6 Tips to Develop Self-Confidence with Others

Self-Condidence

Are you the kind of person who struggles in social settings? Are you shy and tend to stand in the background? Do you run from social situations because they are scary and uncomfortable for you?

You may have seen other people that seem to project self-confidence. They appear to have no problem in any social situation. They make friends easily and seem to be able to connect with others. How do they do it?

Today I’m going to share 6 ways to help you develop confidence with others. If you follow these six simple tips you will begin to feel more confident with yourself and more comfortable in social settings. There is no magic here, just six simple tips. Here they are:

Tip Number 1: Be a Front-Row-Seater

When you attend any function such as a meeting, seminar, or class where there is a large group of people, what is the first row of seats that fill up? The back row! It seems like most everyone wants to be in the back, out of the way, unobtrusive, and unnoticed. They want to just slide into the back unobserved. You need to change that attitude. You need to be a front-row-seater.

Let’s face it; outgoing, confident people don’t sit on the back row. You will find those people sitting on the front row and that’s where you should be also. It’s a signal of your willingness to jump in and be a part of the situation. Sitting on the front row may be uncomfortable at first but it puts you right up there with the important people. Another benefit isthat you are better able to contribute to the meeting or discussion than if you are sitting in the back. So that’s my first suggestion is to be a front-row-seater.

Tip Number 2: Make eye contact

Have you noticed that shy people rarely look you in the eye? When you walk past them they tend to avoid you and look the other way. It’s very uncomfortable for them to look you in the eye. This usually happens because they are afraid to engage you, meaning if they acknowledge you in any way then they may have to actually say something to you. It’s easier and safer to pretend they don’t see you.

Maybe you are that kind of person and have that same problem. Maybe you don’t even notice it. Pay attention to how you react when you pass someone on the sidewalk or in the hallway at work. Do you look the other person in the eye and make eye contact? If not then you have some work to do.

If you want to convey the message that you are a self-assured and confident person then you need to practice looking others in the eye. Don’t be afraid of the other person. Acknowledge that you see they are there. I’m not saying you should stare them down or that it should be some sort of confrontation, but that it should be a friendly gaze into the other person’s eye.

Tip Number 3: Walk 25% faster

I’ve noticed that there are some people who walk extremely slow. It’s amazing how slow some people walk. I don’t even know how they can walk so slowly. My body doesn’t even go that slow. They just sort of plod along as if they were pulling a 200 pound weight behind them, dragging from one place to the next. It’s frustrating sometimes to get stuck behind slow moving people! When a snail has to tell you to get out of road, then you know you’re going too slow!

When you see someone like this, what are your thoughts? I don’t know about you but I have a hard time not thinking of them in negative terms, like they are aimlessly going nowhere. I’m ashamed to admit that the term “loser” crosses my mind a time or two.

But when you see someone walking briskly with their shoulders straight, their head up and they are moving forward as if nothing is going to stop them, you get the impression that they are a person that has confidence in themselves and are going places in life.

So my tip is to walk 25% faster than you normally walk. When I say 25% faster, I don’t mean that you should get a pedometer and measure exactly your walking speed and then increase it by 25 %. What I mean is for you to make sure you walk briskly with confidence, like you have somewhere important to be. Walk like you have meaning and direction in your life.

Tip Number 4: Speak Up!

You may not be aware of it but many times when we speak to each other we speak in barely audible tones. Have you noticed that people who are confident and seem to be going somewhere speak up, speak clearly and speak loudly? Again it’s a message of confidence. It’s a message of “I’m not afraid to speak up. I have a healthy self-image. I have something important to say and I’m not just going to mumble it or say something under my breath, but I’m going to speak up and be heard!” So speak up!

Tip Number 5: Smile and smile big

There are some people who seem to carry the whole world on their shoulders. They have a perpetual cloud over their head and a sour expression on their face. They make you wonder what kind of sad, miserable life they live.

Then there are those who go around with a permanent smile on their face. They are friendly and confident and cheerful. They look you in the eye and say “Hello!”

Think about which kind of people you like to be around. Are they the ones that always have a grim look on their face or those that have a smile? Let’s face it, who wants to hang around a grump? We would much rather be around those that are happy and cheerful. It’s normal and natural.

