Despite an improbable diet of coffee and cake, she’s lean and strong and fit for anything. She makes great decisions; never procrastinates, and is always having perfectly fabulous adventures. That’s Superme, and she’s getting in my way.
Superme is my Dorian Gray: ageless; changeless and super-vivid, she’s a rose-tinted amalgamation of the very best I’ve ever been, dialled right up to 11. As such, it should be obvious that benchmarking everything I do every day against Superme-standards is a fool’s game: but that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. And of course, I fall short every time.
A friend shared these words from Women’s Running magazine:
‘Comparison is the thief of joy, whether it’s a comparison to someone else or a former version of yourself.’
That resonated with me, and I’d say that comparison is more than just the thief of joy: it is the enemy of progress and the surest way to keep yourself stuck in a rut. And, as it says in the same article, this is about more than just running.
After a spell of feeling rather low, all at once I’m seeing all sorts of opportunities ahead of me: in fitness; in work and in life. But to succeed with any of them, to bring any of them to fruition, I’m going to need a ‘beginner’s mind’. Defined as ‘an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions,’ (Wikipedia) to have a beginner’s mind is to be untrammelled by past successes or failings. It’s the perfect antidote to Superme.
For example: last weekend, I ran 10k (well, 11k in fact; every metre counts!) just six weeks after having a baby. Viewed on its own merits, that’s an achievement that I’m proud of. It was a big challenge for me at the time, and it’s an important first step towards the bigger challenges I want to be able to take on in the future. That’s what the beginner’s mind sees. Set against the Superme benchmark, however, my 10k run becomes a little thing too paltry to mention, and the fact that I found it tough feels almost shameful. It’s just not good enough. Without the beginners mind, I’m at the mercy of the voice that tells me everything I’m capable of right now is a poor shadow of what I did better in the past. If I give too much credence to that voice, the only sure thing is that the present will never measure up to the past, and so the future will come to nothing.
There’s no shame in struggling with things you once found easy. The only shame would be in letting the ghosts of the past keep you from trying. I reminded myself of that this morning when I was struggling on a hilly run. It was a short distance, and my first reaction was dismay at how far short of Super-standards I’ve fallen. That dismay was quickly followed by the temptation to give up and walk. But I didn’t. I kept going.
Unpalatable though it seems at times, the only place where you can make a new beginning is from exactly where you are now. There is no fast-forward. That goes for running, fitness, work and life. To fail to make that new beginning, for fear of failing to measure up to a larger-than-life former self, would be absurd. The past is gone, after all; the only possibilities lie in the future that we’re making.
‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few’ Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.
For the journey ahead, I’m learning to listen to my beginner’s mind. Because if I tune in to that voice, the possibilities may be endless …