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Keeping It Simple: Be Humble

What happens when grand plans get gutted? How do we respond when forces outside of our control disrupt our ideal life trajectory?

Do we sink into cynicism? How could this be happening to me! Do we numb out and live in partial paralysis? You know how that looks: too much time on the couch watching something pointless and not enough time taking action. Well, there is a simple way to turn the tide on any unproductive response. It’s simply to be humble.

The easiest way to adopt what I am referring to when I say “be humble” is to take these three steps.

First, stop. Yes, everything is pressing. Solutions to problems are still looming without answers. Low grade desperation may feel like it’s worked its way a little deeper into your psyche that you had hoped. But all that said, just stop.

Take a minute, an hour, a day and just breathe.

Yes, you can still do that and it is always a good thing to be aware of! Stop the search for answers and the want to fill cravings. Just be present in your own skin.

Now for step two of what I mean by “be humble”. Let go of the way you thought you would end up somewhere satisfying and fulfilling and safe. This can be a tough one. It’s not a call to give up on your dreams. But it is a call to be willing to backtrack a bit, maybe even go to square one and reinvent or discover a new path to purpose and meaning and empowerment.

Those are all big words that can mean many different things. So here is one simple example.

When I raced I always had three levels of goals for the IRONMAN in Hawaii. There was the shooting for the stars goal of wanting to win. Then there was the personal best goal that had nothing to do with a place or time but was something measured by the integrity of the effort I put in over the course of the day.

Then there was the third level, which was the goal that still gave meaning to keeping going in the race even if I was completely falling apart. And that goal was to just get to the finish line. That last goal definitely had a big requirement to be humble. It meant that my biggest dreams for the day had evaporated and I was dropped down to the very basics of why I was in the sport.

It was just a personal knowledge that no matter what, I was not going to just throw in the towel. I would still give everything I had even if I ended up walking on the marathon. And that happened more than once!

Now for the third step in this process of what I am calling “be humble”.  Pick up the pieces of your broken ideal dream and find a new cornerstone of meaning to an action you will take today, tomorrow and for many more days to come.

The dream is not gone, just the path that you thought you were going to take to get there. Distill that dream you feel has just slipped from your grasp and ask yourself what is the most basic thing you had hoped that journey was going to bring you. Forget the tangible result because that may indeed be impossible because of COVID.

But the satisfaction of achieving something of meaning is still available. What might that be now? Is it about doing something consistently, diligently, patiently that gradually changes and improves who you are as a person? That is fulfilling!

And all of that is part of being humble. It’s about acknowledging that none of us are in charge of the circumstances of life. But we are at the helm of how we respond to those influences. We might want to go straight, but just like water rounding the bend in a river, if we go with those turns and twists there might be a completely new horizon that opens up that we would have never seen or experienced had we forged straight ahead anyway!

Here is a Shed Talk video talking more about being humble. Enjoy!


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  1. Great tip! We can take this into our races, training and daily life…thanks for the reminder to be humble!!

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