So smile and smile big! Show others that you are happy and that you are glad to see them. Show them that you are pleased with who you are and where you are going in life.

Tip Number 6: Call the other person by name

It’s been said many times that the sweetest word in the English language is a person’s own name. People love it when somebody uses their name.

Let’s be honest. When someone takes the time to learn your name and remembers it the next time they meet you, aren’t you impressed? Don’t you instantly like that person? And when someone who should know your name can’t seem to recall it, doesn’t your opinion of them drop by about 1000 percent? The non-verbal message is that you are not important enough for them to learn your name. We are all human and have a need to feel important. When someone remembers your name you feel more important than when someone can’t remember your name.

We can have impact and power with other people when we take the trouble to learn their name and use it then next time we see them.

So that’s my message for today. If you want to develop more confidence with others and feel more comfortable in social settings, follow these 6 simple tips.

Overcoming Self-Criticism

Self-CriticismWhen you look in the mirror are you happy with who you see? If you are like most people you will tend to see your own faults over your qualities. It’s amazing how critical and judgmental we can be with ourselves. It can suck the vitality and energy out of our life if we are constantly chipping away at who we are. It’s like trying to blow up a balloon with a pin hole in it. It takes constant effort. Our incessant internal criticism and judgment deflates our self-esteem faster than we can fill it.

A certain amount of self-analysis is good and healthy. If not, we would never make any improvements in our lives. We need to examine ourselves from time to time and determine the areas we need to improve on. However, this can be overdone to the point of being hyper-critical and counter-productive. You become your own judge, jury and jailer.

What are the causes of Self-Criticism?

1. Comparing ourselves with others. We are great at putting ourselves down because we know ourselves the best. We are intimately and painfully aware of each of our faults. The trouble is, when we look at others we tend to see the polished and refined exterior and are unaware of the flaws and internal conflicts that they battle with each day. We tend to compare the worst in ourselves with the best in others. We can never win that game.

2. Unrealistic expectations of ourselves. It’s good to set goals and strive to make improvements in our lives. We should strive for excellence. However, some of us mistake perfection for excellence. When the goals we set are so high and out of reach for the average human being then we set ourselves up for failure.

3. Not realizing life is a process. Journeys are accomplished one step at a time. Bodies are grown one cell at a time. Buildings are built one brick at a time. These are all processes that are accomplished in a gradual, procedural way.

Imagine driving by a building under construction. What do you see? Half-built walls, pallets of bricks, scaffolding, unpainted surfaces, weeds and debris – it’s not a pretty sight. Imagine criticizing the building because of these flaws. That would be unreasonable because we know it isn’t finished yet. It’s under construction. Yet we fail to consider that our lives are not finished yet either. We are still under construction. Of course everything isn’t in perfect order yet. We are still in the middle of this process called “Life.”

What are the consequences of Self-Criticism?

1. Incorrect vision of ourselves. When we continually focus on our flaws and imperfections we get to the point of identifying ourselves as our flaws and imperfections. That’s who we become in our mind. Instead of thinking “I have a weight problem” we instead think “I’m fat.” It becomes who we are.

2. The “Why Try?” attitude. Since we identify ourselves with our defects and believe that’s who we are, then we feel like “what’s the use” in trying to change since that’s “just the way I am.” If you see yourself as a zebra then why try to change your stripes. It’s simply who you are.

3. Saps energy. It takes energy and effort to be constantly judging ourselves. Experiencing discouragement and disappointment in ourselves is like dragging around a heavy weight. It wears on you and drains your energy.

How can we overcome Self-Criticism?

1. Pay attention to what’s going on in your head. Make an effort throughout the day to be aware of how you talk to yourself in your mind. What are you saying?

“I’m such a loser”
“I’m so ugly”
“I never have enough money”
“I’m so fat”
“I’m such an idiot”

Be aware of these negative jabs at yourself and rein them in. Take control of your thoughts and shut down the negative ones.

2. Lower your unrealistic expectations. Give yourself a break. It’s okay if you’re not perfect. You’re not done yet. You’re still under construction as a person. I’m not talking about lowering your personal convictions or your personal moral standards – just your unrealistic expectations of yourself.

