Every once a while the haters rear their ugly heads. These are people who love to openly contradict all the things of value in my life. They doubt me. They tell me my passions are pointless. They love to enumerate reasons to fail and dig themselves into a stubborn trench launching negative bombs my way.
There are several patterns of behavior in my typical response to the haters:
- Get angry and rail against the haters to my friends and family for cathartic cleansing.
- Get angry and manufacture counter arguments in my head then disperse them in somewhat cryptic Facebook posts.
- Sit alone with chocolate and believe everything the haters’ have said, sulking in the totality of feeling worthless.
While I particularly enjoy cathartic cleansing from time to time and anything which involves chocolate automatically soothes my soul, I started to think of other ways to respond. A long swim followed by 45 minutes of pool running provided ample opportunity to play around with the haters’ premises in my mind. And what I noticed was an attachment to measurable outcomes.
There are great advantages to devising desired outcomes — in everything from training to school to relationships to business — and then figuring out a standard of measurement to see if the desired outcomes have been achieved. The problem, at least for me, seems to come when my focus is narrowed to only one set of quantifiable results and my value is intertwined with meeting those measurements.
Take my running, for example. Would I like to run faster? Sure! But is that my only reason for running? What’s really my desired outcome? It’s certainly more than the time on the clock at the end of a race. My desired outcome is to enjoy the movement of running, to harness the energy and the clarity I feel in my mind and body through running, to challenge myself and take myself out of my comfort zone, to create confidence and to have fun.
Are those measurable outcomes? They are, if I think about it differently from the old grading scale patterns.
So what does this have to do with my haters? These are the people who try to narrow my focus. It’s not always a sinister intent. Perhaps they view their own world through a very narrow lens. That’s their choice and they are welcomed to do so. However, I can choose something different. I can detach from specific outcomes, open up to other possibilities and focus on what brings me joy, instead of trying to validate myself against someone else’s definition of what is valuable and worthy.
Sometimes, checking my watch during a run helps keep me on task. It can teach me how to listen to my body. It becomes I tool use. But the measurements are just that — a tool — not a referendum on my being. Knowing who I am, what I want, having intention and purpose, regardless of the measurements others my ask for, is another way to respond to the haters. I’m not necessarily ignoring the haters. I just have better things to do.