There have been days where I could not wait to put together a playlist, tie my shoes, and hit the pavement. Then, there have been those other days. Those days have the common pattern of excuses and rationalization. “I’ll just run longer tomorrow.” Or, “I’m too sore today.” I’d have these internal discourses many of which came with these self-imposed deals and agreements.
One thing I have found is that I can be very persuasive when I don’t want to do something. Another thing I’ve learned is that when I do wind up going against my default comfort zone, it always pays off. Most of the time the persuasive arguments I would use to rationalize weren’t all that accurate. I’m beginning to understand that default setting tends to be wrong, a lot.
The biggest tool that has helped me is adapting a simple mindset – be loose. And I’m not just talking about proper stretching techniques (although I learned the hard way how critical that piece is). I’m talking about loosening up, letting yourself flow, and feeling good.
On my long runs I’d hit mile 10 or 11 and running would start to become difficult, mentally and physically. When that happened I would start to tense my body up, huff and puff, and probably had this gruesome look of agony on my face. Then questions would come up, like how am I going to finish if I’m in pain now? Can I really do this? Should I stop?
I was not loose. I would just convert most of my energy to my agony. It wasn’t until that I reminded myself be loose that my mindset shifted. Stop trying so hard on something you can do very naturally. Trust in your abilities. You can do this.
I imagine putting myself on autopilot. My conscious energy is merely a spectator as I simply and loosely coast down winding streets in neighboring towns.
Be loose. Coast. Your mind is merely a witness not a commentator. I wish I meditated more, but I feel the times I loosen up in my run and let my body coast, my mind does as well.
The awesome thing about training for this marathon is what I learn on the road in my running shoes applies to more areas than just exercise.
Interacting with a person for the first time can tend to be very rigid and scripted. Meeting deadlines can be stressful. Having a never ending to-do list can be daunting. But we tend to inhibit our own natural abilities to complete these things when we tense up.
The other week I had to make a couple calls for work about one of our team building activities. I’ve run it a bunch of times and was explaining to a person how to facilitate it on their own. I started writing up a whole script of exactly how the conversation would go.
Then I realized there is no room for flow when you have everything predetermined. I tossed the script, loosened up, and talked about what I knew. And it went fantastically. I just let myself do the talking and the rest of myself was just witnessing the magic happen.
We are each are own greatest inhibitors. Extraordinary is visceral, but unfortunately we also come with this unresolved tension that leads us to question ourselves. What I’ve learned from training for this marathon is don’t.
Try it out. Loosen up. Next time you find yourself in that awkward situation or feeling some tension just let yourself flow. It’s quite amazing what can become possible.
The most pivotal and overlooked component for success is its starting point. Teddy Gross, founder of Penny Harvest, has helped raise over $7 million by collecting the tiniest denomination of currency in the US fiscal system.
But where did Teddy begin? It started with one single penny. Something so common and tiny, most of us don’t even bother to pick one up as we pass it in the street. And yet the collection of pennies has culminated into something truly extraordinary as millions of dollars have been raised for people in need.
None of this would have not been possible without that starting point, without that initial penny. And so one component to what makes actions so valuable is to not underestimate the value of our actions. What at first may seem as trivial and inessential could very well be the building blocks to an extraordinary breakthrough.
When we look at our actions, the only part of it that is truly factual is the action itself. You take a job, you sell your house, you travel to a different country, you make a sales pitch. Those are all facts. What comes after the action are our interpretations and perspectives.
The reasons you take a job could run the gamut. Money, benefits, boredom, satisfaction, travel, fulfillment. As well as whether or not you actually like this new occupation. Variables such as co-workers, location, workload, tasks, interaction, and administration all have their respective roles to play.
The reality of how good or bad our job is – is formed by the perception we create. And so all our interpretations of our actions feed into whether or not something is worthwhile.
But after actions occur what do you think we tend to focus on? Look at the front page of todays newspaper, turn on the news, or simply listen in on a conversation at work. The general scope of perspective is pointed in a negative view.
Out of the 30 most common emotion words in the English language only 6 of them were positive. This focus on the adverse has put on blinders to countless positive possibilities.
When trying to identify choices and actions that have the most value, focus in on the bright spots of those actions. In the beginning stages of Penny Harvest when a few hundred dollars of pennies had been raised, Teddy Gross could have thought, “this is barely anything, this certainly won’t make a difference.”
But instead, he looked at the same few hundred dollars and saw peoples desire to help and built off these bright spots.
Identifying the worthwhile actions isn’t about a full proof plan designed to give you the right choices. It is about finding value in the reality we create.
Shakespeare said, “There is no good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Realize that behind every decision we make and every action we take there are positive potentials and bright spots to be found. These actions may not seem valuable alone, but together, can create an outcome that is truly worthwhile.
Have you ever done something that you thought really wouldn’t make much of a difference? What are the worthwhile actions in your life? Is there such a thing as a worthless action?
To worry is to allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles. It is a keen focus on the adverse, instead of an open acceptance of the unknown that makes it so limiting. It evokes emotions that match it’s destructive desires and suppresses our more constructive thoughts.
