A 100 mile run! Crazy right? And, yet on the first weekend in June, 164 people crossed the finish line of the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Run. To watch a runner cross the finish line of a 100 mile run is to witness the power of possibility and perseverance.
What I know from hanging out with ultra-runners, they are a pretty modest group. Most of them are quick to tell you how ordinary they are and to downplay their running accomplishments with phrases like, “If I can run a 100 miles, anyone can run a 100 miles”. And there is truth in this statement.
A number of the people crossing the finish line at 29 or 30 or 32 hours into the race did not necessarily have the thin muscled body traditionally thought of as a runner’s build. Instead, what they had was a dedication to their perception of themselves as someone who could run a 100 miles. They chose to see running a 100-mile distance as a possibility and they remained committed to that idea long after the initial thrill of it wore off.
Running a 100 miles is an audacious and uncommon goal (164 out of the 330 who signed up actually made it across the finish line). I’m not advocating we all get out there and run a 100 miles, and I know the way we think about ourselves, or our situations, influences our outcome.
Here are few ways to tweak our thinking for more powerful results in our everyday life.
Think Big, and Bigger!
We often put the brakes on our own visceral and enthusiastic reaction to something we see someone else doing. For example, after watching the Iron Man competitors roll through town on their bikes, I get all excited thinking, “I want to do that next year!” Then the “buts” started rolling through my mind … like “I don’t really swim very well” or “I don’t want to spend all that time training.”
The “buts” effectively shut us down and we miss out on what could be a fulfilling opportunity. According to Guy Winch, Ph.D., the author of Emotional First Aid, visualizing what would happen if we did decide to take the plunge into this new area of enthusiasm, and ignoring the “buts” allows us to get into the habit of respecting our core instincts and living from a place of possibility instead of our comfort zone. Yes, please. I’ll take a little more of that!
We tend to think about ourselves as self-improvement projects and all the work we need to do on ourselves as “hard” work. What if we shifted our perspective to seeing ourselves playing in the sandbox of life? What if we let ourselves be playful about the mundane aspects of what we know we need to do to live into our future?
It turns out that when we think of things as “hard” we do things counter to our goals. A recent study took people on a walk for a mile and told some it was a workout and others it was scenic and fun. Afterwards, everyone ate lunch, and the scenic group consumed 35 % less dessert than the workout group. It turns out, thinking about physical activity as fitness has us wanting to reward ourselves; when we see a workout as something else, like personal time, we don’t have the same tendency.
Let your future-self, the person you want to be, pull you forward, because, the you in the moment, the one whose hand is reaching for the dessert, or extra glass of wine, or who would rather sit on the couch instead of going for the walk to meet your 10,000 step goal, would really like the easy out.
I overheard at the mile 60 aid station, a pacer say to her runner, “I know quitting now at the 60 mile mark would be okay because you’ll still get the 100K finisher medal, and once the delight of the beer and a hot shower wears off, do you want to live with the fact you settled instead of staying true to your goal?” Ouch. And, this vision is what propelled the runner to shuffle on down the path into a dark night with her headlamp.
… A few powerful questions:
Where have you let the “buts” shut down your enthusiasm about a new idea or activity?
What activities could you approach playfully instead of having them be “hard” work?
What does your future-self see as possible for you? How can he or she pull you forward into your magnificent future?