Even though the days are rapidly getting darker and the leaves are starting to die September always has felt like a refresh, a re-energize and reset time of year for me. Perhaps it is because fall is the off-season for summer sports, the start of a new school year, a time to find routine again after all the summer adventuring. A time to reflect and prioritize life goals again. I even excitedly signed up for a race for the first time in almost a year! Maybe I’m finding comfort in an old and almost lifelong familiar type of goal. The type of goal that has anchored and centered me through the rest of life’s chaos and uncertainties. A goal that gives me a bit more purpose to my now mainly recreational, socially driven, constantly changing on a whim, go with the flow exercise routine.
As I sat in supervision for a counselling client recently, my very wise supervisor reminded me. “I know you, you want to set goals, and see the external results to show that change has occurred. But remember internal change is always happening and that is part of the process.” She talked about the research on addiction, and how through several cycles of relapse, which we often externally judge as “failure”, change occurs, new perspectives are formed, strength and courage are grown. She talked about seeing clients over years with the same struggles but that coming back over and over was part of the internal process of change that helps them move forward.
Process is the avenue of change. It is hard but can be deeply rewarding work. As a mental performance consultant in sport, we are often the ones who guide athletes to reflect on their process, and the intangibles, while most everyone else in their high performance world is focused on the externals as proof of change, progression, and results.
Self-discovery through taking time for the process is how we personally evolve, grow, and change in sport and life. I am touched by the athletes and clients that sit with me and courageously describe their most transformational moments that have come out of deep dark places of despair. And the difficult self-reflection that follows. Sometimes the process is allowing the uncomfortable emotions to wash over, making space to simply express frustrations, or letting out tears of disillusionment. The process can be feeling accepted without judgement and truly heard by another human being. It can be finding a new perspective, or a new way of looking at things. At other times, it may be letting go of feelings and thoughts, and tuning into your bodily awareness, your “felt sense”, what your body is telling you, what you’re feeling in your stomach or your chest.
Trusting the process isn’t easy. Inviting yourself to write, walk, run, or just sit still through it is even harder. And when you find someone willing to walk through the process alongside you, you are truly lucky.
“For what it is worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whatever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope find the courage to start all over again.”
– Eric Roth (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)