If you’ve never heard about Dave Wottle’s 1972 Olympic race, you should definitely check it out sometime. While it looks like one of the greatest comebacks in history, what’s most amazing is that he didn’t actually speed up and outrun the pack. In fact, he ran essentially the same 200-meter split times throughout the whole race. He stuck to his pace, and one by one, his competitors fell.
In life, there are many reasons staying on our own pace isn’t exactly easy.
The most obvious is comparison. Listen, experts write about this all this time so there’s probably nothing new I can share here. But I can remind you that comparison kills joy. It takes anything you see as good and turns it into a pile of poo. So, don’t do it. And if you find yourself doing it, just say “No. Nuh-uh. Not Today.”
Another reason is our attachment to our story. Take Dave. If he’d been attached to the story of himself as a world-class, gold medalist runner, then the second the competitors got out in front of him, he would have felt the need to prove that he was who he said or believed he was. Instead, he just continued doing his thing. It takes boundless bravery to just be you and not get caught up in trying to be the story you have created about yourself.
Also, while it’s great to use friends and family as a sounding board for making decisions in life, we can have a tendency to take on how they feel about our situation (that they aren’t actually living) instead of listening to our own inner voice. It culminates into those life moments when you look around and think, “How in the world did I get here?” You were running someone else’s race, that’s how.
Finally, sometimes we lose sight of the finish line. Instead of running towards the goal, we end up running away from the race altogether. Running towards the finish line gives every runner a chance at victory. But running away from the race will guarantee a loss. When I left my career, I thought I was running towards a new life. Looking back on it now, I realized I was just running away from a situation that I had let get out of control. Running towards something comes from a place of love – love for yourself and a way of life that is consistent with who you are. Running away is all about fear – fear of change and the unknown.
Fear is the biggest reason we get off track. And the more important something seems, the more afraid we are going to feel. The only way to overcome fear is to drag it into the light and expose it as a cuddly teddy bear instead of the big, green monster we imagine it is.
Are you afraid of what other people will think? Ask yourself this. If I could know that everyone in my life would be supportive, what would I be doing differently?
Are you afraid you will fail? Ask yourself this. What would I do differently if I could be guaranteed I wouldn’t fail?
Are you afraid that what you want is too difficult to attain? Ask yourself this. What is one small step I could take toward reaching my goal?
Running our own race means we have to question our own fears and limiting beliefs. When interviewed about the race, Wottle told reporters that as the pack pulled away, he thought he was done. But he didn’t let the fear of losing stop him from continuing on.
So, the next time you feel a bit lost, just think, WWDWD (What Would Dave Wottle Do)? And then get yourself back on your own pace and run your own race.