Your Three Selves of Mental Toughness
People have talked about near death experiences and how their life flashed before them, and I’ve had two near death experiences, which were falling off of a cliff and a car accident, but my life never flashed before me.
Before I signed up to compete in a ½ ironman in less than 2 weeks, my life was shown before me.
We all have our own experiences, setbacks, shortcomings, hang-ups, and doubts. But, we also all have our own mental toughness, successes, motivation, level of fitness, and accomplishments.
Too often, we only focus on the excuses and limitations why we can’t do something. These limitations are usually focused on our deficiencies and proof of how we aren’t good enough. They are always rooted in the past as well.
Before embarking to crush any goal or big decisions, you’ll look at your past, your present, and your future. Where have you been? Where are you now? And where are you going?
Our Past Self
A funny thing about confidence it that there is a nosy neighbor with confidence named doubt. Wherever doubt lives, it does so, rent-free. Doubt is a squatter!
Doubt always wants to hang out with confidence, but they simply don’t get along well. However, that doesn’t keep doubt from following confidence around wherever confidence goes.
It’s best to keep doubt as a neighbor rather than a roommate.
Everyone has doubts, even the best. This is normal, so just know that it is okay. What’s more important than the doubt entering your mind is that you determine how long you want to hang around with doubt. Do not allow the negative thoughts to stay around long right beside your confidence— rent-free.
The number one source of confidence is past performance. If we have done something before, then we can do it again. However, again, next to confidence is that awful roommate, past performance can also cause doubt.
Chances are that we have failed before. The failure provided feedback and an emotional connection to the pain. Perhaps that one failure or setback was so painful that it kept us from trying other challenges?
Or when we look back at our past self, maybe we see someone who has started things and journeys, but never really followed through or completed them.
Yes, you’ve had setbacks in your past, so what? Do you still let that event define you, or refine you? Does our past define who we are currently?
The answer is: only if we let it.
There’s one major question that we need to look at that will help determine our chances for success.
The question for your mental toughness is: Did you push yourself?
I believe that if you actually enjoyed working hard and pushing yourself (even if only a little bit) then you have what it takes to crush your goal.
I believe that everyone has the will to succeed; they just sometimes need the way.
If the past doesn’t provide the confidence and proof that you can crush your goal in two weeks, then merely don’t let it try and convince you that you can’t do something.
I’ve never competed in a ½ Ironman, so did my past provide the confidence I needed to finish the ½ Ironman with no training?
One of my strengths in my past has been the ability and drive to set a goal and reach it. I’ve run in a number of races before and have trained extensively for these. Some of my meager, yet personal accomplishments included a sub 20 minute 5k, a 3:23 marathon, a tough mudder, and a handful of ½ marathons and 10k’s. For a few years I also trained in the pool and managed to break 1:00 barrier in the 100 Freestyle. Since having kids, running my own business, and working with athletes, my priorities changed. Oddly, these races often felt like another lifetime ago.
Again, our past may not always provide the confidence we like. However, one major setback and lack of confidence for me that I could not let define me was the bike. The reason I hadn’t signed up for these types of races previously is because of the bike. I biked as a kid all the time, but not as an adult. Heck, I didn’t even own a bike and haven’t ridden one in ten years. My past contained also a level of doubt.
Our Present Day Self
Next, we will have to check-in with and assess our present day self.
Motivation lives here. The grind lives here- in the present.
Your present day self is fraught with obstacles and distractions. Most of these keep us comfortable. The difficulty will be to answer and take action on the following questions:
Do we possess the will to go for it? Are we willing to put forth the effort and sacrifice to get it?
These are the questions that only you can answer.
Could I finish the ½ Ironman? Would I injure myself? And more importantly, did I want to do it?
Assessing my present day self raised more questions than answers about the race.
More current self revealed I was not in any type of racing shape. My runs were maybe three times a week averaging 3/4 miles a run, and my swimming has been limited to maybe 1x a week. I still worked out five days a week and either ran, swam, or strength trained, but with no immediate goals. Working out was for fitness, sanity, and fun.
Our Future Self
We become whatever we are becoming!
Our goals are to improve 1% everyday. If we focus on being just 1% better everyday, then we improve dramatically over a span of time.
One of the toughest things is being able to come up with a vision of who we want to become. Not what, but who? I want to become someone with no regrets and in the game. I don’t want to sit on the sideline of life and not go for it.
I once wrote down a list of 100 things I wanted to do before I die. Complete a full-Ironman was on this list. However, a ½ Ironman wasn’t on there. It was a mistake on my part because when writing down goals, most want to be President, but who wants to be Vice-President? I also have an extreme love for my kids. I want to constantly model for them the importance of having a vision and the mental toughness to execute it.
Oddly enough, my future self may have been the biggest driving force for me signing up. It helped me answer the questions of: Could I do it? Yes, (I think so). Would I injure myself? (I don’t know). Did I want to do it? Yes, (I think so).
Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis. Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out all the books on Mental Toughness