Tonight I ran a mile alongside a girl with magic shoes.

Last week, I made an even longer run with a workout partner who had a pair of sunglasses making her faster.

As one of their elementary school cross-country coaches, I was torn between telling these ladies the truth about their talismans or just enjoying the extra confidence they were experiencing and the faster race times they were sure to have.

I chose in both cases to smile and play along. These two young runners have a ton of potential but often submit to the voices in their own heads that tell them that after a few minutes of exercise they can no longer perform.

But – even if just for a few fleeting minutes – they each felt empowered when their parents gifted them a new running accessory. Now there was more invested in the game. There was more to prove. There was something new and different involved.

And it turns out that not only did they feel faster… They BECAME faster.

Physical objects with bestowed significance can be powerful partners as we seek to improve.

When helping my best friend move out of his house a decade ago, he handed me a dusty two-dollar-bill he uncovered in the process and smiled with this advice:

“Put this in your wallet,” he said. “And no matter what happens, you will never be broke.”

The silly gesture resonated and that bill stayed inside my wallet for years. There were often times that while worried about making ends meet I would thumb past that bill and be a little less worried. When my pal passed away years later, it served as an extra reminder to focus on the important things and show his love and enthusiasm to everyone I meet.

Unbeknownst to me, my wife kept a broken key on her keychain for years because it reminded her of a few of her favorite things about me. (Yes. I broke the key in our first month of dating by trying to use it to enter what I thought was her apartment. Turns out I was using it at her neighbor’s house. Why this embarrassing tidbit about me makes her like me more, you will have to ask her. I have no idea. I’m just glad I never got arrested for that incident.)

We are physical beings living in a world that is becoming increasingly digital. Our money, our books, our entertainment and our correspondences are all becoming less tangible and more difficult to put our fingers on. It makes sense that when we are able to touch and feel something that symbolizes self-improvement or love or something to aspire to that it would be hard to let go.

Try it yourself. Get some magic shoes in your size and see how much faster you can run.

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