In his psychology book Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman writes, “The mental resources expended on one cognitive task, the worrying, simply detracts from the resources available for processing other information.”
It shifts our attention from figuring out answers to being preoccupied with worries. These worries then become self-fulfilling prophesies, revealing the very reality they predict.
Worrying also removes us from the current moment. A night with friends, family, or just some of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream, turns into flagrant anxiety and overwhelming stress. This chaotic tag-team certainly has a knack for taking the funky out of Chunky Monkey.
Knowing that I need not go on talking about the destructive tendencies that surface when we worry, the question that still remains to be answered is, “What can we do?”
Let’s say you want something fantastic to manifest in your life. You sit down and come up with possibilities that would allow this amazing idea to unfold. You may even get a little rambunctious, partly from the Chunky Monkey ice cream, and begin to think of reasons why this could come fast and easy.
Slowly but surely you are developing a list of your character strengths. This is the perfect combatant against that disastrous tag-team of stress and anxiety.
The commonality among every instance of concern, is that it is over a particular something. Projects, meetings, travel, interviews, dates, speeches, indigestion, there is always something we worry about. But instead of focusing in on 100 reasons why that something might go wrong, what if we thought about why it might come easily?
This might seem too simple of a fix, but like anyone who has swung a golf club knows, the slightest adjustment of your grip, can make the most significant difference in the trajectory of your ball.
Thinking about why something might come easily forces us to think about how our strengths will leverage our worries. Now instead of words like incapable or unpolished infiltrating our minds, our focus hones in on the positive aspects of ourselves.
In any and every situation, what can you bring to the table? Each and every one of us hold extraordinary potentials. Don’t worry yourself with daunting incapabilities of events that have yet to transpire.
Instead, focus in on where your greatest aptitudes and passions lie, and discover your unique path for fulfillment. That is what you bring to the table, that is the pathway to positive outcomes, and that is the essence of your potential.
What are some of your worries sneaking their way into your daily life? What do you do to overcome them? Do you think any good can come from worrying?
For example, a New York cab driver is out making his usual fairs. Notoriously known for his can do attitude for getting people to their destination in the quickest possible time, he has a habit of…speeding.
So when that traffic light clicks from green to yellow, you will see no signs of hesitation as he steps on the gas to beat the inevitable downward flash to red.
In Ohio, a daily commuter is driving through town on her way to pick up groceries. Driving down a long, winding road she sees the light turn yellow. Without thinking, she squeezes the break, slowing the car down as it stops comfortably behind the cusp of the intersection.
Now, on a long awaited trip to New York, our Ohioan drives through the city streets admiring the massive buildings and observing the everlasting pulse the city seamlessly emits.
Approaching an intersection she sees a yellow light and begins to push her foot down on the break. Behind her is our fast-paced cab driver on his way to drop off his current fair. Seeing the yellow light he speeds up and…crash!
Accident? Perhaps not.
The behavior they engaged in was so well practiced that it was deep rooted in their unconscious. Without even thinking, automatic responses took over and, well, the rest is history.
Automatic responses are how we can interact with the world so efficiently. They are mental shortcuts our brain takes to save time and energy. They are how we group things together in our mind and how we learn to coordinate our body movements in sports.
Well practiced, these behaviors become natural and skip by our preliminary awareness. But the scope of these automatic thoughts runs much broader than driving through traffic lights and catching a baseball.
We can have automatic thoughts on our own abilities and potentials. A reoccurrence of past experiences could leave us at a certain level of inadequacy. We could have certain ideas of our abilities to accomplish or not accomplish certain things.
We may never think of ourselves as an artist just as the cabbie may never think to slow down at a yellow light, but our thoughts are just a result of the small scope of experiences we have exposed ourself to.
To limit ourself to these preconceived notions that we may not even be aware of might prevent us from going after some extraordinary possibilities.
So what do we do?
Shift our awareness to the idea that every situation is a possibility. We have preexisting thoughts and ideas on everything in our world. But our world is our mind, and the amount of perspectives we can put on each idea is limitless.
Someone may hold money the most crucial asset to happiness. While another person looks at money as an endless, unfulfillable lust. Still, others could live in remote islands where fiscal denominations cease to exist.
The perspectives are limitless – and so we must always be willing to challenge our automatic thoughts. The possibilities are as far as the mind can reach.
These words echo from singer, life lover, and activist Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. This is one of my favorite Marley lyrics.
The world around us is a creation made from our mind. It is a projection of our perception facilitating our interaction with the world we’ve created.
Abilities and potentials are perceptions and perspectives our mind creates. It is the puppeteer, conductor, and orchestrator of our world. Whatever it believes or expects, it will do all in its power to make that prospection come to fruition.
Think about when we swallow a sugary placebo pill. We believe it is a potent antidote to our current illness and even though its just sugar we’re ingesting, we still get better.
With warmer weather on its way, I escaped the confines of indoors and took a trip to the local driving range. I warmed up a little, and with a cool, fluid swing hit a straight 140 yarder with my 9-iron. Phew, I thought this was going to be uglier after not touching a club for the entirety of the off season.
