I used to hate playing 'truth or dare' as kids.
Once I was dared to knock on the neighbour’s window.
I have absolutely no recollection of who dared me to do it nor of the person who lived there. The only thing I remember is how terrified I was.
How times have changed!
I no longer knock on the neighbour’s window for no apparent reason. But being scared (and sometimes terrified) by experiences that feel ‘daring’ or 'scary' – which force me outside my comfort zone or which I don’t think I can do – remains.
When I think about doing something which forces me to step out of my comfort zone, I am reminded of one of my most favourite passages in any book; from The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay:
"The power of one is above all things the power to believe in yourself, often well beyond any latent ability you may have previously demonstrated.
The mind is the athlete; the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, shoot straighter, kick better, swim harder, hit further or box better. Hoppie’s dictum to me: ‘First with the head and then with heart’ was more than mixing brains with guts. It meant thinking well beyond the powers of normal concentration and then daring your courage to follow your thoughts."
When was the last time you dared your courage to follow your thoughts?
You know the thoughts I am talking about.
When a friend, colleague or family member tells you about something they are going to do for the first time. It could be a race, an event like Tough Mudder or something completely different. Perhaps it's skydiving, taking salsa lessons or learning to play the guitar.
And your first instinctive response is to think to yourself "OMGosh I've loved to do that!". Perhaps the thrill of the idea even causes the butterflies in your stomach to take flight.
But just as quickly as the butterflies take off, another thought comes to mind – “Don't be ridiculous, there's no way I could do that" or quite simply "I can’t”.
Of course the practicalities of modern life (jobs, mortgages, school holidays etc) are often outside our control and limit our ability to bring some of our dreams to fruition. But we all have dreams and goals for which the only thing holding us back are the “I couldn’t/I can’t” thoughts that spring from a lack of confidence or self-belief.
These types of self-limiting thoughts hamper almost each and every one of us, not only in our sporting endeavours but in our lives in general. But our thoughts are within our control and therefore we can change them.
So why are you still holding yourself back from setting out to achieve your goal?
It has only been in recent years that I have started to find the courage to follow (some of) my thoughts. Since my early 30s, I have finished a race almost no-one thought I was capable of finishing. I have left a very well paying job to go hiking around the world for 6 months (also risking a new relationship in the process). I then came home to accept another well paying job with the intention of leaving it (sooner rather than later) and the ‘security blanket’ the income provides in order to start Sparta PT and work in a field I am passionate about.
The word ‘courage’ gets tossed around far too much these days.
I certainly don’t think any of these decisions were ‘courageous’. But I know each and every single one required me to take a deep breathe, disregard all the negative “I can’t / I shouldn’t” thoughts, trust the part of me that knew I wanted to (and, in some cases, needed to) take the action and do it, stepping w-a-y outside my comfort zone in the process. In most cases, it took me years after I first thought of the idea before I actually had the guts to take the plunge.
Of course, this is not to say that it's been easy for me to find the courage to follow all of my thoughts. Hell, it's taken me 4 years to get the SpartaChicks project off the ground!
But I've realised that the lack of confidence or self-belief which holds us back often stems from our perceived limitations; that is, limitations which we assume we have (which are rarely, if ever, grounded in fact).
In terms of our sports and recreational activities, of course everyone has actual physical limitations. We are human after all!
But our actual physical limitations – what our body is actually capable of doing – generally far exceeds any limitations we think we have. And only by daring to ignore the fear and doubt and negative thoughts can we put aside our perceived limitations and take whatever steps are necessary to move closer towards our goals and actual limitations (often surprising ourselves in the process).
The saying ‘you will pass out before you die so keep running” comes to mind. Of course I am not suggesting you should do that! Rather, that you are physically capable of much more than you think you are. How many times have you been exercising & slowed down, stopped, used a lighter weight or cut an effort or interval short, not because your body told you it had to stop but because your mind did?
The most important lesson I have learnt in recent years – and it is something I believe a lot of women in particular struggle with – is to always challenge any preconceived notions I have about what I am, or am not, capable of.
My actual limitations have always been very different – and far greater – from what I perceived my limitations to be. I am physically capable of doing so much more than I think I am.
And I know you are too 🙂