On your own terms?

Jane smiling main

One of the most powerful questions I was asked when I first had coaching was ‘Approval on whose terms?’. Those four words shifted things for me positively and irrevocably in all my relationships. I didn’t need approval. And I could decide the terms. I was the only one who could decide the terms. So I chose to do so. 

Recently I started thinking about doing things on your own terms again. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to do a parkrun  – the free-for-all 5K event held around the country. It’s a popular, inclusive event where you can choose to run, jog, walk or mix things up. There is a great atmosphere and although I walk and jog the 5k distance regularly, being with hundreds of others makes it feel more like a race so more of a challenge.

The first time I did parkrun, with a friend, I made the classic mistake of starting too quickly, trying to get ahead early on. It meant the rest of the distance, and particularly the final stages was much harder. This time I took it steadily from the start and just aimed to keep going. I was overtaken multiple times including by people running with special pushchairs with youngsters in and people with happy looking, but tired, dogs. I carried on at a slightly slower steady pace going up so-called ‘angina hill’ – a long steady hill at Heaton Park towards Heaton Hall. Many more runners passed me by. 

I finished with several other stragglers. It felt good.

Later I got my official results. I had come in 542nd place out of 670 participants. ‘Congratulations’, the message said – on a ‘personal best’. That made me smile – for several reasons. I had managed, by taking the tortoise, rather than hare, approach to do the distance more than 2 minutes’ faster overall. But I also thought about a younger version of myself and the terms that were set then. 

In 2004 I had a health crisis which saw me unable to walk more than 6 steps without getting seriously out of breath. It turned out I had a genetic condition which meant I was at higher risk of blood clots. Overworking and sitting for far too long at work had caused a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and a very dangerous lung clot. I then realised I had taken terrible risks by not addressing the sharp upper back pain and breathlessness I had experienced sooner. At that time I did my very first 5k Race for Life and remember the acute pain I felt. I said to my (then) partner at the end of the race, ‘I feel as if I am about to die’. Only later did I realise how close those words had been to the truth. 

Being faced with your own mortality changes things. While still in the hospital, I started trying to walk a few more steps each day, with the help of a walking stick. If I had to pause, then I did. The very slow and often painful process of getting back to fitness taught me a great deal about myself, my body – and my mind – and how to value both.

So 19 years later, looking at being placed 542nd in a race on my own terms meant thinking ‘Remember yourself aged 38 and struggling to take a few paces’ – then giving myself a big pat on the back.

How about you?

Do you tend to expect too much of yourself? Do you judge yourself and your progress against impossible terms or unattainable perfection? How does this compare to the way you judge others? How kind are you to yourself?

If this blog has inspired you to look more closely at these questions, why not consider the approach mentioned at the start – coaching? Get in touch if we can help.


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