What Running and Personal Growth Have in Common

08/06/2017 04:59 pm ET Updated Aug 07, 2017

During my personal tsunami of 2009-2011, I took up running. It was a great way to reduce anxiety while raising the feel-good chemicals in my brain like serotonin and endorphins.

Up until that point, I had been a lifelong exerciser. This included strength training and hiking the beautiful mountains surrounding the Phoenix area. Even with a fitness background, I was not good at running. In fact, I could barely make it through one song on my iPod before I had to walk.

There was something different about running than other cardio exercises. It was more strenuous than I had expected. It called me to push past my fitness capabilities while giving myself grace for virtually sucking at it. I remember the pep talks I’d often give myself:

I cannot run a full mile yet and it is okay.

I cannot make it through two full songs yet and it is okay.

My legs feel weak and awkward and that is okay too!

Even though becoming a runner looked like a distant dream, I kept at it because I knew through consistent training I would build muscle that would accommodate longer distances. I did not know how long it would take, but I believed it was possible.

Somewhere around a month, I could run 3 miles without stopping. I celebrated my accomplishment by signing up for several 5K’s that supported various charities. After each run, I felt extremely proud of myself for sticking to my goal even when it felt immensely challenging at times.

The same process is also true with our spiritual and personal development goals.

Much like training to become a runner, changing our patterned way of thinking and behavior takes time. To achieve any goal in life we must focus where we want to go and work hard to get there. It takes dedication, time and a “no quitting” attitude to strengthen, heal and expand our weakest areas.

Our spiritual (internal) growth takes the same dedication and tenacity as our physical (external) growth.

I remember the few times I detoured from my running schedule and missed training days. A few days or even a week did not negatively affect my ability. I was still able to hit the pavement with the same strength I had before. However, if I missed 14 days or more, my body seemed to “forget” what it had learned. My legs felt weak, it was awkward to run and I’d be forced to return to the fundamentals of: run one song, walk one song, run one song, walk one song.

However, because I course corrected as quickly as possible (and the blessing of muscle memory), it wasn’t long before I returned to where I had been.

The same is true for our spiritual and personal growth. When I first embarked on the healing path, I began to see miraculous changes in my life. I was astounded how simplified and “easy” life had become even in the midst of chaos. My naivete told me my work was done and I could coast through the rest of my life with peace and joy.

Boy, was I wrong. Although my life did consistently change for the better, after several combined emotionally knotty situations, I could feel my clarity and peace slipping away.

I remember dejectedly telling my dear friend and fellow coach, Sue, I felt like I was losing my center.

She asked me one specific question, “How did I gain my center during my tsunami?” I shared my spiritual “work-out plan” with her and she excitedly replied, “Then do that!”

With zero exaggeration, it took one hour fully immersed in inspiration from one of my favorite spiritual mentors to reel me back in from the ethers. I had not forgotten what I had learned, I simply needed to work those muscles again.

Liken it to losing 50 pounds from a discipline of consistent exercise and healthy food. Meeting the goal is step one. Step two is maintaining our goal through continued consistent exercise and healthy food.

You see, if we quit our practice or put other priorities first, our spiritual and personal growth muscles weaken. The good news is, just like muscle memory, it is not long until we return to where we once were! We simply need to remind ourselves what we have forgotten by resuming consistent “work outs”. Our mind, body and spirit will remember the feeling of wisdom and love guiding our thoughts and actions and soon enough we are back on track!

If you are truly looking to change the trajectory of your life, consistent dedication to doing your work must become a priority.

Here’s a sample of my daily spiritual and personal growth maintenance:

  1. Meditating at bedtime and first thing in the morning with occasional mind clearing throughout the day if needed.
  2. Calling Spirit to help me show up in the world as love and to see the world through with divine vision.
  3. Filling my mind with daily inspiration/knowledge/wisdom such as Podcasts, YouTube videos and/or spiritual or personal growth literature.
  4. Practicing what I am learning.

What I know for sure is this:

Spiritual and personal growth is a journey, not a destination. We must love our path, nurture our path and make it a priority in our lives.

We must give ourselves grace and forgiveness when we stumble and occasionally fall.

Living is about learning, evolution and expansion. We’re not always going to get it right the first time, but with dedication to our goal, we will surely improve!

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