Discipline, composure and victory.

It’s not often you’ll find me in front of a television, but this weekend I caught a few minutes of the Penn Relays. I was in for a treat. As a high school runner, I enjoy a good track meet and I immediately bond with a team or athlete, wringing my hands and/or cheering until a given event is over.

I tuned in just in time for the Women’s Sprint Medley Relay. For the uninitiated, each member of a relay team runs a specified distance, then passes the baton to the next member, who does the same. Sometimes all members of a relay run the same distance as in this brilliant world record win by the USA Women’s Olympic Team:

But for a medley, the legs vary, and you must employ different strategies depending on your distance. This particular race featured two 200s, a 400-meter and then the 800-meter anchor leg.

By the time Ajeé Wilson received the baton, she had a serious job to do. The final runner, she had 800 meters to run, and she was behind the leader by a good 15-20 meters.

You have to pace yourself on the 800. It’s two full laps around the track. If you start too fast, you’ll be completely out of gas by the final 200 meters. And if you go too slowly, hoping to keep some kick until the end, you’ll get too far behind to catch up. You’ve got to determine your pace and run your race.

I’d never seen Ajeé run so I didn’t know how it would go. She grabbed the baton and dashed off, then locked into a steady pace. I noted how comfortable she looked, as though that were her normal, speedy, yet measured stride. The problem was, she wasn’t making up any distance.

I was tense. This was my team and I wanted us to win! Was she going to dig a little and pick up the pace, or maintain this speed and distance and possibly never catch up?

Me, mesmerized. She, calm, composed, maintaining her stride, looking almost relaxed. “She looks really comfortable,” I repeated twice more. But I had no idea if I was glad of that or not.

That is until the back turn.

Suddenly there she was, kicking on the final stretch. She closed the gap, walked down the front runner, and went on to win the race for her team. It was truly a magnificent run.  There were lessons in its brilliance:

  1. Don’t give up. There were time and distance left on the clock, and she didn’t sell herself short. Ajeé remained calm and composed. She ran through until the very end.
  2. Be undeterred. After the second 200, the team was behind, and although they made up a little ground during the 400, it looked bleak. Regardless of the circumstances, Ajeé knew her pace and ran it. I can only assume she experienced a fair amount of physical and mental stress, but she kept focus and heart, and excelled.

I’m proud of the team and inspired by Ajeé’s talent and confidence under pressure. May we all be so graceful during life’s daily races.

In case you missed it…

2010 marked the end of graduate school, and the end of writing by committee for a while. In 2011, I planned to write for self. And I did. Sort of. But not as much as I envisioned.

In 2012, I wrote more often than years past. And I wrote about things that were intellectually and/or emotionally fulfilling. This was especially true in August, when I participated in Tayari’s WriteLikeCrazy and Aliya’s 30 in 30 (30 blogs in 30 days) challenge. As a category, my 30-in-30 posts were the most rewarding to write and many of them ranked among the highest views for the year.

Creating time to write, and mustering courage to share my writing were two challenges I battled for nearly every post this year. But I did create the time. And I did share. And so did you…

Thanks so much for reading and sharing my rants, confessions, mini essays, declarations and lessons this year.  Here are the ones that seemed to resonate most:

2012 was a great journey, with milestones on many fronts. I hope to write my way through more of them in 2013, and share them with all of you.

In love,

Nicole, the LadyBuddha

SunsetWithLove

Cultivating Inner Discipline

People often remark how disciplined I seem as if I woke up one morning and it just happened. It didn’t. And truth be told, I’m not equally disciplined in all areas of my life (who is?).  Like everyone else, I am a work in progress.

No Victory is Too Small
Being disciplined is the result of daily effort – but not Herculean effort. For me, the smaller, the better.

I take baby steps. I may not accomplish everything I want today, but I can be accomplished today. I can move forward today. I do this by finding the one, small, specific item I know I can do. I set my self up for success by making sure I have the time allotted to accomplish whatever that small, specific thing is. With a clear understanding of the task, I go for it.

Keep Moving Forward
Spending time and energy lamenting what you aren’t doing, doesn’t magically cultivate inner discipline. In fact, I find it to be a deterrent. Beating myself up (known as self-slander in Buddhism) is a sure-fire way to sabotage my forward motion. An oft-heard retort: “But you can’t move forward without self-criticism.”  No, you can’t move forward without taking a step forward.

You can, however, be reflective and honest, without being negative to yourself. After that honest reflection, you can decide on a small action, take that small step, and praise yourself for a job well done.

Praise is Karma, Too
We can devote plenty of time and effort to complain about what we aren’t doing, but for some strange reason we can’t spare a high five for our accomplishments. Especially something we view as small. We equate small with inconsequential. We shouldn’t.

If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito. ~African Proverb

It’s so easy to recognize the significance of small steps when babies take them. But suddenly they “don’t count” when we expect we should have mastered self-discipline {or insert topic here} by now. The inner you is starting from the beginning! We don’t yell at the toddler taking her first steps, “that doesn’t count!” We say “yay!” We give smiles and hugs. We are full of congratulations. We offer encouragement for the baby to continue because she’s doing something right! She’s on the right path. When you’re taking your small step, so are you!

People often characterize karma as negative. It’s something bad that happens in response to our bad deeds. This is inaccurate. Karma simply means action. To that end, every thought, word, and deed count. What kinds of actions are you accumulating? Your negative self-talk? It counts. Those baby steps? They count, too. Every action is of consequence.

Where Are You Now?
Cultivating inner discipline means starting from where you are and taking a step. And then doing it again. And again. There’s no need to lament last week or yesterday. Don’t be overwhelmed about next week, or even tomorrow. Start from the current moment. Move forward today.  And that small step you’re planning?

Congratulations in advance!