So, believe it or not I smoked cigarettes for over 20 years and it was only when I experienced this utter feeling of embarrassment as a smoker that I consciously made the decision that day that I was going to quit. You see I had gone on this trip to a women’s fitness camp in Colorado where we biked, hiked, ran, swam --- it was called Women’s Quest – and I must give a huge shout out to Colleen Cannon, the incredible owner who is an amazing person and an incredible athlete. During this trip, I had this nagging emotion surface daily as I was with all these women athletes and champions of various sports including a woman named Jacqueline who won the Ironman. I mean okay to even fathom doing an Ironman is one thing but to win???? So, you understand the company I was in. I experience sheer self-disgust and embarrassment. And this disgust led me to make one of the most critical and important decisions in my life. And I quit, Saturday November 2, 2002 I quit smoking and have been smoke free ever since. Looking back, I think what a gift, what a gift these women gave me that led to a healthier freer life!!
Now during the first initial phase of my quitting smoking I had to substitute and replace my smoking with something so I decided I need to select the most counter activity to smoking … so I decided to run. So, in the beginning I was only able to run one street block and after that I was panting, exhausted and out of breath. But over time and with consistency I could run longer and further until eventually I started signing up for small races, 5K’s at first and then one day my sister and I decided we were going to run a marathon with a charity organization and without blinking and eye we signed ourselves up and joined a team. We were not only committed to run a 26.2 marathon in San Diego but we were also going to individually raise $2500 each for our charity. What did we just do?
So, for the next five months we were preparing and training ourselves for this event for San Diego and every Saturday morning we would meet for our long runs which would build up every week in distance and my sister and I were the snails of the group, always last but we ran together to support one another. And on day one we made a pact and that pact contained one and only one rule that we had to abide by during our runs and throughout the entire training and that was we were not allowed to complain at all during our run. That was it. No Bitchin and no complaining … everyone else was a “go”. Tony Robbins once said “80% of success in life is psychology and 20% is mechanics.” I knew that if we could manage our psychology, our mindset, our focus, we could get through this. Because once you allow yourself to start bitchin and complaining the experience alters dramatically. Everything is painful, every step becomes more difficult, and time lengthens beyond imagination and so on and so on. Alternatively, our rule allowed us mentally to stay the course and keep our goal in mind. We were allowed that once we were done we could Bitch and complain all we wanted. But guess what, when we were finished we were so freakin’ glad to be done that the last thing we wanted to do was complain, we were celebrating!
Years later when I trained and ran the Boston Marathon, my coach told us that on race day he was going to be posted at the half way mark and that we needed to find him in the crowd because he would have an important message for us. And that this message was going to get us across the finish line. I had family members and friends posted in various spots on the course knew where each of them would be so I would scour and look for folks at various locations and as I was coming up to the half way mark I starting scouring for Rick. So as I get closer I don’t see Rick so now I am feverishly looking for Rick when finally I spot him and about two hundred year ahead of me I see him squatting in the middle of the road and he is smiling at me. I feel so relieved to see him and get super focused as I know he is going to tell me some vital message. I see him starting to point to his finger to his head and point like this and I am going ‘what?” What the heck does that mean …? And then the light bulb goes off …. Ohhhhh it’s all in my head. Yes it’s all in my head. Okay that’s the message …. That’s what’s gonna get me to the finish line and guess what …. It did!
This same concept carries through in all other areas of our lives. We have to live by few rules and get ourselves into the mental space that ensures our greatest chances for success. Robert Frost said “The best way out is always through.”