Springtime in Chicago starts the season of neighborhood runs and races of all lengths. Marathons, half marathons, 5Ks, you name it, opportunities to get out and run for a good cause abound across the city. This past weekend I participated in my very first 5K run/walk. I’m the first to admit, I am not a runner, although I do love a long, brisk walk. I was a complete beginner to any sort of running race yet I was curious about what it would be like to experience a physically challenging activity such as a 5K. So I set a goal for myself to complete a 5K within 50 minutes by walking at a brisk pace. When I first thought about this goal, it seemed impossible. Could my legs actually move that fast? The biggest challenge for me was to just do it. I found excitement in committing myself to the process, picking up my race packet, pinning my number bib to my jacket, lacing up my tennis shoes, and getting started! I felt nervous yet exuberant, like I was participating in something that was so much bigger than me. Standing at the start line in the early morning light, I wondered what lessons the race would hold for me. What would I learn about my body’s abilities and limitations? Something I didn’t expect was to learn was what it means to give unconditional encouragement.
As the race started, I crossed the start line at a steady jog that was motivated by pure excitement. I intended to progress through the race with mostly just walking mixed with spurts of jogging if I could handle it. Not wanting to blow through all of my energy in the first mile, I slowed down to a brisk walk and took a look around the neighborhood where the race took place. The big, historic homes, the tree-lined streets, it was a beautiful sight. And then, I noticed them… Small groups of people, families and friends, lined up on the sidewalks along the race route. I saw parents sitting in lawn chairs or on porches, watching while their pajama-clad children danced back and forth cheering us on as we passed by. The kids held homemade signs with words of encouragement scrawled in big colorful letters. Their enthusiasm was contagious. Their simple sharing of encouragement was empowering. And their support of this community activity was so inspiring to witness. Seeing and feeling this example of encouragement made me walk and jog faster. All of these people were perfect strangers to me yet they gave me exactly what I didn’t know I needed during the entire race – positive, unconditional encouragement. I finished the race with joy and a deep feeling of accomplishment. Not only did I meet my goal, I blew right past it! And I was surprised to find that my expectations of what I thought I could accomplish were exceeded as well.
Post race, I thought about the experience and what exactly made it so successful for me. I realized that it was the positive, unconditional encouragement from the cheering pajama kids that motivated me. I emotionally engaged in their energy and that connection literally propelled me forward. I wondered what life would be like for all of us if we each had a powerful, consistent team of cheerleaders encouraging us to achieve our goals and dreams. As a Life Coach, providing positive, unconditional encouragement for my clients is vital to the coaching process. It moves the client forward to not only achieve their goal, but also exceed their own expectations of what they thought was possible. My race experience brought this concept home for me. Powerful stuff!!
Think about your own life, who are the positive, unconditional encouragers in your life? And if you can’t seem to find an answer to that question, then why not be a positive, unconditional encourager for someone else? Hold up that colorful handmade sign for a friend, a child, a family member, or even a perfect stranger. Dance around in your pajamas and give them a big dose of “Yes, You Can!” to move them forward. We all run the race of life. Striving to move beyond an average pace, connecting on a deeper level, and living as an example each day – this is how we all reach and exceed our goals with determination, strength, authenticity and powerful results. Yes, You Can!!
Photo Credit: Flickr by super-structure