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Thoughts

Mental Roadway Congestion

By | Coaching, Thoughts, Triathlon | No Comments
[Disclaimer: I am not a professional in the field of psychology. All blog posts are pure opinion from my personal coaching, triathlon, and life experience.]

If your brain were likened to a highway would you consider it jammed, pothole-laden and confusing, or open, smooth and straightforward? Is it clogged up with rubberneckers and parked cars, stuck in a dead-end or roundabout without exit? How would you think differently if you had more space and clarity in your mind? How much more capability could you uncover by changing the thoroughfare of your thoughts?

Neural Roadblocks

In many respects, what you can’t change and what you can’t control are a waste of your time, energy, and precious mental space. Focusing on these things often leads to a sense of neurological stickiness. Shifting your focus to yourself and what is in your control will not only free up storage in your head; it will allow you to access the power of clearly focusing on your personal growth and purpose in life. This heightened sense of purpose can be a major force multiplier.

Avoid fixating on past performances to predict future results. This goes for your own performances and others’. You don’t know what would have happened “if only _____” and you don’t know what might happen next. All you can do is to prepare yourself in the best way that you know in order to have the best possible outcome…regardless of what happens outside of your control.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example…

Tony vs. Bobby

Tony and Bobby are both competing in a marathon. Tony recalls that Bobby only started training for marathons relatively recently and was not nearly at Tony’s level in their local 5k last summer. Tony has already envisioned himself crossing the line minutes in front of Bobby.

When Bobby passes Tony in the race, Tony has not mentally prepared for the possibility of this outcome. He had expectations based on previous results which were no longer relevant. He was stuck in the past rather than showing up to the race in front of him. He mentally falters and his pace slows as he watches Bobby fade into the foreground. Tony feels progressively worse and comes across the finish line physically, mentally, and emotionally defeated.

Tony was looking at his past self in comparison to Bobby’s past self, failing to see that both Tony and Bobby were no longer the past versions of themselves! He was so focused on Bobby’s progress (something out of his control) that he neglected to celebrate his own growth; he failed to learn from and improve his personal process and mindset (things in his control).

Don’t be like Tony. Instead, recognize that others have their own story and path to navigate. It’s a waste of your mental space to focus on their trajectory or to form expectations for their performance based on their past. Let them focus on them. Your process is enough of an adventure to pursue and merits your complete attention!

Tony vs. Tony

As with the comparison-to-others roadblock, it’s equally ineffective to focus on your own past performances as a means of predicting your future results. Taking Bobby out of the equation, Tony was still basing his expectation on his own past performance, which weakened his ability to fully focus on and race in the present moment.

Re-Routing

Each time we approach a new day, training session, or start line, we can create a new outcome regardless of what’s happened in the past. Step into each situation anew. Practice approaching each moment with your full focus rather than allowing your thoughts to drift toward uncontrollables (e.g. other people, the past, etc). Show up and meet the specific demands of the day–race day, training day, or recovery day.

Train in the moment to race in the moment. Train your mind and body for all potential challenges that race day may bring by showing up to training with the same focus. You’ll gain confidence in your ability to make smart decisions in the moment by practicing this skill daily. Then, you have the luxury of familiarity on race day and the freedom to race as if it is “just another training session”.