About half way through my, now dwindling bucket of balls, I shanked a ball hard right. Uh-oh. I felt a flash of heat on my face, a sudden increase in number of heartbeats, and the feeling that all eyes were on this ugly projectile bouncing far from its intended destination.
I stared at my club, hoping this would take some of the blame off of me, and went to take another shot, hoping it wouldn’t be as bad. Clunk! The ball bounced of my club mirroring the path of the last perfectly. Frustrated, I hit another. Then another. Soon I had a pile of seven or eight balls lying in a tight circumference about 40 yards to the right of me. If only this was bocce!
The worst part of this, was I knew my next ball was just going to join its other comrades. My swing now carried with it the doubt I had casted on it.
What’s so frustrating, and the reason why every golfer has once uttered the phrase, “I hate this game,” is that at the very beginning I had a series of some beautiful shots. Then, one bad fluke, and I doubt my ability.
None but ourselves can free our mind. It wasn’t like the golf gods were spiting me that day. I bound myself to a limit I had created in my mind. Instead of thinking this was going to be a good shot I was hoping it wouldn’t be a bad one. Just the mere fact that the word “bad” was floating around in my head while I was pulling my golf club back, no doubt contributed to my mid-day shanks.
I put a handicap on my ability. This world is a projection of the mind, and now my mind was thinking, you’re going to shank this ball.
Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. Let go of the negative, embrace the positive.
Daily occurrences come in all shapes and sizes. Our interpretation of these events shape our life. It takes effort and practice to free yourself from the forty-five minutes of traffic you just sat in, the argument you just had, the doubts you’ve put on your abilities, or the monotony your days have turned into.
Shakespeare said, “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” If you tap into the awareness that you control your thoughts and therefore your reality, entire life perspectives can be shifted.
We get frustrated, worried, anxious, stressed, angry, upset, the list goes on, but when certain events happen there is no avoiding the averse, nor should you. What you do want to avoid is being bound to these shackles.
Appreciate the emotion, and then let it go like a floating leaf falling from a tree.
By holding onto the negative we enter a state of mental slavery. Only you can break those chains. Have the courage to look at your life from a different perspective, a limitless perspective – because reality is what the mind creates.
We live in a world of rationalizers. I am going to tell you right here and now that openness is the remedy to a fixed mindset. Now let me momentarily diverge to give clarity to this idea of filtered conceptualization.
Politics. The argument can be made that the acquisition of information can be directly related to decrease in partisan bias. But knowing more about politics doesn’t necessarily accomplish this. Voters tend to assimilate facts that confirm what they already believe. They think they’re evaluating candidates, but what they are actually doing is inventing or ignoring facts so they can rationalize decisions already made.
It is as if voters twirl a cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want.
It turns out that the placebo effect actually induces a neurological response. A few years ago a neuroscientist named Tor Wager put together a study. He gave participants tiny electric shocks. One group was shocked on their bare skin while a second group was given a pain relieving creme. The catch, the creme was fake. It was a moisturizer you can buy off the shelf at CVS, but this group reported experiencing significantly less pain.
To take a deeper look at this, Wager had participants hooked up to an fMRI machine. The expectation of a reduction of pain actually created a neurological effect. The frontal lobes of the these participants brains responded by inhibiting activity in the parts of the brain that normally respond to pain.
Your brain, because it expected to feel less pain, actually altered your physiological response. The placebo effect is not just an illusion, but an actual change in the way you experience events.
What does this mean? Expectations are powerful. So powerful that our brain alters our perceptions to fulfill what we expect.
Decision making occurs on a moment to moment basis. Sometimes it is automatic. We make decisions that are so second nature we don’t even realize they’re decisions. Sometimes we think long and hard. We try and gather all the information we can and rely on reason to guide us on making the right choice.
Rationality is a powerful agent in the decision making realm, but what is truest in its rawest form are our emotions. Basically put they outline and motivate us toward our instinctual desires – what we really want. But more times then not, we are met with decisions that we try to over think, causing the outcome to actually fall astray from what we really want.
Psychologist, Timothy Wilson, replicated several distinct studies examining the decision making process. He asked college females to pick their favorite poster from five possible options: A Monet landscape, a van Gogh of some purple lilies, and three funny cat posters.
He split the participants up in two groups. One group was the non-thinking group. They were simply asked to rate each poster on a scale from one to ten. The second group had the harder task explaining why they liked or disliked the poster before rating each. At the end each, participant left with their favorite poster.
Karl Duncker, a Gestalt psychologist, set up an experiment testing the ingenuity of the human mind. On a table he placed a box of tacks, a book of matches, and a candle. The objective, attach the candle to the wall. Participants eyed down the materials. Some tried to use the tacks to fasten the candle to the wall. Not bad, but not successful. Others stepped up their game, trying to melt the candle to the wall by burning the wax. Still no call for celebration.
Not until they stretched their minds and overcame their fixed mindsets were participants able to crack this riddle. If you no longer see the box of tacks as solely a holder for those tacks, but also a means to attach the candle to the wall, then you are utilizing something we call creativity, a means of using ones imagination to create original ideas.