One of the greatest things about sports is that it provides incredible structure. You are contained by the present workout, the training plan, the coach’s constant evaluation of you. You are held in a construct that tells you how to act and what is valued and what you need to do next. If you fail or fall short, effort and hard work are always there to hold your hand and pick you back up. In the world of athletics, trying harder, focusing more, and performing are the pathways to reward. So many of life’s little messes, setbacks and failures can be addressed with an improvement plan. Without realizing it, I found this profoundly comforting and recreated such “plans” even when not in competitive athletics.
For many many years in life this is how I would pick myself up – with a plan. A try-harder plan. There was the weight to be lost or the fashion to improve, the job to get better at, the side project to complete, the social life to beef up, the fun activity to organize. I believed sadness or disappointment could be alleviated by a flutter of activity meant to improve myself and my life.
These “reaction plans” of mine involved two main things. One, it meant a lot of effort and gearing myself up, discipline and follow through. Two, it made the assumption that I was in control – that my effort was the missing ingredient to happiness and success at all times and that just isn’t true. But the more I lived reacting to life’s lows with a plan, the more I reinforced the belief that it was merely a lack of effort on my part that had caused the low.
Now that I live a life that is more grounded, organized and satisfying I still have times where I feel sad or overwhelmed. I still want to come up with a plan to get myself out of it. But I have found that one form of a plan is to trust that what I am feeling will change, that this feeling or state is not a jail cell, but something passing through. I can plan my escape or just be more accepting of my feelings and know that much of the time they are transient. I don’t have to muscle my way to the other side of every normal dip in life.
So sometimes the victorious plan involves action, taking concrete steps, and involves a big effort on my part. But I have learned that despite my years of training in athletics that believes a vigorous, effortful plan is always the answer, that there is a plan B of waiting it out, and that is just as victorious.