Don’t Move the Starting Line

starting line


I have been on this journey of “transformation” for well over a year now. In all reality, this journey started long before I started working with my life coach. There have been moments and phases in my life in recent years that, looking back, I think was necessary “prep” work so to speak in getting me to what I will call my official “starting line” for transformation. And over the last 18 months I have set many goals – some of which I have attained, some of which I’m still striving for and honestly, some of which I might never attain. I have met some goals that are only stepping stones to bigger ones. For instance, I set a goal of losing 100 pounds in a year. I have lost 100 pounds(took me a little longer than a year), but I want to lose 50 more. In the area of personal growth and self discovery though, there are no real tangible goals.
What I am discovering is that the ‘finish line” is fluid, elusive and difficult to define in terms of when can I say that I am completely and “officially” transformed? Transformation ultimately is a life long process because it’s the growth and evolution of who I am that is important. The “end product” isn’t nearly as important as the growing process itself. “When you stop growing, you start dying”; William S. Burroughs, author. So if growing itself is the goal, how do we define success? It’s not by keeping a finish line in view. The finish line will seemingly constantly change. We do it by keeping the STARTING line in view. To accurately measure change it is important to measure it in relation to a rigid fixed point. If you measure it against a comparison point that is also changing, it makes it a relative change not an absolute one. The starting line is the rigid point.

There have been many times over the last 18 months where I have been frustrated at what I perceived to be lack of progress or change. Periods where I felt stagnant and at times it even seemed as I had lost ground on my path. There have been times where I felt like I was the same old person I was before. Times where I felt like none of my life circumstances/stressors had changed despite making effort to change them. Times when despite earnest attempt, the number on the scale didn’t want to dip. In those times it seemed I would be entirely focused on what little “growth” was occurring because I was taking all the growth that proceeded those moments for granted. I was moving my starting line. For instance, going a month without losing weight would really irritate me (still does…) and I would frame it in terms of “I have lost no weight in 4 weeks”. My starting line would always move to the current weight. I was simply looking at the relative change. But when I would step back and frame it in terms of absolute change, “ I have lost 80 pounds in the last 10 months”, I would suddenly feel much better. When I keep my original starting line in view it really puts things in perspective.

The same applies to the more elusive “personal growth” arena. I still have moments where I tend to slip back into old habits and thought patterns. If I sit in those moments and think “ I haven’t changed” it is because I fail to recognize how I relate to and deal with those old habits and thought patterns. If I compare those moments to the finish line of how I “want to be” versus the starting line of “how I used to be” I can get lost in the moment and fail to see the difference. For me, even just recognizing that I am having old thought patterns creep in is a big improvement to when I behaved in a certain way without even realizing it. And where those behaviors used to be the norm, they are now the exception. So again, stepping back to look through the wide angle lens at where I started puts things in much different perspective. AND rather than feeding the perception of lack of growth, it highlights the tremendous growth that sometimes I fail to see.

After the first year of working with my coach, Jill she had me complete a “year in review” exercise to look back on what I had accomplished in that time and it was an effective exercise in keeping the starting line in view. Every once in awhile, taking inventory of where you started can help keep where you are now in perspective, particularly during times when there is perceived lack of growth.

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