I’m listening to the Boston Marathon coverage in the background as I write this post. Each of the elite runners has worked to earn a top starting point, and each one is focused on one thing—crossing the finish line ahead of everyone else.
As a longtime runner myself, I have great appreciation for what it takes to be an elite athlete: the consistent practice, pushing themselves, a mindset that constantly drives and inspires themselves to excel. I’ve never been anywhere close being an elite runner, except that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a few. What we do have in common, though, are the traits I mentioned above, and I consider the one that is at the core of them all, managing our internal narrative.
Training for my first half marathon gave me a lot of road time alone with my thoughts. Some of them were helpful and encouraging: You got this! You can do this! Your body isn’t tired right now, your mind is, so keep running and enjoying the day!” Others reminded me that I had no business running at this age, and that maybe I was setting myself up for failure.
There was a time in my earlier life where I believed all the stories in my head as being factual, instead of assessments and interpretations I made about what was happening around me. It’s natural to create a sense of control and certainty when faced with something new or unexpected. It helps alleviate our innate discomfort with uncertainty.
Challenging these stories helps us live more confidently. If we realize that we interpret what happens according to our past experience, we can also allow for the possibility that our interpretations may be a little off at times. Over time, that allows us to create more accurate stories while building self-trust in the process.
So, how do we do that? One effective way is to look for evidence that supports our story. Pretty easy to find, generally. The next step is to look for evidence that disproves our story. We wear blinders, in a sense, to any facts that go against our usual ways of looking at the world. By interrupting this process and finding contrasting evidence, we can more easily discern what is true for us. We can only act on what we see, so adopting this practice can open up new possibilities for you.
Successfully running a half-marathon helped me challenge my story that I was “too old”, “not fast enough”, “ not capable”. My new story became, “I’m a badass”, and “What else am I capable of doing that I don’t think I can?”
Don’t believe everything you think. I invite you to challenge the thoughts that keep you playing small.