In May 2020, when the state of Washington’s governor Jay Inslee reopened public hiking trails, my options were to hike alone with my dog Ajax, or hike with him and one person. Lucky for me, Ajax is a wonderful hiking partner, and the two of us have done dozens of hikes together during the past eighteen months, even if I couldn’t find a human companion.
However, I treasure those trips I take with a human buddy. Like all of my visits to the Woodland Park Zoo, I always learn something new from our conversations. On August 3, 2021, we joined a close friend and her dog to explore Wallace Lake loop, a nine-mile loop in a Washington State Park off US Highway 2. We headed upward along the wooded Greg Ball trail, a gently ascending path built in the memory of the gentleman who launched the trail maintenance program within the Washington Trails Association. This blog post highlights some of the topics of conversation we had about moving forward.
One of our topics inevitably turned to a discussion of my recently launched blog. I mentioned the term empowerment and how successes in one area of your life often bleed into others.
The evening I launched my blog, I received an email from a former client who was getting discouraged about some tough challenges. Remembering our tumultuous history, I could have deleted the message, but instead, I paused and thought about the confidence I’d gained during my recent success. Perhaps I could try something different.
And I did: I sent her some carefully thought-out suggestions for ideas she could think about with no strings attached. After all, if I could branch out in a new direction and launch a blog on my own, what else might I be able to do if I just tried?
Similarly, if you reflect on areas of your life that are working well, what are some of the skills you used to get there? What are some of the tasks you routinely do that others find useful, maybe even important? Is there some way to use those same skills and strengths in a different area of your life where you might not feel as satisfied (yet), in order to make progress?
CREATIVE DISCOVERY THROUGH PLANTAR FASCIITIS
As we continued beyond the lake to the falls we’d visited months earlier in April, our conversation turned to another exercise I’d experienced during a horrendously debilitating case of plantar fasciitis years ago. Because it had hurt even to walk, I spent a lot of time that summer writing. I even tried a journaling technique that involved getting in touch with different parts of my body.
The voice of my brain was one color of ink, my heart, another; I used a third for my injured foot, a fourth for my inner critic, a fifth for my gut instincts, and a sixth for the sane, adult part of my brain which, when not stressed, remains in harmony with the rest of me. My task? To let each part of my body “talk” to one another on the page.
I laugh now because as the colors battled for time on the page, my sane, adult voice pretty remained silent until all the others had their say. My injured foot insisted, “I’m putting my foot down. No more exercising. I need rest. And if I have to shut the rest of you down to get it, so be it.”
What I learned from that journal exchange was that the self-inflicted overuse injury was my body’s way of demanding recovery. Ever since, I’ve insisted that my athletes adhere to active recovery (or rest) days in their programs, even if they think daily hard training is the answer.
If you experience a physical limitation or injury or are dealing with something holding you back, consider asking the obstacle what role it is playing in your life.
Is there an addiction or bad habit you’d like to replace? While every habit or addiction is there for some reason, whenever you outgrow that reason, it’s time to look at how it served you and how another habit might work better for you.
If you can come to terms with whatever your block is trying to tell you, instead of getting mad at yourself because you are stuck, you might be able to start taking the necessary steps to move forward.
ROLE-PLAYING USING TWO EMPTY CHAIRS
Icky, sticky situations can provide challenges for anyone, but especially for those of us who tend to be more introverted. Another technique I’ve learned from various parenting classes is role-playing but by yourself. Whether you need to have a crucial conversation with a spouse or partner, address a child with some tough love, or talk to a friend or colleague about how you’re being treated, this technique may help.
Sit in a chair with another facing you, and state your side of the story to the empty chair as simply and concisely as you can. Take a deep breath and then switch to the opposite chair and try to imagine how the other person you want to address might react to your comments. What would their body language reveal? How would they look at you? What would their voice sound like? Really “listen” to what the other person might say or how they might react.
Then return to the first chair and respond. Bring up as many obstacles as possible so you can practice your reaction. Change up the dialog and situation until you feel better prepared for the unexpected. Like the multiple color pens exercise, this one allows the exploration of different options in a safe environment and can provide powerful insights.
As we rejoined the masses of people (and their dogs) who were making their way upward to the lower, middle, and upper falls as we descended, I had a chance to contemplate the way conversations ripple outward to and through whoever is sharing information. If one of my hiking buddies or clients finds something that I say to be useful, I want to send it out to others.
If someone reading my blog finds the information to be helpful, they might share it with others. In that way, the thoughts I share in my small corner of the universe have the power to ripple outward, just like a stone in a puddle or pond. May the exercises suggested above move through you to invoke change and provide upward and forward momentum.