3. Focus on your good points. Start noticing what you are doing right. Focus on the positive things you accomplish every day. Make a list of all the things you are doing well and give yourself a pat on the back. Notice even small steps of forward progress.

T.S. Eliot wrote:

What is this self inside us, this silent observer,
Severe and speechless critic, who can terrorize us
And urge us on to futile activity
And in the end, judge us still more severely
For the errors into which his own reproaches drove us?

When you truly overcome self-criticism you free your mind and energy to move forward in your life. You are not stuck in Paralysis by Analysis. You become at peace with who you are and where you are headed. Remember, there is only one person in the world that you are compelled to live with – and that is with yourself. It’s best you both get along!

Thank you.

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson

Self-Pity – The ‘Luxury’ You Can’t Afford

Self-PerceptionTragedy and misfortune strike people every day. We open the newspaper and read about terrible things that happen to others. We ourselves are not immune to having bad things happen in our lives. As bad as these things are, there is something even worse than the tragedy itself. It is self-pity.

You can see how this can happen. People get immersed in a horrible experience and their energy is sapped and their defenses are down and it becomes easy to fall into the trap of self-pity. They begin to dwell on their hurts and hardships, whether real or imagined, and begin to enjoy talking about them and sharing them with others.

Self-Pity a Luxury?

Why do I call it a luxury? The dictionary tells us that a luxury is something we indulge in, is something we enjoy, is costly and is not necessary. Self-pity fits that description perfectly.

Wallowing in self-pity, like all habits, is hard to overcome once we become accustomed to it. We become comfortable with it and find that it’s hard to do without. We look for others to commiserate and sympathize with. But self-pity is unproductive. It causes us to be bitter and unforgiving and resentful. Self-pity doesn’t bring people together – it divides them. When you throw a pity party, you are the only invited guest.

Self-Pity and Self-Image

Self-pity allows us to feel that we are victims. It’s how we begin to define ourselves. It creates a distorted feeling of security. It gives us an excuse for not trying. It creates in us a “What’s-the-use attitude.” It’s been said that the nice thing about self-pity is that if you can’t get others to feel sorry for you, you can still feel sorry for yourself.

Self-Pity and Self-Destruction

I’ve known people who have been in horrible marriages. Maybe their spouse had a problem with drugs or gambling or is an alcoholic. They have experienced untold suffering. We know they have because of their constant complaining to others. They are continually looking for a shoulder to cry on. Their life seems to always be full of drama.

Strange as it may seem, when that person finally ends the relationship they are unhappy. They have nothing to complain about anymore. No one feels sorry for them anymore. They don’t get the attention they once had. They no longer have a crutch to lean on and are expected to live a normal life just like everybody else. This is a real blow.

Invariably the injured person goes out and marries someone as bad or worse than their first spouse. They find another drug-addict, wife-beater, alcoholic or gambler to marry so they can indulge in self-pity again.

It’s natural for us at times to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve all done it before and in reality it can help ease the pain of our trials. But when it turns into who we are and we continue to dwell on it and convince ourselves that we are victims and are in the hands of some uncontrollable fate, then it becomes detrimental to our well being.

If we permit ourselves to dwell upon our past hurts and injuries we are more likely to use them to justify our yielding to other destructive habits such as over-eating or drinking. We seem to think, “You would do the same if it happened to you.”

Self-Pity is for Losers

This may sound harsh but there are some who are losers because they want to be losers. They may not even be aware of it yet it is true. If things start to go well for them they get worried and concerned. They feel it can’t last. They then begin to self-sabotage their success. Why? Because they have become so used to feeling a certain way that the new feelings are uncomfortable to them. Since they have concluded that a loser is who they are then success is out of harmony with their self-image. They can’t stand that feeling.

It reminds me of a time when I needed to stop over at my church to pick up some papers. I was in my grubby work-in-the-yard clothes. I just needed to run in, grab what I needed, and leave. As I entered the church I realized there was another event taking place and everyone there was dressed in their Sunday best. I felt so out of place. I felt so uncomfortable. I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could and get back into the dirty and grimy environment of my yard work. I think that is why some people feel so uncomfortable when things start to go good in their lives. It is not compatible with the concept they have of themselves.

