On Saturday, I went for my morning run. Since it was chilly when I started out, I donned my trusty yellow running jacket, featured in my blog’s picture last week. Apparently 1998 was a good year for yellow running jackets. I know this since I could find old pictures of myself wearing this exact jacket as far back as that. As I ran along the beautiful pathways in the provincial park near our home, many runners passed me, all wearing sleek, lightweight running jackets. As each kilometre passed, they seemed to look lighter and I felt heavier. I determined that it was time to find myself some new running clothes.
Tuesday morning arrived, and along with it sunshine and a calling to hit the pathways again. I reached for my yellow jacket and then stopped myself. I had promised myself that I would not wear this jacket again. Yet the morning still held a chill and I needed something. Imagine my delight when I searched through a basement closet and found a running jacket I had forgotten all about. Apparently, about six years ago I had made the decision to get a new jacket (no doubt the yellow one was feeling outdated) and I had purchased a new one while in Australia visiting our daughter. I can only recall wearing it once. So, on Tuesday I zipped it up and off I ran.
This time I fit right in with the slick looking runners in my form fitting jacket. The good news was that I looked the part; the bad news was that clearly this jacket was on sale because of it’s lack of breathability. By the end of my run I felt like I was in a sauna. Perhaps this was why I had only worn it once before!
All of this time spent running gave me time to think about not only the silliness of these jackets but also about what they represent in terms of making change in our lives.
Often, we read an article, or blog, or hear a TED talk, or listen to an inspirational speaker and we nod right along with their message. Sometimes we will go so far as to share our thoughts about their message with someone else. We can relate to their message and we see how their ideas fit with our lives and with our personal challenges or struggles. What we fail to do is to apply what we are learning. It is only by applying what we learn that we create the results we want.
When I think of the word apply, I think of applying makeup, applying the brakes in the car or applying for a job. When a company applies a certain practice of safety they show a commitment or a certain standard of care. In these cases, the word apply, implies that we repeat the behaviour over and over as required to achieve the result we desire. When we fail to repeatedly apply a tool that could help us make a positive change in our life, we choose to not make change.
Many people mention that they don’t seem to have the self-discipline to make changes; even changes that they really want. Often it is not self-discipline that is needed. Sometimes all that is needed is for us to put a structure into place that gives us the best chance of success.
When I was teaching school, I was running about 5 or 6 times per week. I knew that if I left my run until the end of the day, more often than not, I found a reason to skip it. The morning was the one time when no one else seemed to have control over my time. Yet it was so hard to motivate myself to get up and out the door. I developed a structure that worked for me. The night before, I would assemble my running gear, including my yellow jacket. My running shirt and tights and watch were in the bedroom ready for me as soon as my feet hit the floor. My shoes and coat and headlamp were by the front door, along with gloves and a toque on a cold winter day. I had only one story I told myself when the alarm went off. It went like this: You don’t have to go for a run. Just get up and get dressed and go out the door. If then you don’t feel like going, you can come back.
I never once came back in without running.
I knew that this story was just one I had made up. I knew that no one else cared if I ran or not. And yet, this little structure, this little routine, helped me to have success. By applying the structure regularly, I was able to achieve my goal.
When working with clients I often invite them to create or imagine a structure they can use to apply what they have learned. Sometimes the structure is something physical, something they wear to remind them of the importance of the change they are seeking. Sometimes it is a change in routine. Sometimes it involves them telling someone else about their goal and using that as accountability. The important thing is not the structure itself, but rather the application of the structure to help them manifest the desired outcome.
Last week I asked you as your inquiry when thinking about something you might want to ‘spring clean’, ‘Do I like this? Do I wear it well? Does it still fit me? Does it flatter me? Do I want it for another season?’ When I look at my yellow jacket, I have to admit the following. I don’t love it but I love the memories it holds. I do wear it well. It doesn’t really fit me but it’s become very comfortable. It does not flatter me. Not only that, when I wear this jacket, I feel like I need to run as often and as far and as fast as I used to. For that reason, it does not suit me in this season of my life.
My mission this week is to apply my knowledge about spring cleaning to myself. It’s time to find myself a new running jacket. I want to find one that will serve me as well as my trusty yellow jacket but that will be more suited to running in this new season of my life. I want one that will be able to hold all the new memories I hope to make while wearing it.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What structure could be used to help you achieve the change you are seeking?’
Elizabeth is a life and leadership coach in Calgary, AB. She provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups and she creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. Contact Elizabeth to find out how you or your organization can use structures to help you achieve your goals.