Many of us stay in shape in different ways. Some just lift weights while others circuit train or ride a bike. Of course the Crossfit craze is out there too! I really enjoy running and do a great deal of it along with some resistance training. It is a time to test my aging body and to clear my mind during a time when I'm all by myself. Actually, during my runs my mind races and I have lost many ideas because I had nothing to write them down on during my runs.
The challenge is not against someone else or even a clock. It's really against me. Can I push it for half more mile or a full mile more? Can I sustain a faster pace than I ran last week? Will this hill break me or will I be able to push through without breaking stride? Everyday is a different run and no run is ran the same. Sometimes its the wind, heat, cold, rain or a sinus infection. Other days it may be the dinner you had the night before not setting well, whatever the case is you choose to push ahead or to ease off a little. However, quitting is never an option.
In recent weeks I have talked to other fire service people who have become frustrated with circumstances at work or in other fire service related endeavours and they question their motivations and the worth of their cause. I myself have sought the advice and encouragement from some of my mentors recently too due to some of those same frustrations. I begin questioning if my efforts will be worth the time and energy I put into everything I do in regards to teaching, training, self improvement and all of the extra "stuff" I do to try and make the fire service a better place for those coming after me and for those that are already here.
We all deal with the same personalities and negativity no matter where we are when it comes to affecting change in the fire service and sometimes it seems we are making no head way. Then something happens or someone drops you note or an email that changes those doubts. It reminds you why you are doing what you are doing and that you are making a difference.
I recently presented and didn't feel especially good about my performance. I didn't get any negative feedback, but I just did not feel like I would normally have after giving a class. Couple that with the normal challenges of being a training officer in a department that is transforming itself and I was questioning my efforts and wondering if I was still being effective. We've all been there and it can seem lonely in those places. Then I received two messages of encouragement and how some of the information that I had shared and provided was being used by crews and positive outcomes were resulting changed everything and reinforced my resolve to keep on keepin' on.
Then, today I was having a conversation with a more junior firefighter and we were discussing our training programs. We were discussing the challenges with starting a new training division and how patience is key. As he left I said to him, "It's like running hills." What I meant by that was that running hills is not easy and seldom thought of as fun. But, if you continue to press on and include them in your training regimen you learn how to handle them during a race and you are faster and more efficient in the flats.
Running hills may not get easier over time simply because we try to run them a little bit faster and a little more efficiently, so it's a constant battle. Or, we may move on to a larger, steeper hill that is even more of a challenge. But, we can be sure that we are physically and mentally stronger for stepping up to the challenge. That new hill may take more time and effort, but with persistence and the fortitude to not be conquered you will persevere.
Our fire service challenges are no different. We all need a little pick me up every now and then, but the key is to push on. Don't quit! Encourage yourselves and those around us to continue to be constructive and productive in sharing ideas and knowledge that is important and vital to our performance on the fire ground. If your message is received and used by one person that had a positive impact, you succeeded.
Bad days? Sure, they will come, we just need to make sure that they go too.