Getting uncomfortable is the key to growth and success no matter what you are trying to do.
This year I will run the NYC Marathon (baring any natural or physical disasters). It has been a 15 year journey to this marathon. I will give you the back story to the marathon another time....
A few days ago I decided to run the marathon in NY for time. In light of the events in Boston I have a strong desire to run the marathon there next year. Like photographers, runners are a unique group of people. The running community is pretty amazing - supportive, encouraging, strong, determined and caring. I want to be in Boston next year to stand with my running community and say not only “Boston Strong” but “Running Strong”!
In my mind NY was going to be my last marathon but now I know it’s just a stepping stone to be a part of Boston next year.
In order to qualify for Boston at my age I will need to run a 3:45 or better race.
That is a fast pace. Much faster than I currently run. Running is about to get uncomfortable.
Today is Sunday. I set the alarm for 6am and only had one glass of wine last night instead of two knowing I wanted to run a little longer today.
I hit the snooze button a couple of time before getting up and ready to run. A pre-workout drink and a little coffee and by 7:10 I was out the door.
There is something special about Sunday morning runs.... The streets are quiet, cars on the road seem to drive a little slower, cyclists seem to be friendlier and I love knowing I am out running as most of the community is just getting up.
Here in Arizona 7am is often too late to go for a run. It heats up pretty quickly. I really should have been out the door by 6. I ran 7 miles today. It was hard to get going since my legs were already pretty sore from doing back to back legs at the gym. (Not my idea - my trainer made me do it). After about mile 1 my legs start to loosen up and I’m feeling pretty good. Another 1/2 mile later and I am comfortable running an easy pace.
Once I get into the “zone” my mind starts to redirect from “Oh please legs... work with me” to thinking about what is going on in my life.
I started thinking about my FB group and how incredible it’s been to get to know so many new people and to watch a community grow right in front of my eyes. It’s also interesting to me how many of those photographers are “uncomfortable” with their cameras. I don’t think I realized how many people rely on post production because they don’t really understand how to get it right in the camera.
Then my mind started wandering to running again... I wandered back to running because my pace had picked up, I was headed up hill and it was heating up pretty quickly. I was uncomfortable.
I realized in that moment that my first response was.... “walk for a minute - slow down the pace”. Then my next thought was “No, don’t slow down -power through it”.
Power through it? Push myself, muscle through it.... Pushing myself leads to being more uncomfortable which leads my mind to say “slow down...” Slowing down is not the way to learn to run faster... slowing down is my mind giving in before my body does. Giving in to uncomfortable doesn’t get me to the next level.
I refocus.... Then I start to repeat to myself “relax into it - relax in this uncomfortable space... don’t muscle through it - don’t power through it - embrace it.”
I start to relax, I’m still running hard but now my mind knows it’s okay to be in this uncomfortable place. It’s okay to experience being uncomfortable. Lean into it - relax and allow yourself to let this moment of uncomfortable become the new comfortable.
It’s working, I’m relaxing, I’m okay even though I am uncomfortable - the pace feels better - I can go a little bit faster... how far can I lean into uncomfortable today?
As my running starts to become comfortable again as I pass this mini plateau - my mind wanders back to photographers just learning to get comfortable with their cameras. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received as a young photographer (I was 19 - that was 23 years ago) An elderly photographer at the time said “the camera should be an extension of your hand, the functions should be second nature to you.” At the time (being young and kind of stupid) I thought this man was crazy. It was all to zen for me at the time.... “become one with your camera Daniel-son....” (Karate Kid fans will understand)
Al Friedman, a master photographer who never had an “auto” camera or a computer was so right. He was a master photographer because he truly understood how to use the tool to create the image and he was a master printer because he knew how to make a perfect negative come to life in the darkroom.
When you are “frustrated” or ‘uncomfortable” lean into it. Take a deep breath and relax with the feeling - don’t walk away - keep going because on the other side of uncomfortable is a break through and a new level of comfortable.
It’s in that space of being okay with being uncomfortable that we truly grow.
Most people run away from that feeling of uncomfortable. When you learn to experience it - lean into it - relax with it... You grow in ways you didn’t know were possible before....
NY in 3:45 and Boston... here I come!