My son and I like to run together. He’s eight years old now and we’re training for our first 10k race together. When he was six we ran a 5k together, but this is a big step up in mileage. As we prepare for our event we’ve had to be diligent about our training.
One of the biggest challenges of increasing our distance is simply how daunting it feels to go from a three mile race to a six mile one. Right around mile three on our longer training runs the time begins to drag, our muscles begin to complain, and all of a sudden the idea of tackling this weekend’s long run doesn’t have the appeal it once did. In the middle of the week when I ask Gabriel is he’s up for a long run this weekend, he’s all over it. Of course I’m up for a run! I’m a runner! I could run forever! But by mile three his tune changes a bit. Long walk breaks have a remarkable new appeal, long sleeves become cloying, and a dry mouth begs for water.
Living in the moment of that push from three miles to four becomes a mental discipline of one step, one step, one step at a time. I tell Gabriel that each step we take gets us one step closer to the finish line, so that we stop focusing on the four miles and we begin to focus on the path right before us. Rather than think about the finish line, I tell him to focus on getting just to that next bush, to that crack in the sidewalk up there, to the fire hydrant by the corner. Sometimes we look behind us at how far we’ve come, simply to remember we are strong and we’ve come a long way. Remembering these things gives us a morale boost to keep us going forward, one step at a time.
Change is a lot like training for this 10k race. If you and I think about the changes we need to make in our parenting—to yell less often, to plan better, to get a handle on the morning rush or bedtime struggles, to spend more time with our teens—the challenge before us can seem so daunting we don’t know where to start. We may have a treasure trove of parenting books and podcasts and inspiring blog posts at the ready, but when it comes to actually doing something today that’s different than what we did yesterday—that can freeze us in our tracks. One day we can be full of bravado, like Gabriel with his mid-week enthusiasm, but when we wake up the next and have to implement a new practice, think in a new way, or establish the first day of a new routine we get our three-mile fatigue setting in. That’s when the voice in our head says I’ll start tomorrow; How important can this be? There’s got to be an easier way.
But in those moments of discouragement, when the end goal feels unimaginably far away, remember that each step we take gets us one step closer to the finish line. Each time you choose to take a deep breath instead of react in anger is one step closer to your goal. Chalk it up. Each morning your child smiles at you on the way out the door is one step closer to your goal. Celebrate it. The road to successful, sustainable change is paved in baby steps—stepping stones placed close together, sometimes awkwardly so, and occasionally dropped off to the side rather than out ahead. That’s okay. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s the way it is for all of us.
Change takes time. Building new habits takes time. You can choose to get discouraged by that, or you can choose to remember that the time is ticking by whether you take those steps or not. For me, I’d rather start taking steps now. Because sometime down the line, before I reach my destination, I’m going to look back and see just how far I’ve come, baby-stepping my way, and it’ll give me just the boost I need to get where I’m going.
Wanna join me?