investing in the healthy until it becomes your familiar is the greatest training you can do for your sport and your life. But that is easier said than done. It takes discipline and commitment. To get there you have to go through a period of discomfort, denying your natural urge to do it the easy, old way you’re used to. For a while it will feel unnatural, scratchy, wrong even. You’ll have to remember that you’re not doing it because it feels good, but because, despite how it feels you know it is good.
Eventually, the good and healthy becomes your new familiar. Then you’re fit for a healthy life, and that feels GRAND, for sure. You will have a lighter spirit.
So, as you prepare to enter the 2013 season, take stock of all of your favourite things. Ask yourself why you have them in your life – if it’s merely because they’re familiar and you’re used to them, challenge yourself to stop being lazy. Like Sam’s tissue, they’ve served their purpose and it’s time to stop using them. Choose healthy equipment, behaviours and people for your life. Endure the discomfort of letting go of the old. Develop comfortable expertise with the new. Choose healthy.
Kevin Light helps people work. He is an organisational effectiveness consultant who specialises in leadership development, change and diversity management and inspirational speaking. His proudest moment is finishing the Tuffer-Puffer duct taped together. lightconsulting.co.za