August 27, 2020
When a new season enters, we anticipate it and usually prepare for it, just like how we anticipate the beginning of summer, the start of the “-ber” months, or the opening of classes.
It’s much like how you prepare for the next bend in the road when you’re driving a car, riding a bike, or running: You slow down a bit and, after rounding the corner, speed up again for another stretch of highway. However, when there are so many unexpected twists and turns, you can’t get to your normal, comfortable speed.
In the same way, the twists and turns we’ve encountered in the past months might have slowed us down or even worn us out as we try to navigate through unfamiliar roads.
The year 2020 feels like we’ve gone past a sharp corner that we didn’t see coming and we had to stop and catch our breath. As we try to move forward, we ask ourselves:
“Is it still possible to finish the year strong?”
“Since I’m taking a gap year, how does finishing well look like for me?”
“I had a lot of plans before graduating but now that I have graduated, none of them seems workable.”
“Do I even get to finish at all since I don’t know how to start over?”
Whether you’re on a new academic year, graduating, or you’ve decided to take a gap year, we can all agree that this new road we’re on is not just unfamiliar; it’s also an uphill climb.
So how do we gather enough energy to speed up again after that sharp, unexpected turn?
“Momentum,” originally a physics term, means the strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events.
Is it possible to still gain momentum at this point in time?
If we were to rely on the strength we had at the start of the year, we had already lost most of it.
If we were to rely on all that we did these past six months, we probably don’t have much to go on.
So what do we have to go on? What’s going to give us that kickstart energy to keep going till the end?
We finish strong by moving forward, one step at a time.
It sounds very basic, but it’s not necessarily natural or easy for us to do. It could be as simple as not dismissing this year as a wasted year or letting go of the should-have-beens and replacing them with could-still-be’s.
As we move forward one day at a time, one step at a time, it’s helpful to remember that when we are in the middle of a difficult climb, we have to set our eyes just on what’s ahead of us and not to pressure ourselves by the length of the distance that we still need to cover.
Bishop Ferdie Cabiling, in his book, Run, shares his habit of fixing his eyes on a spot in the road when he’s going through steep hills or difficult terrain. He shares, “I don’t look at the hilltop and don’t look around at the scenery, just my position plus 10. Going into my 10-m focus is, for me, like mentally shifting to low gear. I’m not thinking about the 2, 180 km . . . I’m just fixing my eyes on the next 10 m . . . ” (page 101).
Here’s a runner’s insight on endurance when our goals are overwhelming: Keep running one step at a time while looking at only a few steps ahead of us.
We need to keep in mind though that this is the strategy of a runner who has the training, experience, and passion to run 2,000 kilometers across the country on his 50th birthday. Surely, the real motivation goes beyond just 10 meters ahead.
Simon Hartley, a sports and exercise psychologist, wrote in the Podium Sports Journal:
“. . . loss of psychological momentum coincides with loss of focus. In short, they (athletes) stop focusing on the very effective cues that allowed them to perform well, and they start focusing on other things. Essentially they become distracted by something. Often that something is actually their own thoughts . . . Many athletes will start to analyse their mistakes and therefore start to overthink their performance. Keen not to make another mistake, they will also start to try harder. The combination of thinking too much and trying too hard invariably leads to more mistakes.”
We’re not all athletes, but I’m sure we can all relate to what was described here as loss of psychological momentum. We, too, can get lost in our own thoughts of past, present, and future failures—a.k.a. worries. Some of the causes of our worries are financial struggles, health concerns, family issues, and even social media that has become an essential part of our lives. So it’s no surprise that we easily lose our focus when the going gets tough.
There are also times when we lose our focus because we have the habit of comparing ourselves to others. Instead of getting inspired and encouraged by how people around us are growing, we tend to wallow in our insecurities.
Just like in sports, overthinking our performances and comparing ourselves with others are not the right responses. The only fruitful response is to shift our focus back to the ultimate goal of our purpose and passion.
As Bishop Ferdie put it, “The goal of life is to honor God in the way you run the race set before you. It’s not about how fast you run or how far you get before you finish. The manner in which you run makes all the difference. . . . We can only honor God in our race by fixing our attention on the person and work of Christ alone . . .” (Run, 104).
We can finish strong by keeping our focus on the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)
Finishing strong is impossible without Jesus. He is not just someone who can help us finish well, but someone who showed us that it is possible to finish well.
No matter how difficult our race is, we can have the confidence to finish strong as we keep moving forward one step at a time and keep our focus.