"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Fear of Failure and Success

What is your true potential? What's keeping you from achieving it? What could you accomplish if you removed the barriers and pushed back the limits you have set for yourself?

Think about your current average running pace. Is it 8 minutes/mile? 10 minutes? 6 minutes? Do you think that you could take 7% off that pace? If the answer is no, how about 6%? 5%? Think this through for a moment until you reach a point where you think, "yeah, I could probably do that." Make this your new goal and begin today to work towards it today. How will this be possible? By taking away, not adding, a key component of many people's running.

Chances are you've read and maybe even implemented various strategies into your workouts already in an effort to run faster, longer. Popular training routines include fartleks, Yasso 800s, Hills, cross-training etc. Do what you wish with these, but we're going a different direction to reach these goals. Today is the day to change your mental approach to running by beginning now to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

Some months ago, after I had set a 6% improvement goal, I had a great run and finished with a PR training pace, just off of the 6% improvement I was shooting for. I walked back into my house feeling super confident...so I thought. As I was giving my post-run analysis to my wife, though, negative thoughts began to enter my mind. They weren't complete sentences or even complete coherent thoughts, just negative feelings more than anything else. The basic message of these feelings? I had given everything I had to run that fast and there was no way I could do it again.

I had just finished my best run ever (to that point) and here I was questioning myself. This really bothered me and I spent considerable amounts of time in the following days exploring my feelings. Why didn't I think I could do it again?

I generalized my negative feelings into two types of fear.

First: The Fear of Failure.

Was I fearful of not making it to the end of a run if I pushed too hard? What if I ran out of energy and couldn't keep the pace? Then what? The answer is quite simple--I would slow down a little, or a lot. But it wouldn't be the end of the world. As the saying goes, there would be 1 billion Chinese people (and another 5.2 billion other people) who wouldn't care what I did. Let's eliminate the fear of not being able to finish from the list of possible restraints.

Would I consider myself a failure if I wasn't running as fast at the end of a run as I was at the beginning? Obviously not. I think. It's as irrational a fear as worrying about not being able to finish though. I'm running for myself. There are no points to be scored, no team to contribute to. It's not a matter of life or death and no one is relying on me to achieve any particular time, pace or distance.

So why the fear of failure? The only person I could possibly fail or let down is myself. And the only reason I would have to ever feel this way would be if I quit or gave less than I could have.

Second: The Fear of Success.

Why would anyone fear success? Maybe the expectations that come with it? Do I feel like you deserve it? Am I not willing to take on the responsibilities that come with it?

The point is this: most people perform far below their true potential because they set up false barriers to their true abilities. They put these limits in place and convince themselves there's no overcoming them.

What would happen, would could happen, what WILL happen when you strip away all of the negative thoughts, irrational fears and self-imposed limits and began to perform closer to your actual abilities? Any lingering fears of failure or success would be replaced with the satisfaction of knowing you DID accomplish something great and you would look forward to doing it again and again.

It is only when we recognize, think, and most importantly believe that barriers and limits can be moved that true progress and achievement will be made.

1 comment:

Travis C said...

Very true. I have several times felt that I achieved something that I previously thought impossible and know several people that never try to achieve the "impossible" because of a mental barrier.

Good post, it strikes at the core of our thought process.