Back in the day when I was an athlete, I would start my training regimen with a warm-up. It usually entailed riding the bike, or stretching, or doing a few minutes of light sprints on the court to get my body moving. For those who don't know, I used to play squash. It was literally my life between the ages of 10 and 24. I would train in the mornings, after school, on weekends. And once I graduated from college, I pursued it full time for a few months on the pro tour while trying to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life.
Anyway, about a month ago I was reminded of my days as an athlete in a meaningful way. I was given the amazing honor of being inducted into the Harvard Varsity Hall of Fame. My husband and I flew back to Boston for the event, where I was surrounded by family and old friends. My college coach (who is still a close friend) introduced me that night before receiving my award. In his speech, he reminded me of so much from those days, but particularly the plan I put in place when I decided I really wanted to win the national singles title. I had lost in the finals the year before, and three weeks before the championship tournament, I had a chance to face the defending champion in a dual match between Harvard and Yale for the national team title. I scraped by with a 3-1 victory, but like usual, came off the court feeling like I wasn't fully in control, that I hadn't played my best. I was sick of that feeling, of not being able to own my victories, and I didn't want it to happen again three weeks later. So, I took out my journal and wrote a plan as to how I was going to improve, what I needed to do to win. But most importantly, I wrote down what I needed to do in order to feel like I was fulfilling my potential -- and not leaving the rest to chance.
I mapped out exactly how I was going to train every day, both on and off the court, for how long, what I needed to focus on, etc. And I followed it. Every day I consulted my journal and executed the plan I had laid out for myself. I was in control. I even wrote out two pages of motivational sayings, stuff that worked for me at the time, little sound bites I could repeat to myself between points when I was catching my breath. I had read them over so many times in the days leading up to the tournament, throughout the matches I played to get to the finals, that by the time I was playing for the title, they were ingrained in me. There wasn't room for the negative talk that so often finds its way in. I had trained it out of me. And the result? Yes, I won. And it was a satisfying victory. Not because I had become the national champion. But because I had left it all on the court. I had no regrets. I had done my best and it felt good.
I still have that journal and the two pages of handwritten motivational sound bites somewhere in the bin in my closet where I keep all my old journals, most of them unfinished, jumping months and years ahead sometimes between pages.
I thought about it this morning because I think it's what I need. A shedule to map out the work remaining through the end of this book. And maybe even a new list of inspirational sayings to pop in my head when the negative thoughts come creeping back in...
By the way, does anyone ever read their old journals? I also have a stack of old letters from high school in a giant box on top of my bookshelf that I keep meaning to comb through. But I guess, for now, the memories are enough.