I do not take on challenges lightly. A risk-adverse planner by nature, I don't set goals I don't think I can meet. I don't make arguments I do not think I can win. I don't ski down a hill so steep I might fall. And I sure as hell don’t sign up for a race I don’t think I can finish. This life approach is entrenched with the need for safety and surety, knowing that I can and do push myself but only so far. Generally, I have to say it has been a pretty satisfying approach to life. That is, until I start wondering what if …?
What if I don’t stop myself from dreaming the impossible dream, and actually try to take it on?
What if I dare to push myself beyond what I think I am capable of achieving?
What if I take on that challenge and I fail?
The irony of me struggling between choosing to live life within my comfort zone and pushing myself to take on what may be impossible is that I know that the experiences that have made me stronger, smarter, and more confident all can be traced to times that were hard. My kids have heard the war stories - of mistakes and failures, early breakups, impossible classes, financial hard times, and periods of extraordinary grief. Universally, that is where strength is born - in all of those moments in life when you do not know if you have any capacity to move forward and you cannot see a path through. But because life requires it of you, you find your way, and you come out stronger on the other side.
And therein lies the push-pull. All of the hard times, all of the times I did not think I could make it but found a way to persist, all of the times I fell down and found a way back to my feet, made me a stronger and more self-assured version of myself. But, let’s be honest, those experiences sucked. And who wants to sign up for that? If given the option, isn’t life better lived within the comfort zone?
After a lot of soul searching, my answer finally is no.
There are a few giant goals occupying my mind and my heart. Not the kind that flit and fly in and out every once in a while. These are the persistent sort, staying with me every single day. Daring me. Taunting me. Challenging me. Intriguing me.
I want to qualify for Boston. There. I said it. I have nowhere near a qualifying time. At 47, I imagine myself about two decades too old to suddenly take up qualifying for Boston as a hobby. I have a career and a family and a life that leave precious little time to devote more to an already time consuming sport. But I want it.
More than that, I cannot live with the feeling of knowing that I failed not because I tried and couldn’t get there, but because I could not find the courage to start in the first place.
Another (much younger but very wise) writer-runner, Kelly Roberts is chasing her own Boston qualifying goal fueled by her mantra “no regrets, no excuses.” And that really is it: I do not want to regret something that was left undone.
I used to view failure in black and white. You pass a test or you fail. You win or you lose. But there is more to it than that.
True failure is not trying at all.
But in giving everything you can give in pursuit of a goal, in challenging yourself beyond what you think you are capable of accomplishing, and in breaking out of your comfort zone to test what you really are made of … therein lies success.