Overcoming Self-Pity

The solution is to realize that your unhappiness is caused by your self-centeredness. When you are continually focused on yourself it comes at the price of excluding all others. This self-absorption is like a fence around you that keeps out those who could lend you a hand. You have to take the focus off yourself and begin to see that there are those around you who also have trials and struggles in their lives and you can be someone they can lean on. And as you open up and reach out to help others, they in turn can help you.

Another way out of self-pity is through forgiveness – meaning your forgiveness of others. As you begin to forgive others of the perceived hurts and wrongs they have committed towards you, you can begin to heal and let go of the pain and self-pity. Is this easy? Not by a long shot. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

Helen Keller said,

Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything good in the world.

Let us rise above self-pity and use our efforts and energies for more fulfilling and positive endeavors. Thank you.

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson

The Self-Mastery Muscle

Weight TrainingGood morning! I want to talk about equating Self Mastery to a muscle. Think about the muscles in your body and how you go about exercising them. Have you have ever gone to a gym and lifted weights on a bench press before? Suppose you’ve never done this and you decide you’re going to get in shape by lifting weights at the gym. You start your training by putting 300 pounds of weights on the barbell. When you go to lift the barbell with 300 pounds on it, guess what? You’re going to fail! There’s no doubt about it, you’re going to fail. It’s just too much weight for you to lift. You can’t start off lifting 300 pounds! You have to start off with any easy weight, a weight you can manage, something that you’re able and capable of lifting.

When you work on muscles, you have to start off with a weight you can lift and then gradually work your way up. So maybe you have to start off at 110 pounds. Let’s say you do the 110 pounds for a while and you do it long enough to where it now becomes easier. So the next thing you do is you add 10 pounds to that. Now you’re lifting 120 pounds. You work on that for a while until it becomes easier. When 120 pounds becomes easier then you add 10 more pounds. You continue on up like this, gradually adding more and more weight to strengthen the muscles in your arms.

We can relate it also to running. I can remember training for my first marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles long. My good wife Lisa was my trainer. We didn’t start off by doing a 26-mile run. We didn’t even start off doing a 5-mile run. I don’t think I had ever even run more than five miles in my life. I couldn’t even run a full mile when I began my training. I’ll never forget the first time we ran three miles. I distinctly remember that when we completed the three miles I collapsed on the ground gasping for air. I remember that I was so thrilled that I had actually run three miles! It was a major accomplishment for me.

The way we trained for the marathon was to run two miles every morning, Monday through Thursday, and then rest on Friday. Then on Saturdays we would do a long run. Each Saturday morning we would add a mile or two to our long runs. So our first long run was three miles. Then the next week our long run was four miles. Then five miles the next week. Gradually, week after week, we worked our way up to where our final training run before the marathon was 24 miles. I remember that day, running the 24-mile long run, and thinking back to our first three-mile run and thinking, “Wow! Three miles is nothing! Running three miles is so easy!” Now we were running 24 miles! We worked up to it gradually over time. If we would have tried to run 24 miles that first day it would have been a huge failure and I would have given up and would have never completed a marathon.

So how does that relate to self-mastery? Well, every thing about a marathon is self-mastery! But a marathon, like weight lifting, teaches us that you can’t do it all at once and this applies to self-mastery in other areas of your life. You can’t change everything all at once.

So I’m relating this all to self-mastery and the changes that you want to make in your life. If self-mastery is like a muscle then you must work on it like you would work on a muscle. You must strengthen that self-mastery muscle by starting off with small and easy things and then gradually work your way up.

So how do you do this? I suggest you look at your life and determine what needs to change. Make a list of all the changes you would like to make. Then take one thing and focus on it. Work on it for a week or two until it becomes easy for you. Then begin the next thing. Gradually strengthen your self-mastery muscle one change at a time.

I have been doing this for a while. In fact I started on August 1st of this year and made some major commitments to myself of changes I desire to make.

More recently, as part of this process, I have focused on exercising every morning except Sundays. That’s what I focused on and now it has become a habit and even perhaps an addiction – a positive addiction.

