Do you remember that time when you came up short? Do you remember that time when you failed miserably? Assuming you have a pulse, it’s safe to say you do.
Falling short and making mistakes are part of being human. They are the challenges that make our lifelong journeys so extraordinary. While coming up short isn’t always easy to deal with at the time, looking back at our failures can teach us an amazing amount about ourselves.
When I ran cross-country in high school, I fell short numerous times. But it was my shortcomings that fueled the fire inside me, forcing me to train even harder… and eventually, I reached my goal.
During my freshman year in high school my parents and I decided that it was in my best interest to partake in a sport. Not being the most coordinated kid in the world left me with very few options to pursue. It turns out cross-country running was the perfect sport for me.
Joining my schools cross-country team was perhaps one of the greatest decisions I have ever made. The sport took a kid who was lazy and unmotivated, and transformed him into a student of excellence. While I still had my moments of laziness, my outlook on life drastically improved.
One of the reasons cross-country was so beneficial for me was that our team was consistently one of the best teams in the nation. So I was always surrounded by people who wanted to be extraordinary.
At first, I actually didn’t want to be extraordinary. I figured it was too difficult. I simply put in enough work to be “average” and nothing more. But as I began to see my teammates succeed, I thought, “Hey why not me?” The attitudes of my teammates quickly rubbed off on me and made me strive for more.
One of my goals for freshman year was to run a mile in under 5 minutes – a respectable time for a high school runner.
Having a clear goal in mind, I got motivated and began putting in the necessary work. And I was getting closer and closer. But then, out of nowhere, I became ill.
Cross country running is not the easiest of sports. This is especially true when you’re running with one of the top running programs in the nation. Our weekly mileage training requirements often exceeded 50 miles. Running demands an extreme amount of time and energy in order to succeed. And my body began to reject the training.
One day during practice my legs became unusually sore. But I initially assumed the soreness was just part of the sport, so I continued to run for a few days more. Then during a light jog one afternoon I became light headed and fell to the ground. My legs completely gave out. And I realized then that something was seriously wrong with me.
It turns out that my immune system was taxed to the point where it literally began eating the muscles in my legs. For an entire week I could barely move my legs on my own. Over the next several months I was in and out of hospitals taking test after test, trying to figure out what was wrong. Although I was prescribed various medications, I never learned exactly what it was.
And it took nearly six months before I began running again.
Coming back from such a large setback was extremely difficult to say the least. Not only was I behind physically, but my mental game was off as well. I was scared of pain. I didn’t want to push myself because I feared that I might grow ill again.
These negative thoughts impacted my ability to perform at the level I knew I was capable of. So even though I started training again, I continued to fall short of my five minute mile goal. But through the guidance and support I received from my family and friends, I was able to forge ahead.
So I continued to dedicate myself to my goal. When my sophomore track season began, I couldn’t have been more excited. I was certain I was going to break five minutes on the opening race.
But as it turns out, I didn’t. Instead of breaking five, I ended up running a 5:01 in one of the greatest races of my cross-country career. And although I didn’t conquer my goal, I still remember the feeling of joy that shot through my body - not because of the time, but because I knew without question that I gave it my all.
Our lives are naturally filled with obstacles. It’s impossible to avoid them. If you try, they will ultimately stop you from living.
Your failures and shortcomings are a healthy part of your life’s story. So embrace them. Experience failure, learn from it, and breathe. At the end of the day you have the final say on how you experience reality.
Remember, the long road of falling short eventually leads to victory. Because winning is simply the act of never quitting.
Oh… And during the later part of my sophomore year, I finally ran a 4:54 mile.
Bud Hennekes is dedicated to changing the way people think about themselves. His blog www.aboundlessworld.com empowers people to create and live in a blissful reality. His hobbies vary, but more often than not he enjoys meditating, reading, connecting with people, and writing.