Anyone who knows me, knows that I am an avid runner. And although I have been regularly logging in 15 to 20 miles a week for nearly two decades, I didn’t run my first half-marathon until April of 2015.
In October of the same year, I ran my second half. Eleven miles in and I was ready to quit. This despite all the miles I’ve accumulated over the years; this despite my training; this despite having completed my first half in pretty good timing; this despite running the race at a slightly better pace than the April one.
Have you ever put in a lot of effort and energy toward a goal (or project) only to near the proverbial (or literal as in my case) finish line and want to quit?
Do you currently have any almost done projects where your status is akin to my “eleventh mile moment” even though the end (or next major hurdle to cross) is so close?
If you’re being honest with yourself, I bet your answer to both questions is, “yes.”
And I’m of the opinion that undergirding the feeling of “too uncomfortable” or “too hard” is actually fear in some shape, form or fashion.
However, because we often take a singular view of fear we forget that (a) there are different types of fear, and (b) the type can provide a clue as to its source.
If you have realized that fear is playing a role in what’s on your incomplete list, I suggest you invest some time trying to understand your fear. When it comes to that unfinished project, unmet goal, or deferred action, decision or conversation, what type of fear is being triggered and what is it signaling?
I’m recommending this so that you can put yourself in a better position to use fear to your advantage…and finish the year stronger.
Types of Fear
But before you can use fear to your advantage, you need to figure out what you’re truly afraid of.
Depending on the audience (yourself or others), maybe it is:
Are you concerned that, once done, no one will care about the work you’ve completed? Or, are you afraid the end result won’t live up to your own expectations?
Are you feeling “exposed” and vulnerable and afraid to get feedback from people because of how they may assess your effort, ability, and end-results?
Are you unwittingly afraid of success? Are you afraid that if you’re successful, you’ll have to adjust your future expectations of yourself, or that others will now have different expectations of you – and you’re not certain you can live up to these new standards?
Perhaps you are familiar with the adage, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” So, maybe you’re afraid of the unknown and don’t know what you’ll do now that space has opened up because this “thing” no longer requires your time, energy, and attention.
With the above, can you see the value of not having a singular view of fear? Can you see the benefits of taking the time to delve into what your fear is truly about?
What’s the Signal
Now that you have more insight about your fear, what could it be inviting you to do next? Do you need…
Would you feel refreshed and ready to keep going if you took a mental break?
Would you feel re-energized with some (or more) exercise?
Would spending more time with family and friends provide some spark that helps you move through your fear?
Maybe you need to shift your focus and attention and do something else for a bit of time – not as a distraction, but to help stimulate a fresh perspective.
The “Real” Battle
Ask any runner who has trained for a half- or full-marathon and they will tell you that, at some point, finishing the race becomes more about your mental endurance than physical.
This was certainly true for me. Especially since I’d trained for four months before my first race and for twelve weeks before the second. So, when I hit my wall during the second race (which I didn’t during the first), I was actually caught by surprise. In the moment.
In hindsight, I’m able to make some sense of it.
One of the reasons I signed up for two half marathons in 2015 was because my mother died in August 2014. Cancer and death have a way of reminding you of what you can’t control; and I desperately wanted to feel like I could control something. Training for my races was something I could control.
I suspect reaching my “eleventh mile” moment was indicative of my fear of the unknown. Sure, I’d continue with my usual running routine, but once I crossed the finish line of this race I wouldn’t be in training mode any longer. So with what would I replace all the time I spent training for both races, especially given the “why” behind my training and races?
Of course none of this was obvious to me when I hit my “eleventh mile” wall, or even when I crossed the finished line (yay me!). But it is so very clear now.
If you move beyond my example of running, I bet there are some similarities between my story and yours.
- There is a “why” for your projects, goals, actions, decisions and conversations. Embedded in that why is the reason you want to finish it.
- There is likely an emotional connection between your why and the fear that bubbles up – especially when you get closer to finishing.
On that October morning, it took everything in me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. But, thankfully I did. And it certainly helped that I saw a friend at mile 11, just when I began to question if I could finish. Talk about a sight for sore eyes; talk about the inspiration I needed at just the right time.
Perhaps, in addition to your fear revealing whether you need time, more physical activity, more social connection, or to shift your focus, it is likely also revealing the need for support.
When you think about what needs to get done, whose presence or words of encouragement can energize you by reminding you that you’ve got what it takes to finish…and finish strong to-boot?!
If what is unfinished didn’t matter to you, finishing wouldn’t be a such big deal. But it does and it is.
Thus, you need to treat it like any skill and know that it gets better with practice.