My four year running anniversary passed me by and I didn’t even notice. Five marathons, a couple of half marathons and a handful of 10K and 5K races have accumulated in that time, which is pretty impressive since I’d never run before, at all, ever.

In fact I’d seen a friend run the London marathon once and he looked so annihilated that I’d made the silent vow to never do that to myself. Evidently I proved the phrase, never say never.

Go the extra mile, it’s never crowded.

It began simply because I wanted to commit to some activity and running appealed for no good reason other than it was relatively simple to do, and at 6am I needed it to be simple. I needed it to be that I could wake up, throw on some clothes and just get out. I knew that if I chose anything more involved, such as cycling for example, the delay between getting up and cycling: the right clothes, the bike being ready etc. All of that was too much opportunity for procrastination to take root, so I elected for running. Roll out of bed, tracksuit on, shoes on and out the door. It was too quick for my sleepy brain to react and go, ‘Woah! Wait a minute, what do you think we’re doing?!’.

To be honest, it wasn’t the running that I wanted to achieve. What I wanted to achieve, what my outcome really was, was to prove to myself that I could decide, commit and follow through on something beyond my comfort zone (or in this case, cosy bed). I wanted to show myself I could do it.

The success really wasn’t in the running, but in the commitment to make it happen.

I wasn’t bothered by times or distance. Didn’t have the right kit. I ran in some basic walking trainers and a jogging trousers. But doing it ‘right’ wasn’t my goal. I wanted to build up a mental reference library of successes.

And this was my mindset throughout those early morning runs.

The more I achieved this the more hungry I got to find more ways to educate my neurology. Toward the end of the run I’d tell myself, ‘At that lamppost, I’ll stop’. But I’d pass the lamppost and say, ‘The next one’. And so I ran on. I would stop at that second lamppost because I’d done what I’d needed to do: to set my goal up and then smash through it. I learned that no matter what you say to yourself, you can often do more than you think you can. With half marathons and marathons now achieved, I certainly know that to be true.

My point is that we can incrementally build this up with small stretches

I share this with the pupils because one of the session outcomes is to educate the pupils to their successes. Bring to the foreground the things they have achieved, because often that gets drowned out by wave after wave of negative criticism.

By working with your child to do one little bit more than they thought they could, really creates a positive back catalogue which they can refer to. Developing positive mindset feeds into confidence, self-esteem and assertiveness.

To clarify this needn’t be restricted to sport. I’ve worked with my own children by asking them to read one extra page of their book. Or, get my son to extend his trumpet practise by 5 minutes. My point is that we can incrementally build this up with small stretches because I’m a big believer in anything is better than zero.

If I can build up a strong enough reference library of achievement – even if it’s as simple as the extra lamppost – then imagine what that child would be capable of. Imagine what that child will believe they can achieve.

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About the Author

Ben Jackson is a registered counsellor, coach, and lecturer with nearly 10 years of professional experience. He helps clients with stress and anxiety, anger management, self esteem, confidence, and depression.

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