My (almost) 8 year old son started to learn how to swim this summer at camp and not wanting to lose the momentum of his progress, I chose to enroll him in swim lessons. During his first lesson, Johnny was more distracted than usual, constantly looking around to see what the other kids in his group were doing. Each time he looked around, he lost whatever skill he was trying to learn. As his frustration mounted over the things he couldn’t do, one of the swim instructors came over to him and said, “You’ve got to stay in your own lane, OK bud? Stay here with me. That’s what’s gonna get you fast.” And each time Johnny’s gaze would wander, she’d gently call him back in saying, “Where’s your lane?” Before long, Johnny was doing all the things that only moments before he couldn’t.
I started to think about how, “Stay in your own lane” was a powerful mantra to get us to perform our best but how we so often veer out of our own lane to see what someone else is doing and lose ourselves in the process. I was reminded of the 200m Olympic finals where Michael Phelps was racing Chad Le Clos. In perhaps the most epic photo to come out of the Rio Olympics, Le Clos turns to look at Phelps during the last leg of the race while Phelps just looks onward. In his own lane. At his finish line. At the Gold that is soon to be his. Now, did glancing over at Phelps really cost Le Clos the Gold? The world may never know, but it certainly didn’t help. The bottom line is when you’re focused on your own lane, as Phelps was, you’re not worried about anyone else. You’re essentially competing with yourself, for your personal best and that’s when your best gets better.
I can honestly say I’ve fallen victim to doing the same as Le Clos, especially when it comes to teaching fitness. Scrolling through Instagram and FaceBook, I’ll find myself literally jumping out of my own lane going: She has 6,000+ followers. She has packed classes. She’s on the cover of a well-known magazine. She’s got all these endorsements. He’s being sponsored by this brand…what about me?
Comparison is not a new vice for me and despite writing about enoughness and trusting myself and my life over the last few weeks, I still find myself falling back into its arms and questioning if I really am good enough. Then I scold myself because I know better, only to catch myself doing it again anyway.
Listen, it’s hard to stay in our own lane. Even if we know we’re doing it, it’s hard to stop the momentum of what appears to be a kick-ass pity party. What pulled me out of my most recent bout was something my life coach said to me: “There should be somebody above you. If there’s not you’re fucked because there’s nowhere for you to go. And, if you’re fighting to be at the top, you’re fucked. You’ve got to fight for something bigger.” She’s not one to throw out the F-bombs, but when she does, it packs a punch. It was a huge wakeup call for me because as great as it is to have our life coaches or swim instructors or spiritual gurus or best friends call us out on our B.S., the reality is, the only person who is going to hold us accountable at the end of each day is us.
Keeping myself accountable on a daily basis – not when I feel like it or when my lane is the happening place to be – is what’s going to allow me to get the lesson and it’s only when I stay in my own lane that I’ll get to grow into something much bigger. The first part of this checks and balances system is awareness, knowing when I’m getting caught up in someone else’s lane. Awareness is the first but most crucial step because it’s with awareness that I’ve got two choices: I can notice that I glanced into someone else’s lane and then decide to get back to doing my own thang, or I can allow myself to get caught up in whatever they’re doing wayyyyyy over there.
The second piece of accountability comes with what decision I make. The decision I make determines the price I pay. If I get back in my own lane and forgo the drama, I get to celebrate what I’m up to and make myself proud. If I chose the latter and get caught up in comparison, I also get a chance to make myself proud, but there’s a price I’ve got to pay to do that. Ultimately, everything in life comes with a price. Le Clos’ glance in Phelps lane came with a price. Holding onto jealously comes with a price. Every choice we make has a price. Every choice we make has consequences. The natural consequences of the choices we make don’t often sting until much later, but what the Handel Group teaches is that there’s another way to “pay the price,” one that puts us back into integrity and allows us to take direct ownership of our lives – and that’s through Promises and Consequences.
This week I’m setting up parameters so that I can stay in my own lane and I’m setting up the price I have to pay if I end up in someone else’s:
PROMISE: Stopping the “Not Enough” dialogue.
CONSEQUENCE: If I allow myself to go into a “Not Enough” story, I have to write myself a love note and send it to my life coach.
PROMISE: Stop comparing my success to other people.
CONSEQUENCE: If I compare myself to someone else, I have to tell that person.
PROMISE: Stop grumbling about a particular person in my fitness circle.
CONSEQUENCE: Every time I grumble about them I have to go to their class and write down 3 learnings.
Truth be told, I don’t want to have to do any of those things, especially #2. But that’s the point. They’re good consequences because they will make me think twice about what choice I make and what burden I want to carry. In the end there’s always a price to pay for not staying in our own lane but it’s the immediate, designed consequences that make us pay attention and get us back on track a little bit quicker and all the more wiser.