It often appears that no goal is ever possible without meeting with a ton of obstacles and challenges along the way.
I’ve read about many people who’ve had a dream, but whose plans were thrown into chaos.
It seems to me that adopting a positive attitude toward failed plans is an important quality; successful people fail more often than unsuccessful people, but they treat each failure as a learning experience that takes them closer to success.
Thomas Eddison, inventor of the light bulb famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Imagine just how different life could have been today, if he hadn’t tried that 10,001st time? It’s hard to imagine isn’t it? Yet this is what it took for him to have that successful attempt at inventing the light bulb. He stuck with his goal, his dream.
In October 2018, 5 months after a pretty life-changing brain surgery, we went back to the Alps. It is one of the places I love to go back to and we have enjoyed every trip we ever took there; the spectacular mountains, the stunning panoramic views of the Mont Blanc Massif, the variety of terrain and of course the weather.
It was a memorable trip for many reasons. It was great because I never thought I’d be able to go back there any time soon. But equally, it went down as one of the worst trips I’d ever taken for a number of reasons which you’ll hear more about in my book, but one particularly bad memory of that trip was our day out mountain biking.
After spending the previous day hiking, I was looking forward to some time on two wheels exploring the forests. We picked our bikes up early that morning, and heading off in the direction of the the River Arve that runs through the valley.
Our plan had been to make our way to the trails, explore the forest and then head back into town at the end of the day, but I felt so awful I just couldn’t wait to go back and hand the bike back in at the shop. I struggled with so much of that day. The inclines were impossible as due to my speed slowing, I lost momentum and I didn’t have the balance or energy to keep going. I fell off more than a few times. Going downhill, I felt completely out of control. It felt as though my brain couldn’t process what I was doing quick enough and again, I would fall off. I think I spent more time pushing my bike than cycling. And the nausea, it was on another level. At one point I dismounted and threw my bike to the ground.
We were out in the middle of nowhere, so we took the decision to change our planned route, and stay low level and flat. We made our way to a small hamlet, and picked up a quiet road that took us most of the way back to Chamonix.
We got back to our hotel mid afternoon – much earlier than planned and I slept for hours. I realise now this was due to the physical demands the cycling had taken on my vestibular system, you see, my body now has to put in twice as much effort and energy to stay upright. I was completely and utterly exhausted, and so angry with myself. I hadn’t even given a thought to the fact that 5 months earlier I couldn’t even walk…
As I write this, it is almost two years since my surgery. I have learnt the hard way that from time to time I need to cut myself a little slack, and that’s ok.
Last October, in another attempt to physically and mentally challenge myself, I entered my first ever ultra marathon due to take place in June this year. With the help of Jon Fearne of E3Coach.com, I started training in early January. What a difference it has made having someone who actually knows what they’re doing putting the training plans in place.
Over Christmas and New Year I wasn’t in a great place, and to be honest, the thought of having someone coach me was a little daunting; I know how hard it is to train and battle fatigue, would he understand how debilitating it can be? I had no idea how I would train for a 100km hilly ultra, but Jon reassured me that it was entirely possible and this gave me more faith in my own abilities.
Training has given me renewed focus; I really look forward to receiving each week’s plan, but on the odd occasion I have been completely floored with neuro-fatigue, sometimes with no fathomable cause.
The first time this happened, I felt really bad sending that email to say I just couldn’t move that day. I was reassured that listening to my body was a good thing, and taking the decision to change my plans that week was the sensible thing to do. Being patient doesn’t come naturally to me and is something I’ve had to work on.
Thankfully, with sensible training, this has only happened a couple of times since, and I realise now that I have to flexible in my plans in order to achieve my big goal of completing the ultra. It might be annoying at the time, but it’s really no big deal.
By far the biggest challenge for me though, came earlier this week when thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, my goal was cancelled.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I began to realise that the goal hadn’t necessarily changed. My aim was to run 100km. That was still entirely possible. The only change was the place I was supposed to do it.
As things stand, it is still entirely possible. My training continues and I still aim for the goal of completing 100km by June. I have had my moment of being upset, cheated and angry about it, but I’ve moved on from that now. Things might change again between now and then, but I’ll cross that bridge if and when I get to it.
If I’ve learnt one thing over the last couple of years, it’s how to be adaptable and accustomed to change. It’s not always been something that I wanted to do, but I’ve discovered that by carefully choosing how I react to certain situations, I can remain calm and in control and so make rational decisions about how best to keep moving forward.
In these unprecedented times, all of us face the possibility that we need to make changes. Getting worked up over it is counter-productive though, and achieves very little. Use this time to study how you react to situations beyond your control. If you’re like me, someone who likes to be in control, learn to be patient, take a breath and reassess things in a calm, methodical way and then adjust your plans as necessary. But whatever you do, just don’t give up on your goals and dreams.
“If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but never change the goal”
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