The Courage To Do Difficult Things

By Vanessa Copeland

We all have things that we really dislike doing. Those things can range from something as simple as washing the dishes to something as complex as dealing with emotional trauma.

For me, I have an endless list of things I really dislike doing. Somewhere near the top of that list is running.

Now, keep in mind, I played several sports in high school. Most of you who have played a sport know that there is usually some sort of running involved. When I played softball, I could run the bases all day long. In basketball, I could scrimmage up and down the court without ever needing a breather. However, as soon as my coach said, “line up” to run poles or to run the ever dreaded suicide drills, all of my running motivation vanished. I have never enjoyed running for the sake of running. The only thing close to a runner’s high I have ever gotten is the time I tried to run in extreme heat while my blood sugar plummeted and I got severely light-headed and nearly passed out. I did feel extremely euphoric and rather loopy, which is always how I have envisioned runner’s high. At any rate, I don’t like it.

Yet I have still run multiple 5Ks (I lost count) and a half-marathon. Running a marathon is also on my bucket list. Now you may be wondering why someone who really hates running does it quite a bit. The truth is, there have been several periods in my life where everything felt out of control and too messy to detangle. Even though I hate running, I have control over whether or not I run, and sometimes that choice is the only thing I can hold on to. I have also found that by choosing to repeatedly do this hard thing I have been able to better cope with other hard things in my life; big things, important things. I was able to gain those skills simply by choosing to do something I don’t want to do… like ever.

When I’m running outside and I feel like I need to stop and walk or give up, I will tell myself, “Get to that landmark and if you still want to quit I give you permission.” Nine times out of ten I am able to keep going and keep pushing that land mark out. That has translated to important things in my life. When I have struggled at work or in my personal life, I now have the skills to break those big problems down into more manageable problems and tackle them one at a time, always moving my “landmark.”

The other important life skill that running has given me is the skill to forgive my failures. There have been multiple mornings when I get up at 4:30 a.m. to go for a run and I just sit my ass on the couch until it’s time to get ready for work; or I actually get on the treadmill and after 10 minutes I quit. In those times, I don’t beat myself up, I don’t chide myself (well maybe a little chiding) and I don’t just quit running all together because I had one bad run or didn’t manage to run at all. I simply say, “I will try again tomorrow.” It’s the exact same thing I tell myself when I fail at work or even in life. One bad day is just that… one day. I will try again tomorrow.

These may seem like very simple and basic life skills. However, until I started running, until I started consciously choosing to do something hard, these simple things seemed impossible to me. If you can repeatedly do something that is hard, yet relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things, I can almost guarantee that choice will begin to translate to hard things that are significant.

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