Running has been my best friend, my worst enemy, and my main source of failure. As a long time female athlete I’ve experienced low points in my sport coupled with the crippling fear that I will never be “good enough,” and this fear that I would never be good enough wasn’t just isolated to my identity as an athlete; it infiltrated all aspects of my life. Failure is a relative term because we all define it differently, but once upon a time I defined failure as not winning, not running a PR every time I raced, not running faster or farther than the other girls I trained with, and not receiving extrinsic rewards. If I had a way to talk to my teenage self I would not impart 18 years worth of running experience on her, I would reassure her that she is failing—failing to see that her persistence despite her small setbacks was actually her succeeding. Unfortunately for me this was a lesson I’ve only learned in retrospect.
My graduate work focuses on the importance of self-reflection and the last three years of my life have been a constant reflective process. I’ve learned a lot about who I am as an athlete, as a coach, and as a woman. I’ve learned so much about why I work with athletes the way that I do. I’ve concluded that it is because I never want any athlete I work with to feel that they are failing, and everyone feels this way sometimes. It wasn’t until the last few years that I’ve even been able to understand that I am not failing. I eventually learned through a process of self-reflection that failure is only temporary. We can choose to sink into failure’s defeat or we can choose to find the power within ourselves to persist and succeed. In retrospect, I realized that I have never truly experienced failure because in order to truly experience failure a person must give up. I’ve never actually given up on anything. However, a few years ago I’d have said I experienced failure. I was once a young girl who felt defeat because her athletic ability slipped away, not due to lack of training but due to lack of confidence and self-esteem. I was once a college student who lost her voice in the midst of her own personal turmoil because she was afraid to speak out. I was once a young woman with high hopes, big dreams, and the desire to change the world, but who took the easy way out and settled for mediocrity. I believed that I had failed and I believed that I was not capable of success until I had an epiphany and I realized that it wasn’t too late for me to be successful. Maybe it wasn’t going to look the way I had initially imagined and maybe it was a few painful life lessons later but I was determined to start succeeding. I quickly learned that when you begin succeeding you erase failure.
I recently published an article titled Success is Being Genuine where I explained my definition of success:
I thought success was running fast, I thought success was having a certain job, and I thought success was earning a specific amount of money. Then, one day I woke up and I redefined success. I decided that I was just going to capitalize on the things that made me happy. I was coaching at the time and I clung to that. Coaching brought me joy and it fulfilled me in a way I can’t describe. It also revived my personal passion for running. Running became less about collecting accolades or running certain times and more about doing something I loved. It’s funny how one small thing can change your perspective and inevitably change the trajectory of your life.
Success to me is being who you are—being genuine and living a joy-filled life.
This epiphany snapped me out of the “I am failing” mindset that I had for the first half of my 20’s and pushed me to actually do all of the things I thought I’d never be able to do. I just decided I was going to do the things I felt compelled to do.
It began with coaching, as I discussed in the excerpt above. Coaching brought me joy and put me back on track [literally and figuratively] to chase after what I wanted in life. I revisited my personal failures by following my instincts and letting my passions and interests guide me.
I was first compelled to start writing a blog and share small fragments of my life. I wanted to tell my story as I began making this transition from the “I have failed” mindset to the “I am succeeding” mindset. A few months later, I started my second graduate program. I consider myself one of the few lucky people who actually knew what they wanted to do with their life at a very young age. I knew I wanted to study sport psychology and become a mental performance coach at the age of 16, which I find impressive because not many 16 years olds even know that this is a job they could have. I had a very specific goal for a very long time and as time went by and I did not do the things I needed to in order to achieve this goal I found myself succumbing to failure. So, I started writing TheRoadLessRun just before I set out to finally achieve this goal by entering a graduate program to study sport psychology. I had one fundamental belief: taking action toward my goal was going to create success so I could erase my belief that I had failed. Rather than saying “I’d failed” I began saying “I am succeeding”. I was taking action and it was empowering. Of course through this process I’ve had my fair share of struggles, but it was my perpetual action and persistence that has kept me succeeding. Through this ongoing process I’ve used TheRoadLessRun as a way to practice self-reflection and see personal growth. I’ve seen myself struggle, but I have not seen myself fail.
I next felt compelled to fight for what I believed in. In the last few years I’ve done an immeasurable amount of advocating for myself and other women. In the athletic arena you will still hear stories of women struggling to gain equality and recognition. I’d like to change that so I’ve done a lot of little things to hopefully make an impact one day. I’ve been working on my master’s thesis addressing the underrepresentation of women in collegiate coaching and then paralleling the struggles female early career head coaches have faced with the perceptions that female college athletes have regarding a career in coaching. I’ve spent countless hours talking to younger women and teaching them to advocate for themselves and I’ve spent countless hours talking to men about also advocating for women so we can begin to view [most of] them as our allies. I’ve learned to stand up for myself as a woman, a skill I did not have in high school and college. I’ve then taught this skill to other women because sadly it is a skill our society often forgets to teach young girls. Women need each other as a support system and young women and girls need more positive female role models and mentors in athletics. I intend to do all that I can to fill these roles. Taking action toward this cause no longer made me feel like a failure because I’d once lost my voice or because I didn’t advocate for myself as a woman in the past. This action made me realize that I was succeeding because I was creating a positive change.
Finally, I stopped setting for mediocrity by creating GOALden Peak Performance. I am choosing this path because, for me, helping people realize their potential and seeing people adopt an “I am succeeding” mindset will never be settling. Throughout this reflective process I have eliminated that thought that I am not good enough. I now know that I am. I am succeeding because I am doing what I love to do and if I feel like failure is creeping up behind me, I do not stop and I do not slow down, I just run!