What I’ve learned in a year

I’ve had some time to reflect over the past few months and I’m amazed at what one can learn about oneself if they just listen to their own thoughts. I’ve been challenged in many ways in the past year and reflecting back on some of the things I’ve faced and overcome has taught me a bit more about myself.

In the past year, I’ve been informed that my job was eliminated, I took 3 months off of work, including suspending my job search – so I could re-group and feel like myself again. It was the best thing I ever did for myself and since then, I feel like I’ve become more introspective. Last fall, I picked up a temporary contract for some part time with my old company and worked on a new venture – doing event management for a company that my gym started.  After three months of a solid break from work, I threw myself back into two ventures and within three months, I was back where I started. Completely burned out, stressed and utterly exhausted.

In summary, I chose to begin looking for another job in the IT field – which is where my experience and education are focused. I am now looking for a job (or a contract) and really asking myself the question of what will make me happy in this life. It’s a question that is tougher to answer than I ever imagined it would be. While slowing down for a while is allowing me to explore and live my life, I feel a bit lost in a sea of misdirection.

However, all of this time off from work hasn’t been useless. In the course of these drastic changes in my life in the past year, I’ve done some soul searching. Here’s what I’ve realized:

I am afraid of failure.

I realized this when watching an athlete in a competition attempt a lift and fail by falling on his rear end. I thought to myself “Oh, I’d DIE if that happened to me.” At that moment, I realized that what I fear most – and perhaps what keeps me from competiting is the fear of failure: that I will come in last or that I will fail at something I attempt and look like an idiot. It’s easier to not even try than to try and fail at something. It was difficult for me to admit to myself that the event management gig was not making me happy and it was ultimately not the direction that I wanted to move into. It took a lot of nerve to move on and I didn’t want to be seen as a quitter in that situation. In the end, I know it was the best decision for ME and that’s what mattered the most. So, I failed – and you know what? The word hasn’t come to an end.

Perhaps that’s what the book “The Courage to Start” is all about – getting over your fear of failure so that you don’t talk yourself out of just getting started. I remember reading that book years ago after seeing a quote from the author on a sign along the 60 mile route for the Atlanta 3-day Breast Cancer walk. I was incredibly worried that I would fail at planning an event last December. While our registration numbers were much lower than our goal, the event still was executed in an organized fashion and plenty of athletes enjoyed themselves while running through this crazy obstacle course we designed and built. Yes, I didn’t meet my goal, but was it a failure? I learned from the experience – and I realize now that had we met our registration goals, I would have definitely  become overwhelmed. In the end, I think it was divine intervention that our numbers were lower than expected. It helped me to maintain my sanity. Yes, it was tough to move on from that job as well – and admit that it wasn’t the thing for me, but it wasn’t a waste. I did learn a great deal from the experience and I should be thankful for that.

I am stronger than I thought I was

For three months of last year, I was engrossed in planning an obstacle course event scheduled for December 2011 – The Firebreather Challenge. The final obstacle was a 12 foot wall climb with a rope descent on the opposite side. I didn’t run through the entire course when we had it set up. Perhaps one day I will regret that decision. I did know that I would regret not attempting the wall climb if I chickened out, so I decided to climb the wall before we took it down. My attempt was late on Sunday and it honestly was the scariest thing I’d done in years. I got to the top and I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to hold myself up on the rope on the opposite side and I was going to come crashing down to the floor, uncontrollably. I was wrong. I am stronger than I thought I was.

I also thought that planning this event would drive me insane and I would fail miserably. I reached what one of my bosses referred to as “Level 2″ where instead of increasing my stress when things start to go wrong, I just stayed calm and continue to move forward. I became very familiar with my level 2 response in the last week before that event. There were so many unexpected issues that I couldn’t afford to waste my energy on, so I delegated tasks to those who could help and continued to move forward as best as I could. You know what? It worked out in the end. Thank goodness!

I run, I don’t walk.

I learned this lesson when I hired a woman in my neighborhood to help me with my swimming this past summer. It was something that was on my to-do list for over a year and I finally had the time to dedicate to it this summer. The first thing she told me was to slow down. I looked at her sideways and thought “I’m not swimming FAST enough – that’s my problem, silly!” Then one day the lifeguard commented to her that he’d never seen anyone do the breaststroke that fast before, not even a kid. That’s when I thought she might be on to something. I will frequently break out into a run if I feel that walking just isn’t going to get me there in time. I recently did this at a rest area when I was heading back to our truck. A trucker commented to me “You’re afraid that they’re gonna leave you, huh?” and I just thought “No, I felt like running, silly.” People look at you like you’re nuts when you do that. I don’t understand why more people don’t run instead of walk. Perhaps they’re just lazy. Sometimes it just feels good to run.

I also do this in workouts, I’ll start off running quickly and I get frustrated when I can’t keep up the pace. I don’t know how to pace myself. I also take on too many tasks than I could ever accomplish and get frustrated when I’m not as efficient as I think I should be. I must learn to pace myself – in my workouts and in my workload.

I am too hard on myself.

I’ve heard this for many years, but I mainly dismissed it as people just trying to give me an excuse. I suppose that’s typical for people who are really hard on themselves? Ha! I did receive a compliment on this though – someone recently told me that for someone who is so hard on herself, I do a good job of moving forward even when I don’t feel like I’m doing a good enough job. I must remember this for the future. The main issue with this is how frustrating it can be when you constanly hear that negative message come through in your head “You should have done that better.” or “Why didn’t you think of that?” Combating those negative thoughts  is something that I have yet to master.

That’s enough for now. Since I originally wrote this post (it’s been sitting as a “draft” for MONTHS), I have learned more stuff about myself. I will post those lessons as well – in due time…

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