Currently I am focused on getting to bed on time every night. When I get good at that then I will move on to my next goal. I have a series of improvements that I want to make in my life that I call my self-mastery goals. I can’t do them all at once. So I work on one thing at a time until it becomes a habit, until I strengthen that self-mastery muscle. Then I move on to the next one.

So in summary, the message for today is that self-mastery is like a muscle which needs to be exercised in a gradual, progressive way. Examine your life, determine what you want to change, and then work on one thing at a time.

Master Yourself, Master Your Life

Thank you.

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson

How to Make Your Self-Labels Work for You

Self-Labels

Self-Labels

Self-labels are an enormous force in your life without you realizing it. By understanding how self-labels are affecting your life you can begin to take back control over your feelings and actions. This article will help you understand what your self-labels are and how to change them.

What Are Self-Labels?

Everyone has self-labels. A self-label is simply how you automatically think about yourself. If you were asked to describe who you are, it is the description you would give. It is the list of attributes you would use to describe yourself. These are your self-labels. Our self-labels can be positive or negative. Here are some examples of self-labels:

  • I am smart
  • I am fat
  • I am a night-person
  • I am not athletic
  • I am a runner
  • I have a short temper
  • I am an artist
  • I am a smoker
  • I am impatient
  • I love computers
  • I hate country music
  • I love animals
  • I hate animals

You get the idea. Self-labels are the “facts” you believe about yourself whether they are true or not.

How Did You Get Your Self-Labels?

Where do these self-labels come from? There are several sources.

  1. Given to us by others – When we were growing up we were greatly influenced by the significant people around us such as our parents, siblings and friends. What they say to us and how they treat us aid in the formation of our self-image. We see images of ourselves in the “mirrors” others present to us and we believe those images regardless of how warped or imperfect those mirrors may be.
  2. Self-created – Many of our self-labels are self-created as we experience the normal ups and downs of life. They are created from our successes and failures, pains and joys, frustrations and triumphs.
  3. Media – The third way that self-labels are created is through the media that pours into our lives every day. Millions of dollars are spent on figuring out ways to make you feel that you don’t measure up unless you buy a certain product, look a certain way, drive a certain car or eat a certain food. We are blasted with messages like these from the media every day. They help form many of our self-labels.

How Are Your Self-Labels Affecting You?

You may be wondering why you should care about the self-labels in your life. Your self-labels are what make up your entire self-image of who you are. It is the blueprint your brain sees when it thinks about you. All of your actions and emotions will always be consistent with this blueprint. You will always act in harmony with it. It’s impossible for you to act in any other way except that which is in agreement with your blueprint of yourself.

The girl who thinks she is shy and unattractive to other people will manage to prove to herself that she really is shy and unattractive. The boy who thinks he is bad at math will find a way to fail at math. The man who believes he has a weakness for gambling will live up to that belief and continue gambling. The woman who believes she can’t sing will prove it over and over that she has no singing voice.

Each of us carries this mental picture or blueprint of ourselves in our minds and we simply cannot act contrary to it. To do so would not be in harmony with our beliefs about ourselves. We must live up to our self-labels.

What you continually tell yourself about yourself tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7) is an accurate statement.

Can You Change Your Self-Labels?

Can you change what you “think in your heart?” Can you change the mental blueprint you have of yourself? The answer is Yes!

Because we are dealing with “objective truth,” most people seldom recognize that the problem lies in their own evaluation of themselves. When they have tried to change in the past it didn’t work because their main efforts were aimed at their behavior, not the root of the problem which was their belief about themselves. One of the main strategies is to change your old labels to new labels.

Let’s look at the following two labels:

  1. I am a liar.
  2. I do lying.

Do you see the difference in these two self-labels? The difference is huge. When you say, “I am a liar” it gives the impression that this is a permanent condition and that you do it all the time. The “I am” makes it feel like this is what you are, that it’s part of you, that you inherited it and it’s something you can’t change or stop.

The second label has a very different feel to it. “It do lying” is still negative but it gives you the impression that you still have the possibility to change. It’s not who you are but something you do. It’s a behavior that you do occasionally. You can change from an “I am” label to an “I do” label very easily.

