If vs. Then
I was recently out for a training ride and had a lot of time to think about my triathlon training. In the lonely moments of the long distance cyclist, runner, swimmer… sometimes questions come up. Sometimes they are silly questions, like “Why is that house painted purple?” and “When will my stomach stop making that sloshing sound?” Sometimes, the questions are deeper. “Why am I doing this?” This particular time out on the road, I asked myself, “When will I be an athlete?” I’ve completed 13 half marathons, 4 full marathons, a sprint triathlon, and countless 5ks. Sure, I’m out on the road at 8am on a Saturday to ride 50+ miles by myself, but I don’t look like those women in the magazines and books I read on running, cycling, triathlon, etc. I watch instructional YouTube videos on correct swimming positions, cycling posture, and transition zone set-up, but they don’t represent me.
Being alone with my thoughts for so long gave me way too much time to think about what the distinction is. Further, it allowed me to think about why people in general think about topics like these as “are” or “aren’t”, with no room for what might exist in between – otherwise known as conditionals. Maybe you are familiar with this idea? “If” I lose weight, “then” I will be happy. “If” I make more money, “then” things will be better. The “if” and “then” are qualifiers of what you feel “needs” to happen in order for something to “be” or “take place”…a statement of result. Mine is “If I’m skinny, then I’ll be an athlete”.
Some people call moments of clarity “ah-ha” moments, times in life when you “figure something out.” On my bike, I had an “uh-duh” moment. For so long I’ve been tied up in the “if ….then” continuum. If I look this way, then I’ll be an athlete. “If” I run a 10 minute mile, “then” I can consider myself a runner. It occurred to me that if we remove the, “if and then,” we are just grateful for what we have when we have it. We become what we do. Why not focus on the present moment instead of thinking that “if” I lose weight, “then” I will be… more attractive, happier, healthier, etc? Let’s practice being these things, instead of planning of the “if” and “when” of them. It feels stronger and more assured to say: when I run, I am a runner. When you play sports, you are an athlete. When you “do”, you “are”. Let’s let go of the doubt. If you do, you are. I encourage having general goals or a plan, but I suggest letting go of what you are hanging onto in terms of what that looks like. Hanging on for the “perfect time” to start a project, or waiting until you are a size 2 to wear a bikini; these are things that keep you from enjoying life. A friend once told me that the word “should” implies expectations… and expectations are just pre-meditated resentment. So, take a look at your goals. Are you setting yourself up to fail, feel guilty, limit yourself, etc?
I encourage you to do what makes sense to you; knowing that when you “do,” you “are.” No one ever can know what tomorrow will bring, we are all just on a journey and the “goal” might just be to enjoy the moments, not the destination. Be the best you that you can. You are stronger than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can. Make a goal and make it happen. Be the self that you’ve always wanted to be. You are worth it.
“Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans.”- John Lennon