I’ve come to the end of my events and challenges for 2017. When I reflect and look back on the year, starting with the Isle of Wight 106km challenge, and ending with the most recent series of challenges (Peak District Hike, Thames Path 100km, Yorkshire 3 Peaks, Welsh 3 Peaks) the general theme of this year has been help and support I’ve had from others, both professional help but general support and advice.
We all approach our goals in different ways. For me I’ve found I’m not alone in my early thinking which was I should tackle things alone. The way I saw it I took on the challenges originally to prove I could achieve something on my own, and in my mind that meant doing it with as little help as possible. Finding things out by trial and error, getting used to my own company for long periods of time, isolating my training from other parts of my life. What should have been a healthy mindful path to success and achievement was actually being stealthily sidetracked to fuel the unhealthy coping mechanisms of my past.
Yet when I look back all the signs were there that the healthy part of me was screaming out to accept help and involve others. I started to overcome mental barriers when starting training with a personal trainer. I then slowly began to socialise more at the gym, and found huge enjoyment and satisfaction from volunteering to help and support others on their own challenges through volunteering. I became more and more open to help and suggestions from others and really listened to what others had to say, joining in social network discussions and actively reaching out to other’s for advice. I realise adjusting my views in the light of new information was not a bad thing, in fact it was a very healthy, very right thing to do.
I then began to see that involving others can give you a big additional push and provide a lot motivation. During the events where I’ve been fundraising the knowledge that people have supported me by donating their hard earned money to a worthy cause because of my efforts really gave me that extra push in difficult times. Then there’s what the charity themselves represent… I recall times I’ve been walking solo through the night in extreme discomfort both physically and mentally yet thoughts of those less fortunate or in worse situations then me became an intense source of motivation and energy to push on. I’ve noticed a real difference in my energy levels when taking on challenges for my own personal goals compared to fundraising for charity.
Originally I was planning on tackling my three main challenges at the end of this year solo. A good friend volunteered to join me on the second and third challenges as he fancied taking them on for his own personal goals. Going back a few years and I would have felt uncomfortable for a variety of irrational reasons having someone along, yet now it felt quite natural and in fact I welcomed the company, even allowed myself to feel happy that someone actually wanted to walk with me! It wasn’t until walking up Pen-Y-Fan at 4am in the morning, in the pitch black, with strong winds, heavy rain did I realise that taking on these challenges solo would have been downright dangerous.
My friend came at the second two challenges fresher and injury free, and again a few years ago I would have seen him striding off in front of me as shameful, that I clearly wasn’t good enough to be doing this and look how much stronger someone else is. Yet this time I saw it as motivational, I got a tow out of having him in front and it spurred me on to move quicker. I think I would have completed the second two challenges on my own, but I certainly would have found them much tougher, lonely, not as enjoyable and it would have taken me much longer to do so. Instead I now have some shared memories with a friend as well as my own sense of accomplishment.
Alongside general help I would also like to say I’ve had some excellent professional help and support over the past few years from several people. I’ve been very lucky to find an excellent personal trainer who has worked with me for almost the entire time. I’ve had an excellent physiotherapist to help fix bits that break, and a very mean and nasty (But highly competent) sports masseuse to help those bits avoid being broken in the first place. I’ve also been lucky to find a therapist who’s methods hit my issues square on and resonate well with me. That said all of this took time, all of the professional support I had I’ve found from research and word of mouth. I’ve reflected often and made sure those supporting me used methods that worked for me… I never tried to force ‘a square peg in to a round hole’. Just because someone is professional doesn’t automatically mean their methods are right for you as an individual, don’t be afraid to look further afield until you find the support that’s right for you.
Whether you’re a natural introvert, anxious about what others think of you or, like me, think you’re not worth other’s time and support it can be very hard to seek out help and listen to advice. By doing so you’re showing vulnerability, opening yourself up, you think it’s showing weakness as you can’t do it alone so now you need to rely on others… where in fact you’re simply doing the right thing to achieve your goals, and by achieving your goals you are becoming stronger and more then you were. One day it will be you sharing your experience to help someone else achieve their goals, and to me that alone is worth overcoming any mental barriers.