As you examine the negative labels in your life you can make this one simple change and give the labels a new meaning.

To take it one step further you can change a negative label to a positive label. “I am nonathletic” becomes “I am athletic.” I am fat” becomes “I am thin.” “I am bad at math” becomes “I am good at math.”

These simple words can have a powerful transforming effect on your life. You are, in effect, changing your mental blueprint of yourself. Once you have done this and truly believe your new self-labels, you can’t help but live up to that new picture of yourself. You must live in harmony with what you believe about yourself.

How Do You Change Your Self-Labels?

You can put this method to the test yourself by switching the words you use. Here are some simple ideas to help you do it.

  • Write down your old, negative, self-label
  • Change it to a new, positive, label and write it on card or sticky note
  • Look at it several times a day and say it out loud
  • Stick it on your mirror at home
  • Carry it with you
  • Change your wristwatch to the other wrist as a reminder
  • Choose a color and whenever you see that color say your new label
  • Put a button or bean in your pocket or shoe to remind you to say it often

You Are In Control

You are in charge of your thoughts. With this method you will become more aware of your thoughts and be able to control which thoughts you entertain on a regular basis. You can then be certain that your self-labels are positive and constructive because you consciously made a decision to make them that way.

Nothing will be of any use to us unless we have taken the most important step of all: The decision to produce change inside ourselves. Not a change in my father or mother, not a change in my wife, husband, children, not in anyone else—in myself. Let us initiate change in ourselves, for then and then only shall we be able to effect a change in other people. – Huxley

Thank you.

Master Yourself, Master Your Life

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson

13 Life Lessons from Running My First Marathon

The Finish LineI have run thirteen marathons so far in my life and each was an amazing experience in itself. However, none of the marathons I have run compares with the experience of running my first one. It was one of those events in life you never forget. I would like to share with you that experience and the life lessons I learned from it.

Many years ago I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish sometime in my life. On my list were things like traveling around the world, getting a pilot’s license, running a marathon, and visiting the pyramids of Egypt. I put the list away and promptly forgot about it.

A few years ago my wife found my list and was surprised to know that I had a desire to run a marathon. She stole my goal, trained for it and ran a marathon. I was totally amazed that she actually did it. In fact, I was so impressed I said to myself, if she can do it, so can I. And I did.

Running a marathon is no small thing. A marathon is 26.2 miles long or about 44,500 steps. To get a grasp of how far that distance really is, I suggest the next time you take a drive in your car to set your trip meter. Watch the miles tick off and when you get to 26.2 miles think about running that distance. Again, it is no small task.

Running a marathon is a unique experience. It is the only sports competition that I am aware of where the greenest beginner can rub shoulders with and compete with the elite athletes of the world. You don’t find that in football, or basketball, or golf or any other sport. But in a marathon, I was running with the Kenyans!

To train properly for a marathon you must begin nearly a year in advance. When I began my training I couldn’t run two miles. But week after week, month after month, with the training and guidance from my sweet wife, we gradually built up our miles. This means running 2 or 3 miles a day for four days a week, resting on Fridays and then running a longer run on Saturday mornings.

The Saturday morning training runs get longer and longer. Our final Saturday training run before the marathon was 24 miles long. On that training run we started at 5:00 a.m. It was pitch dark. On just that run we encountered many deer, a fox, a skunk, a mother raccoon and her babies, 2 owls, a rabbit and a snake. So after many such training runs totaling over 800 miles and wearing out a $75 pair of running shoes, we were ready for the St. George, Utah marathon.

We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon. –Emil Zatopek

I love that quote because it is so true. Running a marathon is truly a remarkable experience. I would like to give you a small taste of what that experience was like for me. This is taken from my personal journal.

My First Marathon Experience – from my journal dated October 1, 1999

What an awesome day! Lisa and I just ran the St. George Marathon. It went great. We got up this morning at 4:00 a.m., ate breakfast and then I shaved and took a shower. We got our running gear on and went out the door at 5:00 a.m. We walked to the busses at the park. It was still very dark. We boarded our bus and rode up to the beginning of the race.

