- It was supposed to be sunny and it’s raining
- You thought it would be a blowout and now you’re behind
- You go to the pool for your swim and showed up on the wrong day
- You were on pace for a PR, but missed a course marker and added 5 miles to your bike
- You were working towards a goal and thought it would take six months, but it’s become clear that it will take more like a year and a half
Sometimes (in sport and in life), things don’t go as smoothly or easily as you would like. Or things don’t go the way you expect. When expectations meet reality and the two don’t match up, it can throw you completely off your game.
When faced with this kind of challenge – do you give up or do you adjust?
I was inspired to write this blog after I posted the quote pic you see here on my Facebook page.
“The man who moved a mountain was the one who began carrying away small stones.” Chinese Proverb
When I first read the quote, I imagined that the man looked up at the mountain and immediately knew that there would be no way to move it all at once and began his task of moving the mountain, stone by stone. But then I thought, maybe he did try to move the mountain all at once and eventually over time realized he was going to have to do it one stone at a time.
There are times when you will face a challenge, like moving a mountain. You come up with a game plan, commit to the plan, attack the challenge with everything you’ve got, and the mountain doesn’t move. You try to push the mountain again and nothing. This time you turn around and try to push with your back and you happen to look down and see the stones, but you stick to your original plan trying to force your expectations to influence reality. You keep pushing against the mountain because when you look down at those stones, they make you angry and then they make you want to cry. You don’t want to go to Plan B.
We don’t like having to change our game plan. I talk about this in my book (it’s in Chapter 6: Choosing Your Focus). I talk about how one of the distractions that can shift your focus from where it needs to be is this idea of “fighting against the present” or “butting heads” with what’s happening. You can get so caught up not wanting things to be the way they are, that it can be really difficult to shift your focus to where it needs to be.
Sure … it would feel amazing to move the mountain with one enormous and courageous push and feel the instant power of that incredible and monumental shift. To have it play out exactly the way you had hoped it would – the way you had it planned in your mind. You have to stop pushing against the mountain waiting for it to move. The quicker you realize and accept the fact that pushing against the mountain is not going to work, the quicker you are to discover that you can still move that mountain, just not the way you had originally thought.
You tried to move the mountain and it wouldn’t budge – so you can quit – or you can pick up a stone. It’s just as amazing – and sometimes more so – to create that shift moving one stone at a time. The key is to pick up that stone and know that the action means you are adapting and persisting – not pick up the stone and think the action means you have failed. It can be tempting to feel that it’s more tolerable to give up than to have to pick up a stone.
You will still have a moment before acceptance where you will feel confused, angry, frustrated, sad, annoyed, and utterly disappointed. And then you take a deep breath and let persistence keep you going. The key to persistence is being able to adjust. Being able to change your game plan and not see that as failure. Persistence means that you keep going despite the difficulty surrounding the task. Persistence means if you can’t move the mountain all at once then you start picking up stones.