As a means of celebrating my recent acceptance as a permanent resident of Canada, I thought I would impart some of the wisdom I have gleaned over the past few years as a visitor in a foreign land. In honour (that’s Candian for “honor”) of the great nation and people of Canada, I have decided to use the lyrics of popular Justin Bieber songs to frame my message.
Although Bieber’s most popular song isn’t really his song, but rather a remix of an already popular song, we’ll start with “Despacito.” Whether you understand the lyrics or not, please don’t even try to say that the song hasn’t been caught in your head over and over again. Besides, the song was actually written by Puerto Rican artists Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, and right now Puerto Rico needs some love. I coach a remarkable woman from Puerto Rico, Patsy, who has spent the last few weeks running from place to place to check on family and loved ones because they are still without water, electricity, gas, cell, and Internet service.
Despite the fact that Despacito is primarily about a romantic relationship, there are principles within the song that can and should be applied to our everyday, non-sexualized lives – particularly how we interact with the people and things that matter most in our lives.
Despacito – take it slowly to make it meaningful
Let’s start by comparing the attraction between the two amantes (lovers) in the song to a person’s attraction to a goal or a challenge. It starts out as simply noticing one another, but then even the thought of the other leads to increased heart palpitations (Sólo con pensarlo se acelera el pulso). However, rather than immediately acting upon one’s impulses, the refrain and overriding message of the song is that to make the experience meaningful the goal is to make it last, to take it slow – pasito a pasito (little step by little step), suave, suavecito, (softly, very softly) . . . poquito a poquito (a very little bit at a time).
These principles extend well beyond romantic interactions and should be applied to our other, equally as meaningful and purposeful pursuits in life. If we want something to have value – to mean something to us – we should have the patience to take it slow. This will allow us to appreciate the journey and not be so caught up in the conquest or the end game. Whether it be relationships, running, adventures, or life the end game should be the journey and not merely the destination. If we get so fixated on the destination, we miss out on the enrichment that can be experienced along the way (i.e., lugares favoritos – favorite places and zonas de peligro – danger zones).
So the next time you set a goal, whether it be an adventure, a bucket list item, a new PR, or race distance take it slowly – pasito a pasito. Give yourself time to actually build up and enjoy the process. This will not only increase your chances of actually achieving the goal, but will increase your fulfillment along the way.
Hopefully, those of us fortunate to be reading this on our cell phones, laptops, or desktops can also consider how we can help those in Puerto Rico who have been decimated by back-to-back hurricanes and are still without cell, wifi, water, gas or electrical service. Please follow this link for a list of organizations working to assist those still suffering in Puerto Rico and consider how you can give back to the nation and people who provided the world with the most streamed song of all time. Even a very little bit collectively can make a big difference.
Say “I’m Sorry”
The next Justin Bieber song that teaches life lessons that I have tried to incorporate into my life and think we would all benefit by incorporating into our lives is entitled, “Sorry.” Again, this song is about a romantic relationship, but every one of us – even those of us who have been taught to be “Unapologetic Americans” – has a need to both apologize, forgive, and be forgiven. For many of us, the ones we most need forgiveness from are ourselves. We put so much pressure to perform – even on our leisure and recreational activities – that we rarely allow ourselves to just be human and relax. Inevitably this leads us to perform well below our actual capabilities and further frustrates ourselves with ourselves.
Don’t be so hard on yourself or others. Don’t expect perfection of yourself or others. Apologize and forgive liberally. Forgive yourself and forgive others. Don’t hate yourself for sleeping in or missing a run every once in a while. Chances are you needed the sleep and the rest more than you would have benefitted from the run. Don’t gag yourself because you indulged in dessert or French Fries. Chances are, you also needed that fat or the salt or the carbs.
Don’t beat yourself up for running too long or too fast or not fuelling properly. Just learn from it and make it better the next time. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t talk about it. Just move on. Let go and settle into a sustainable lifestyle. Live. Breath. Read. Be grateful. Find a hobby other than running. You will find that in so doing you will likely end up fitter, healthier, and less stressed than if you try to motivate yourself through guilt.
Guilt is not love. Guilt is an agent of manipulation. Guilt leads people to do things they don’t want to do and ultimately won’t be proud of doing anyway. Guilt leads to resentment. You don’t want to resent something or someone that you love, right?
Learn to do what you love and love what you do. Run because you love to run. Run with those you love (friend, pet, loved one, or even yourself) and in places you love . . . or learn to love the people with whom you run and the places you run.
This leads me to the next, and perhaps, most important wisdom imparted by Mr. Bieber: “Love Yourself.” Again, the message is directed at an ex-lover, but we all know what it feels like when someone is in such need of external validation that the only reasonable conclusion is that they need to learn to love themselves – not in a narcissistic sort of way – but in an “I am more than a number or a runner or a mother or a husband or an employee or an owner” sort of way. I am human, and therefore I have value and am worthy of love.
It is us, as humans, who choose to give meaning to metrics. We care about how much we weigh or how much we can lift. We care how many miles we run or how many vertical feet we ascend each day or week or month or year or in a race. We care about our pace and whether or not it is faster than others or good enough to qualify for a particular race. We care about BMI and watts and cadence and power and heart rate.
We care about how many Facebook friends we have, how many followers we have on Twitter, how many likes we get on Instagram. We care about how much we earn per hour, per month, or per year. We allow others to convince us that these numbers are a reflection of how much we are worth – how much we are valued. We care about the price of our cars, our shoes, and our jeans. We care about the price of our homes. We care about the number of square feet, bedrooms, and bathrooms in homes. We care about second homes. We care about retirement funds and savings accounts.
We put a lot of value into numbers, perhaps because they are so easy to track and understand, but we often forget that they don’t tell the whole story. They don’t show the whole picture. Numbers don’t reflect grey scales, yet life is full of grey scales.Life is not binary or hexadecimal. Life is not an algorithm or a formula. Life is full and vibrant. Life is lived in the space between the numbers – in the nuances.
Choose to love yourself more than the numbers. They are meaningless if you don’t love who you are or what you are doing. They simply reaffirm what you already think – that you either are or aren’t good enough. You don’t need numbers to tell you that. You need to constantly tell yourself that you are loved, and you need to surround yourself with others who affirm that.
In conclusion, take it slowly, say “I’m sorry,” and love yourself. In return you will find greater fulfillment in life and in your passionate pursuits – or at least you’ll fit in better when you visit Canada.
Get started on your next run in the same sock Jacob wears, the VIBE™!
Jacob Puzey is a multiple time national champion and world record holder who coaches runners from all over the world, of all ages and abilities – from newbies to national champions – to reach their running potential on all surfaces and distances through www.peakrunperformance.com.