Backwards Growth

BIG NEWS: My little Road Warrior Murphy turned 16 this past weekend. We celebrated with a burger patty smothered in peanut butter. Don’t judge, I made him a promise on his last birthday! 🙂 I’m so blessed for this little guy!

Murphy's Sweet 16 :)
Murphy is 16 now!

Music moves me more than just about anything. Hence why I go to several country music concerts every year! I’ve wanted to play the guitar since I was a kid. Unfortunately, a guitar I received for my birthday was broken over a grown man’s knee when I was just six years old. He was mad at someone else, but I didn’t know that. I suppose I subconsciously decided it wasn’t right for me after that.

I determined a few years ago I wanted to give playing guitar another whirl, so I purchased a brand new acoustic guitar with high hopes of becoming the next country music star. 🙂 Perhaps I’d be a late bloomer in the genre, hah! I must admit, I haven’t been super dedicated more than a few months here or there since the purchase. 2020 is THE YEAR I am committing to consistent practice: three times per week for the entire year (besides traveling, which I’ll schedule around). 150 lessons throughout the year should have me past elementary talent- at least I hope! That’s my commitment!

Britt and I at an Eric church concert last November!
Eric Church concert Nov 2019

Anyone who has learned guitar knows it’s tricky. Some days I feel like I’m really picking up on a certain note, a strumming technique, or even a simple song. Other days I feel like my hands are on a completely different page than my mind. I feel like I take small steps forward followed by giant leaps back. I completely understand why people would quit practicing, as the bad days can be extremely deflating.

I love golf. I am proud to announce that I’m down to an 11.1 handicap. I’m not a “scratch” golfer by any means; in fact nowhere close. A scratch golfer means someone can consistently shoot even par, which is a feat that escapes most golfers over a life time. I am good enough to hold my own on some days, while spontaneously combusting others. Three weeks ago I played very well and won my local golf league tournament. I proceeded to follow up my victory with two complete train wreck performances the past two weekends. I don’t get it- why am I so good one weekend and then struggle to hit a fairway or green just seven days later? How do I go from a cool and confident demeanor to one filled with frustration and dismay just days later?

I’m strongly considering my first half marathon this spring in Yosemite. I used to practically scream from the mountaintops how much I hated running. I actually ran cross country in middle school despite not enjoying it. I was good at the sport and it gave me something to do during baseball and basketball offseason (fall). I really enjoyed the competition of racing, but not the racing itself. I committed to 20,000 minutes of working out this year (not counting stretching), so running is going to be a staple workout. I ran a 15k a few years ago and surprisingly trained and performed very well, even finding joy in the process and subsequent improvement. I get to escape for reality and listen to music, despite the physical toll running can have on my body. Sometimes I take off and feel like I’m floating within a mile or two (aka- the “runner’s high”). Other days practically every joint hurts and I get cramps from heavy breathing within minutes. I realize sometimes diet and other physical activities play a part in how my body reacts to running; yet I believe somedays are simply easier to run than others. The tough days make me want to hang up my sneakers and forgo the activity all together. The “runners high days” build my confidence and have me coming back to see just how much more I can push myself next time.

I could provide countless other examples of success turning into agony, and visa versa. Why must I flirt with this teeter totter of results and emotions? Why can’t I just be more consistently good, or even bad for that matter?

I believe the good guitar sessions, golf rounds and easy-going runs are there to keep me coming back. I believe they’re meant to show progress and encouragement. I believe they’re meant to provide a barometer for where I can be if I just practice a little harder and a little more often. I must admit that frequently I let the good experiences dictate my future expectations. I cannot win every golf tournament. I cannot get noticeably better every time I practice playing guitar. I cannot expect my body to react the same way every time I exert myself running. External conditions are constantly changing. Our bodies, minds and perspectives are constantly changing as well. I think life would be pretty boring if I was a master of all things. What I have to be careful of is letting the good experiences set such high expectations for future ones.

