“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

~ Confucius

Do you remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare? It’s become so well known that people often use it as a sort of cliché. The slow and steady one wins the race. You hear that enough times and at some point you find yourself questioning it.

Because, the reality is, when we’re in the midst of the race and we realize that we’re falling behind, we do not feel like winners. On the contrary, we feel like losers. As we look at the daunting course before us and take in its various hills and valleys, rocks, rivers, and swamps, we start to lose heart. We don’t know what’s worse, eating the dust of the person in front of us, or being so far back that the person in front of us is not even in our line of vision anymore.

I wonder what the tortoise was thinking during that race with the hare. I bet his thoughts took a downward turn at times. Although I can’t know for sure, I bet they went something like this:

Ouch, this hurts.

I’m not made for this.

I don’t have what it takes.

Why did I sign up for this stupid thing?

I am such an IDIOT.

What’s the point of finishing?

I should just give up and crawl into my shell.

I wonder how long it took the tortoise’s mind to crawl over each of these obstacles. I wonder what kind of thoughts he had to think in order to keep moving forward. Sometimes the races we find ourselves in do not seem to make sense. When they don’t go the way we expect them to, we find ourselves rationalizing the decision to forfeit. It seems like such a good idea. It seems like the easiest idea.

But the easiest idea is rarely the best idea. When we start forfeiting races, soon we avoid them altogether. We stop challenging ourselves and our minds grow out of shape.

Well, this summer I have made a commitment to keep my mind in shape. After an unexpected and challenging year, I have chosen to set my mind on a path of progress, even if that progress is slow. To help me with this mental exercise, I have taken up physical exercise. I have started running, something I never thought I would ever have the motivation to do without a coach barking in my ear.

I decided to invite my wonderful younger cousin to partner with me in this endeavour. Like me, she is in a year of transition, and, like me, she did not identify as a runner. Our goal was simple: to prove to ourselves that we were capable of doing something we thought we couldn’t. To prove to ourselves that if we stuck with it long enough, we would achieve victory.

And I believe we have. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still in the race. Life is still handing us twists and turns everyday. We are still running.

But that’s the point. We are still running. We haven’t finished the race, but we have experienced transformation.

We are starting to think differently.

We are starting to enjoy the pace of life as we approach it one step at a time.

We are starting to appreciate the thrill that comes from achieving a personal goal that has meaning for no one but ourselves.

In other words, we are in the race of life, but we are not in a hurry. We are not concerned with finishing first, as much as we are concerned with finishing well.

Because, in the end, you are the lone runner in your life’s race. No one runs the same course as you. First and last hold little significance when you hold both titles in your hand.

You see, the tortoise and the hare were in completely different races that day. The tortoise came in first because he had the right motivation. The hare came in last because his only motivation was to be the best.

In my opinion, the hare lost the moment he placed his value in being better than someone else. The tortoise won the moment he decided to finish the race and enjoy it. He won when he realized that being the best him was better than simply being the best.

As a redheaded tortoise, I want to encourage you to keep running the race with endurance. Don’t waste too much time trying to catch up to others. Focus on the next step, no matter how small, no matter how slow. Be the best you, you can be. Remember, progress is progress. If you measure the course of your life by that mentality, you are sure to come out a winner.