by Michael Plank

I had a parenting epiphany with my 6-year-old. We were on a hike (which ended up being about 3x harder and longer than I expected; sorry, kid!). About 2/3 of the way through, he started complaining, and then he got sad because he was tripping over roots. And finally, he just hollered out “I’m TIRED!”

I have many times boxed myself into a corner with him by trying to somehow convince him that he’s not tired, or that it’s not much farther, or that it’s not that bad. (It almost never works – at least not for longer than a few minutes, which isn’t that helpful when you still have 2 miles to go). So I tried something totally different. I said, “That’s ok. It’s ok to be tired.”

I could see on his face that the idea that he could both be tired and OK at the same time was a new one for him. And he realized that it was true. He was tired, for sure, but he was also OK.

And that was a light bulb moment for me, because it’s something that I remind myself. And now it’s something that I remind our athletes.

“It’s hard”
“It’s heavy”
“I’m so hot”
“It’s so tough to breathe in this mask”
“I just want to quit”
“I feel like I can’t do it”
“I don’t want to have that conversation”
“If I quit my job, I’m afraid everyone will think I failed”
“I’m scared to start”

It’s OK. It’s OK to feel all those things. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you a failure. It doesn’t make you a loser. Feel what you feel.

What matters is what you do with your feelings. What matters is learning that the more we dig in and try to resist those “unpleasant” feelings, the stronger they become.

It can be hard and heavy and hot and uncomfortable, and you can still be ok. You can be scared and full of self-doubt and still be ok. You can hate every second of it and still be ok. That’s true in workouts and it’s true in life. And a thing that I have found to be true every time is when I can feel that feeling and say “OK” instead of trying to figure out how to stop feeling that way, things get way easier. And they get way easier immediately. As soon as I stop resisting that feeling and say “It’s OK,” it starts to evaporate that very second.

Feelings make us who we are. Listen to them, pay attention to them, respect the messages they bring to you. But remember that the story they tell you is not the only story. And sometimes it’s not even a true story. But it’s cool, because you get to decide which feelings stay with you and which pass on by.