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    I'm a 20-something, recently married, runner who recently moved to New York City. Questions? Email therunnerwife (at) gmail (dot) com!

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Are You Living Up To Your Potential?

I recently listened to Jillian Michaels’ last radio show before her hiatus and it struck a chord with me. In the first segment of the show, Jillian discussed her work with two contestants – one had to jump on an 18” platform and the other had to run a 30 second sprint at 10mph. The jumper made it onto the platform once, but then couldn’t repeat the task for something like two hours while Jillian encourage and challenged her. She reminded the contestants that this wasn’t a physical battle. It was a mental one. In fact, this point was clearly proven by the runner who, with 3 seconds left in her sprint, jumped off the treadmill and defiantly stated “I told you I couldn’t do it!” Jillian said she nearly punched the contestant for that remark, and I’m inclined to believe her.

Too often, I’ve been out for a run (long or short) and my mind has gotten the best of me. Of course, I’m always conscious of my physical needs and cautious not to run blindly into an injury or dangerous situation, like heat exhaustion or dehydration. That said, I’ve had my fair share of runs when the little voice in the back of my mind (I’m not schizophrenic, I swear) I call “Doubt” speaks up. It often starts as a whisper, “Gee, your legs are pretty sluggish today. Maybe you should back off a bit.” Often, Doubt begins to raise her voice the longer I run and, before I know it, I’m checking my watch every ten seconds, eyeing the upcoming hill with concern, and shuffling my feet.

Doubt is a tricky little minx. She knows my weaknesses. “You can’t run that hill. You’ll pass out! You’re too tired…You’re not a runner. You’re the girl everyone made fun of for failing the mile test in gym class…You’re too heavy to carry your body across that finish line. You’re not cut out for this! Why don’t you just quit?!”

As Jillian explained, her contestants wouldn’t (not couldn’t) complete their tasks because of the mental barriers. If they accomplished their goals, they would have to admit that they had been lying to themselves and hiding behind excuses their whole lives and their reality would be shattered in those moments. To paraphrase Jillian’s thoughts, most of us function in a comfort zone so far below our potential because we are terrified of coming to terms with the fact that we’ve been living below our best all this time. We are afraid to live without excuses because then we have to be our best, pure, honest selves.

My husband often reminds me, “You’re not the fat girl anymore. You’re not the girl no one wants to talk to.” Can I just say, that’s one of the greatest challenges for me to overcome in my life? To accept that I can no longer hide behind the fortress of excuses I built up throughout my childhood and young adulthood. I also make no place in my life for regret – regret for living below my potential and for neglecting to care for my body and mind as I should in the past. Those years brought me to this point, to the person I am today and I am thankful for them. I do not regret the times I gave up, crumbled under pressure, cowered in the shadow of my own potential greatness.

I have a note posted next to my work computer saying this:

What is so scary about being great? Step out of the comfort zone and get a little bit uncomfortable. You aren’t doing the world any favors by living ‘small.’ There is no place for modesty – feel great about yourself and live great. You are brought to this world for a reason – to be uniquely yourself and pursue the things you want to fulfill your destiny. This is your obligation.

I try to remember these words in all aspects of my life – running, marriage, career, relationships with my family and friends, and, most importantly, my relationship with myself.

Have you been living in the shadow of your potential? How do you want to step out of your comfort zone?

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11 Responses

  1. Awesome post!! I often don’t think I can do certain things.. in fact not too long ago I was afraid to do certain classes at the gym in fear that I wouldn’t be able to do it. But now I love classes!

  2. Great post. Probably one of my favorites. Often when I`m running, since I`m just starting out, I begin to feel doubt creep up in the back of my mind that I`m just not made for running. That I hated running during soccer in high school, so what makes now any different?

    I just remind myself that I am doing this for myself and for no one else. That I`m trying to prove that I have self-disclipline, and that 6-7 years ago, I hated running because I was forced to do it, and was forced into running a certain distance, instead of building up to that distance.

  3. What a lovely, thought-provoking post. Thank you for your honesty! I honestly am a ballbuster and really dont feel like I live in the shadow of my potential. My issue is that i have too many irons in the fire at once and become OCD and anal about getting everything on my to-do list, done. So it’s not that I need to step out, actually, I should probably chill out a little 🙂 Enjoy the last smidge of your weekend.

  4. Awesome post! I’ve been meaning to write about fear of living up to one’s potential for a long time. Thanks for reminding me of how worthy the topic is. xo

  5. I remember that podcast. It’s very thought provoking. Wish Jillian would start doing her show again! I like hearing her out from under the shadow of Biggest Loser. The whole comfort zone thing is so seductive, but I know for a fact that I have benefited every single time I’ve pushed myself beyond it.

  6. Thanks again for an excellent post!! That Doubt Minx is amazing, racing from NYC to Texas & back so quickly. I find I have to speak out loud when running or riding to keep her quiet…

    Not living one’s potential. That speaks so loudly to me. I live what those around me describe as an amazing life, BUT Alas, do not live up to my true potential. Surrounded by people that look to me (me, of all people) for inspiration, it is so hard to see that I am jammed into a comfort zone & not even trying to reach past it.

    You post today reminded me of this…Thank you!!

    • Oooh that crafty Doubt Minx – she’s obviously getting plenty of exercise!

      I find it interesting when people comment on the life I lead, whether they think of me as an inspiration, or quite the opposite. Sometimes the best thing I can do is shut out all that other noise and think about what I want and am capable of, regardless of others’ perceptions.

  7. sounds like a great week of workouts!

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