The bus ride up was long and bumpy and by the time we got to the top I really needed to use the restroom. Luckily they had tons of porta-potties and I was able to go. That was a huge relief!

When they dropped us off it was pretty cold and we were wearing our sweats. There were huge lights lighting the whole area. Thousands of people were there to run the race. They had loud motivating music playing. It was an exciting atmosphere with everyone visiting and talking about the race. It was awesome!

To keep people warm they had lit a large number of campfires and for a while Lisa and I kept warm that way. But Mother Nature was not to leave me alone and before long I needed to go again. Now the lines at the porta-potties were very long. Since this time was not “big business,” I just went off into the bushes to go. I found myself surrounded (in the dark) by many other men and women runners doing the same thing. It was pretty weird. This was something I would never in my life imagine me doing and yet there I was sharing a moment of relief with a bunch of other fellow runners.

Well, before long it was near the time for the race to start. We took off our sweats bottoms and put them in a collection bag provided to us so we could get them back later. We met up with some friends who wanted to run with us. There was so much noise that we could hardly hear the starting gun go off, but it did. Soon we were off and running. It was still dark.

The others who were going to run with us were soon lost in the sea of runners except for Marilyn. I have to admit that I was a little bugged at first that she was running with us because I felt she was horning in on Lisa’s and my run. But her constant talking and conversation turned out to be a blessing as the miles ticked by much quicker than I had anticipated they would. She was a real blessing in disguise. She was also very spunky and pushed us enough to get us to do better than we had ever done before.

It was awe-inspiring as it got lighter to see the thousands of runners along the road like a big long snake in front of us and behind us for as far as we could see.

The Run

The water stops were every two miles and at each one I usually took one cup of Gatorade and one cup of water and mixed the two and drank it. At some water stops I took bananas to eat. They were cut up into small pieces. At two of the stops I took some of that goo stuff to eat. I think it all helped.

What an incredible experience – the whole thing from start to finish. The miles ticked off one by one. Veyo hill came and went. Then the long, gradual hill. At the top of it I wasn’t doing so well. I was getting tired and queasy in the stomach. I had a strong urge to walk. Finally after what seemed like an eternity of uphill we came to long downhills. We needed that. It was great to see down into the valley where St. George was.

Along the way there were small groups of people cheering us on. There was a helicopter flying low filming us along with a ground camera crew on four-wheelers. We tried to look good for the cameras.

Marilyn told us about her previous marriage and her family and her new marriage and her job. My, could she talk! It was interesting and kept our attention off our misery and pain and helped us pass the time.

At mile marker 16 we came to the road that goes to Snow Canyon. There were many people there cheering us on and giving us high-fives. Boy did that give me a boost.

On we went mile after mile. One of my biggest worries was my lower left leg. I had had so many problems on my training runs with my calf, my knee and my foot. Luckily my prayers were answered and I had no serious problems.

Finally we rounded the bend where you could see the city. Now there were more people cheering us on. It was great! At mile 23 Marilyn took off ahead of us. Lisa and I were slowing down. We did a lot of walking those two miles. Finally we rounded the corner to the final stretch. By this time both of my knees were starting to really hurt. We really had to push ourselves now even with the finish line in sight.

We were now at the final stretch. We were in what they call the chute where the street is lined with crowds of people on both sides. They were cheering us on. It gave us both such a boost of energy and we stepped up our pace. Then we came to the bleachers and saw our four little children cheering us on. With a burst of energy we sprinted for the finish, holding hands as we crossed it. Then we kissed each other. Wow! What a great feeling to cross that finish line! How can you possibly describe it?

The Medals

As we walked on through they put the finisher medal around each of our necks. We really earned them. And our time? Well, we told ourselves long ago we would be happy with anything between 4 ½ to 5 hours. Based on our training runs I was expecting closer to 5 hours. Well, we came in at 4 hours 29 minutes and 20 seconds. Wow, even better than we had expected. Everything went so well.

13 Life Lessons from Running My First Marathon

I hope that gives you some idea of what it was like. For the full effect you’re going to have to run a marathon yourself. Now, let me share with you 13 lessons I learned from that remarkable experience.

