She was never quite ready.
But she was brave.
And the universe listens to brave. – Rebecca Ray
Life is a series of steps. Some big, some small. Some light, some heavy. Some easy, some challenging. Each step certainly carries its own personality. But at the end of the day, steps are steps. Simple as that.
To move forward and make progress, we have to be willing to let our feet leave the ground. We have to choose to pick our feet up, take a step forward and move. Thoughtfully. Intentionally. Purposefully. We have to give up our old footing to find new footing. Finding that new footing isn’t always safe and secure; it’s not always a “sure thing.” But when it comes to moving forward, it’s necessary.
When I was in college, my swim coach often told me and my teammates to swim our own race. “You need to swim your race in your own lane,” he’d say. “You need to swim with blinders on.”
Back then, I didn’t understand the significance of those words beyond competitive swimming. I didn’t think of them as being applicable to life in general. But the metaphor is there — and I’m so grateful for it.
In swimming, it’s important to stick to your own race plan and pace. Looking from one lane to the next is an inefficient way to swim and an easy way to lose sight of your race and fall apart. There’s a time and place, usually toward the end of the race, for letting those around you motivate you and your race. There’s also a time and place, typically the majority of the race, for swimming with blinders on. For swimming your race in your lane. Yes, others can push you, but really, your pace and your push should come from within; they should come from you. It’s a strategic balance between swimming your own race and racing those in the lanes surrounding you.
To do that, you’ve got to be clear on your goals and how you’re going to pace your race — and train to be able to swim the race you want and need to swim — to achieve those goals.
This lesson and its relevance to life in general is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
During a recent layover in Atlanta, I walked into an airport restaurant in Terminal F. After I looked over a menu and decided to eat there, the hostess asked me if I wanted to sit at the bar or at a table.
“Table,” I said, wanting some space to relax and write before my overnight flight to Buenos Aires.
As the hostess walked me to a table, she asked me where I was headed.
“Argentina,” I said.
“What are you doing there?”
For the past few years, as I’ve read, watched and listened to writers and storytellers I admire, when talking about writing and storytelling, they often say that the only way to get better is to sit down; roll up our sleeves; and write and tell stories as much as we can as often as we can.
When it comes to writing and storytelling — as is the case with so many things in life — there are no shortcuts. In order to get better, you have to practice. You have to put in the time and do the work. No one else can do it for you.
I’ve definitely seen the truth of this in my own life.
Last year around this time, prompted by a Medium post by Chris Castiglione, I took a closer look at what I wanted to accomplish in my 26th year, my year as a 25-year-old. At the end of the year, what would I be proud of? What did I want to do more of? Less of? How did I want to learn and grow?
I swam competitively for 18 years and, as a result, am no stranger to setting goals — some quite lofty — and writing down what it’ll take to accomplish those goals. But I’d never thought through and written down goals for my life before. Why not give it a try?
I used Chris’ post as a guide for picturing my 26th year. It took me several weeks to nail down exactly what I wanted to focus on, but I honed in on some key areas, wrote everything down and printed a copy to keep on hand in my apartment, a road map of sorts for the year ahead.
The goal wasn’t to plan my life but rather to make sure it didn’t pass me by, to make sure I was actively engaged in making the most of my next 365 days.