Here’s another example: have you ever gone to see a movie that you heard amazing things about? Perhaps even a sequel that you’re hoping outshines the first film? Maybe you reserved opening night tickets? You eagerly walk in, grab your bucket of pop corn and sit in the theatre filled with high hopes? Before you know it the movie is over and you’re like “EHHHH” as you begrudgingly exit the theatre? Why does this happen? What if you went into the same movie with little to no expectations? The movie then turns out to be surprising good because you weren’t really expecting much in the first place. High expectations often result in a let down, where low (to no) expectations often result in being pleasantly surprised. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have goals and high hopes, yet we need to keep things in perspective, at least I do.

Every time I win a golf tournament I get this feeling that I’m going to win again the next weekend. I actually believe and expect myself to perform another heroic round. Inevitably I end up in disappointment because of my unrealistic expectations. I get so disappointed that JOY actually escapes future rounds of golf when things go awry. What a shame that my expectations can literally ruin something I love so much. Movies, golf, you name it- high expectations can crush JOY. I can visualize and hope for a good performance, but letting JOY escape the process I’m finding is a choice.

What if pain is part of the process? What if the grit and the grind are there to make those sweet victories so much more glorious? What if the rough days practicing the guitar are there to test my resolve and make sure I’m taking my learning seriously (for a change)? What if those tough runs are actually the best ones, because they require more resolve to grind through? If running was easy everyone would do it. If mastering a musical instrument was a “walk in the park,” everyone would play. If golf was an easy game we’d all be shooting par.

I think sometimes I miss the lessons within my challenges. I think I’m missing how much I can actually grow backwards. My recent rounds of golf were terrible, yet if I look closely enough there were lessons to be learned. There were chances I didn’t need to take. Situations I put myself in that were completely avoidable. My mental strength was challenged over and over. My nerves were also put to the test. These rounds can make me better if I choose to focus on what I’m learning instead of feeling discouraged and dissatisfied.

I suppose this is how life works in general. Some of my most challenging times represented “the trenches” that I evolved through the most. Growth takes sculpting. Surrendering every day isn’t easy. Faith isn’t easy. Overcoming anxiety isn’t easy. Rising above fear isn’t easy. Overcoming adversity is hard. We will innevitably have set backs because lessons still need to be learned. I believe the hard times require the correct prospective. The question should be asked: what is the lesson to be learned in each situation?! Whether practicing guitar, playing golf, running a race or major life circumstances, we have a choice in how we view hardship. I’m going to try to see through a lens of looking for lessons within adversity. Perhaps this will accelerate growth and limit disappointment. I suppose challenges don’t have to be all that bad after all!

Perhaps it will be an “easy” round of golf next time. Perhaps I’ll even win the next tournament. Perhaps I’ll play terribly, yet have the chance to work on the mental toughness part of my game, or even fine tune my swing somehow?! Perhaps 2020 will be a year full of bliss. Perhaps heartache looms near. Regardless, I pray that I have the right perspective to handle whatever comes my way. I believe the only way I can really do this is SURRENDERING all outcomes to God. Surrendering in each moment. Letting a good day feel good. Letting a bad day teach me something. Life is full of lessons. Why should we spend so much time kicking ourselves when we could be allowing setbacks to help us grow?!

Two steps forward and one step back. Three steps forward and four steps back. Regardless, we can choose to GROW BACKWARDS, instead of letting failures or setbacks define us. We can choose to GROW BACKWARDS over quitting something we have a passion for just because it’s hard sometimes. Every setback is an opportunity to GROW BACKWARDS and can be viewed as such. One rough run isn’t a bad thing, it’s an opportunity to rise up. One bad golf round isn’t a the end of the world, it’s an opportunity to rise above and improve future rounds. One rough guitar session isn’t a reason to quit, it’s a reason to practice that much more. One failed relationship, one career setback, one family feud, or anything else thrown our way doesn’t have to define us; these circumstances can simply be opportunities to GROW through situations.

Here’s to learning life. Here’s to allowing hardship and adversity to be life’s teachers. Here’s to growing, even if occasionally on the surface it looks like we’re doing so backwards!

To follow the journey in more detail you can follow me on Instagram: @surrender_project

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