1. Anyone can run a marathon. I used to have a picture in my mind of what a marathon runner looked like – a wafer thin gazelle-type person from Kenya. After running my first marathon that image changed dramatically. I was amazed at the variety of people running the race. I realized that size doesn’t matter. A friend I trained with was nearly twice my weight and would consume what seemed like a gallon of Gatorade at each water stop and yet he was a much faster runner than I was. Age doesn’t matter. I can’t tell you how many old ladies passed me during that first marathon. Young, old, large, small, thin, wide, you name it, they were all running a marathon. It was amazing.

2. Coming in first doesn’t matter. Finishing does. In a marathon, everyone that crosses the finish line is a winner and receives a medal. That’s good because I certainly am not a fast runner. Just making it to the end is a major accomplishment. I think life is like that. To be successful you don’t have to have the most or be the best or the fastest – just make it gracefully to the end.

3. Make it through the trial mile. My wife and I have come to learn that the first mile of each training run was always the trial mile. It was the mile you had to get through before your heart and body warmed up and got into its rhythm. Basically you feel lousy during that first mile. But if you can make it through it you always felt better during the following miles. Some people never make it through the “trial mile” of whatever endeavor they are pursuing. So hang in there, it gets better.

4. Don’t skip the training. I have run marathons where I trained well and I have run marathons where I skimped on the training. You are so much better off when you properly train. The pain and misery and injuries that occur when you attempt something you haven’t trained well for are not worth it. Do the proper training.

5. Cheering really works. We’ve all been to sporting events and yelled and cheered for our team. I never thought it helped much until I was on the receiving end during my first marathon. It was amazing how much it increased my energy and drive when people were cheering me on. We all need cheering from time to time in our lives.

6. We need friends. Good company makes any journey more pleasant.

7. Don’t stop. Sometimes we have a tremendous urge to quit, to give up, to throw in the towel. Having the ability to overcome those urges and keep going makes all the difference in life.

8. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. When I first began training for a marathon I would start off running at a quick pace. I would do well for a mile or so and then run completely out of gas. My wife had to tell me I needed to slow down and take it easy. I had to pace myself. It wasn’t easy at first but I soon learned I couldn’t spend all I had during the first mile or I would never make it through the other 25.2 miles. In many other areas of life the same rule applies. Pace yourself.

9. You need a coach. I consider myself a fairly smart person and can figure out a lot of things on my own. But in looking back at my training for my first marathon, I can’t imagine doing it without the help of my wife who had the experience of training for and running a marathon herself. It was so great to have her lead me and guide me literally every step of the way. Don’t be too proud to let others show you the way.

10. The mind game matters. As much as we like to think that success in sports simply requires having a perfectly tuned and trained body, its much more than that. It is as much a mind game as a physical game. After all the physical preparation, much of your success has to do with what goes on in your head. And let me tell you, after 25 miles of running, some weird things can go on in there. It’s a constant mental battle that must be fought to succeed.

11. We need mile markers. In life, as well as during a marathon, we need mile markers. During the St. George marathon every mile was marked by a large silver mylar balloon. You could see it coming up from quite a distance away. If you thought about the finish line, it was so far away and seemed impossible to reach. But if you thought about just making it to the next mile marker, that seemed doable. So the immediate goal was always to just make it to the next mile marker. When you passed each one you felt a sense of progress and accomplishment. Then you would set your sights on the next one. In life, we need short-term goals to help us reach our long-term goals.

12. The more you do something, the better you get at doing it. Sounds simple enough and it is. Think about the first time you did any hard thing such as playing the piano, typing at the computer, or driving a car. They were all difficult at first and yet, as time went on and you worked at it every day, it became easier, almost second nature. Just because something is hard at first doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means you haven’t done it enough yet.

13. Be inspired by others. I had set a goal years ago to run a marathon. Nothing ever happened with it until I watched my wife Lisa do it. When I watched her come across that finish line I was completely amazed and inspired and decided right then that I would do it. And I did. Having a goal was nothing. Being inspired by a great woman was everything.

To conclude let me share with you one final lesson, the biggest lesson of all:

Life is like a marathon. You get out of it what you put into it.

Thank you.

Master Yourself, Master Your Life

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson