This was going to be a blog about Woolacombe parkrun. Come to think of it, it may still be in a little while if the following idea does not go anywhere…
While I was in blog planning mode, an e-mail arrived into my in-box from James Clear entitled ‘Sisu: how to develop mental toughness’. You can read his full blog post here. In it Clear explains, Sisu is the concept of carrying on when all hope appears to be lost. ie it is not so much about the achievement, rather more about facing challenges with determination and valour. He gives an example of Sisu as the last two miles of the marathon when you are absolutely exhausted and sums up the concept saying “we all experience failure, but mentally tough people realise that failure is an event, not their identity”.
But what if you stepped off the path with two miles to go. What if that becomes habit. What if your identity is as a runner or triathlete and you fail enough for the label to become more reminder rather than a series of events? Or even worse, the DNF’s become part of your identity so much so, they engender inertia and the inability to even start, never mind finish.
I started to ponder this.
Earlier this week I started a book called ‘Landmarks’ by Robert Macfarlane. I’m only a smidgen of pages in but he has already introduced the topic of how people become landmarks through the story of others lives. I’ve talked about this briefly in a blog post before. Recently, I’ve been ’accountant’ lady, ‘crochet’ lady and ‘running’ lady, I’ve been ‘siren’ and other labels much less complimentary. I’ve been drawn towards ‘radiators’ and run away (literally on occasion) from ‘drains’. No-one wants the moniker ‘failure’.
Once the mantle of ‘failure’ is donned, in theory to achieve even the slightest hope of success, Sisu is required at every single event undertaken. Well, that’s hard. Really hard. It also backs up what Matt Fitzgerald asserts in his book ‘How bad do you want it’. Here, he suggests the key to success is to make things feel as easy as possible. When things feel hard, even the best can fail.
Ever decreasing circles.
And yet, in the real world, I’ve seen examples of this over and over again. People trapped in the same cycle for years despite protestations of ‘this time it’s going to be different’ and then setting themselves up to fail by not really changing anything. You know it, the ‘always doing what you’ve always done, and always get what you’ve always got’ syndrome but this time expecting a different result despite having changed nothing at all.
Of course, it’s highly possible that I could be overthinking this. But the above paragraph definitely applies to the last four years of my life. Clear’s e-mail struck a chord and I know at present I’m struggling to achieve consistency. Primarily because every time I head out it’s too damn hard. Even with half an eye on Fitzgeralds view of keeping the perceived exertion ‘easy’.
I could argue that many times since 2015, my Sisu had been employed fire fighting in other parts of life. But really, that argument doesn’t wash anymore.
So, it’s time to change and this time (with fingers crossed and a fair wind that help will be forthcoming) I have asked for it. This time with the view firmly towards success.
Well, there you go. Woolacombe will have to wait for another week and I didn’t expect this to come out as another ‘start again’ blog but I guess one has to start somewhere.