I'm not sure where exactly I came up with the idea, but for as long as I can remember, I've thought it was important to view life as a process of constant improvement.
If I think really hard, I can come up with a few places in my mind that this developed from:
1- My resistance to/fear of aging... If I had a quarter for every time someone older than myself tells me something new about how it's tough to get old, I would be retired already. Whether it's my childhood friend who told me during a pool party, "Just wait, when you get older, your metabolism slows down and you'll gain weight..." (Mind you, we were probably about 11 and 13 at the time, so this conversation was a bit preposterous to begin with, but for some reason I still remember her saying it!!), or the people I help fit at running shoe stores that say how their body doesn't work how it used to, and they can't make a shoe with enough cushioning to save their achin' joints...or my mom making jokes about how she is "Mrs. Alzheimer's Disease" when it comes to remembering things these days, the list could go on...
2- My unwillingness to accept limitations as 'truth'...If you tell me I can't do something, I will be all the more motivated to prove you wrong. This is also true for others, I despise the general notion of telling people what they can and cannot accomplish, as if some external force or general trend of results in the past is infinitely more powerful than the capabilities of the human mind, body, spirit, and will. (Obviously I am still rooted in logic, it wouldn't irk me if someone were to tell me I can't teleport to anywhere in the world with a blink of the eye (though I secretly wish I could!!)) I believe nothing truly great was ever accomplished if not for someone insisting that they CAN do what others thought impossible.
3- My overwhelming tendency toward optimism...As far as I'm concerned, there is really no point in worrying about things you cannot control. You can certainly be smart, and plan and prepare to the best of your ability for the future, but then ultimately we just have to maintain hope, and believe that everything is a part of God's greater plan that we are not equipped to understand just yet.
4- My husbands birthday 'cards'...Every year since we met, I have given my husband Ben a birthday "card" (I put card in quotes because it's actually a 3-4 page typed love letter of sorts). Each year, I write about why THIS year will be his best ever. Not gonna lie, sometimes I curse my 17 year-old self who started this tradition, but it is a great practice in both recognizing life progress, and building up my hubby! Most years I have written about how he will slide gracefully into the greatest year of life, but for his most recent birthday (27), I also told him what he will need to do in order to make 27 be the best, because sometimes it takes work to get what you want.
So with all of these things floating around in my head, I committed to view life as a constant climb, even in the face of dips, dead ends, or drops. So long as I view each victory AND each trial as a stepping stone along the way, then I will always be moving towards 'something better'.
Depending on who you are, your beliefs, and your ideas, 'Something Better" can mean a lot of different things.
To me, 'Something Better' is something that improves the quality of my life, or positively impacts others-
whether it be a major life milestone (graduating, getting married, buying a house, getting a dog, etc), advancements in my running career, growth in my faith, helping the kids I coach accomplish their goals, trying new things/seeing new places/meeting new people, gaining financial stability, growing closer to family members, home improvement projects, increasing my cooking/recipe repertoire, practicing greater generosity, or even just learning more about who I am...
The key for me was/is to recognize and celebrate growth, in any form and any size it comes in, every time.
Before I sound too much like a self-help commercial, I share all this stuff just to set a tone for how I feel as I begin my training for the 2014 season. THIS year will be my peak, on the way to another peak in 2015, and even higher heights to come in 2016. Not unlike Ben's 27th birthday card though, I know that it will take hard work and dedication in order to make this plan into a reality. Last year I wrote up my 'New Year's Resolutions" for entering into a new season, and had my best year of running yet. This year, I want to continue my commitment to those resolutions, but also build upon them.
Even though I was very happy with running new personal bests, and winning more races than I had in the past, one big thing that was missing from my 2013 schedule was consistent, high-level competitions. Sure, I had brushes with great races, but I could have really used some people pulling me along more often. So this year, I decided I couldn't have a 'soft' schedule. It's time to to get tossed into 'deep pools' of talent, and learn how to do more than just float, but swim with the best. I think this is the only way to get the best out of myself.
And in order to get into more of these high caliber races, I'd need someone working on my behalf, so I enlisted in the help of a new agent, Ray Flynn of Flynn Sports Management. I had been representing myself for the past two years, which had gone pretty darn well I thought, but sometimes I have to be willing to accept help (and pay for it, in this case!) in order to move forward.
For now, given that my first scheduled race is not until January 17th of 2014 (The Bermuda Mile again!), it's back to the grind! I am on my third week of the 'typical Dennis Barker fall training schedule', and things are going well! Fall is all about building an aerobic base and tons of strength. Not gonna lie, it's always a bit of a wake-up call to get back into everything, but I know that the work I'm putting in now (and the soreness I am feeling!!) will be what carries me through a long season and fast races! This year will be a little different, in that there is no outdoor world championships to prepare for, but there is an Indoor Worlds in Poland, so that;s what I've got my sights set on right now!
That all I've got for updates at the moment, but stay tuned for what will surely be great things to come!