Negativity, Change and The Silent Question
Separated by thousands of miles, but connected by a couple of computer monitors and a confession which shook her, we shared a silence.
A silence which tore the room wide open.
It drowned out the noise of the 8 million Londoners pouring in through my flat's windows but was in no way awkward.
As I waited for realisation to sink in, I had a moment to reflect on these moments I share with athletes.
For them, the sudden understanding of how much their Inner Athlete is limiting them is a sledge hammer through their week. What started as a conversation about 1RMs, Fran times and competitive goals transcends into a discussion of the voice they've been trying to hide for years… for decades… for a lifetime.
For myself, it's time to sit back and watch.
The athlete has a simple choice. Option A or option B.
0 or 1.
It's Neo's red or blue pill dilemma:
Hide from the Inner Athlete which dictates their every move. Or embark upon a journey which confronts initially, tames and then masters the Inner Athlete.
It’s a problem which athletes have answered countless times until this point. So many times, that avoidance has often become the default setting. If the athlete wants, they can bring the question to mind daily and hopefully choose the correct option. Most of us, in truth, push the question aside and automatically choose ignorance.
Answering this question correctly is the lead domino in a journey to a cascade of athletic brilliance which bleeds into the rest of life, just as a drop of oil colours water. The PRs topple, the confidence soars and the athlete finds his or herself stepping both onto podiums and into their potential.
But back to the athlete I'm with, and back to the lead up to that silence.
As we relived her most recent training session, I asked her what she was saying to herself, what feelings she had and what stuck out most from the session. While the athlete was new, the story is one that I hear every day; whether in calls like this one, mid-way through seminars or through emails and messages.
- "I'm not good enough"
- "She's so much better than me (and she doesn't deserve to be)"
- "I'll never be able to compete at the level I want to"
- "I'll never be successful"
- "Why is everyone improving and I'm not?"
- "I'm weak and I always will be"
Phrases like these and the emotions and stories which befit them plagued this athlete's training sessions and bled into the rest of her life; tainting her self-worth, limiting her progress and creating a pretty shitty place to live in.
She, like many of us, had been hiding from it for years.
When we chastise ourselves like this in WODs, our performance plummets which further embeds negativity.
When we recall training sessions as periods of chagrin, we come to expect disappointment whenever we arrive at the box. Because of this, we limit our expectations and train and compete in a safe yet restrictive fashion; performing adequately but never freely in our true nature.
Another, blunter, way of explaining this is "I'm not good enough now, so I never will be."
150,000 years ago on the Serengeti, this once essential survival strategy kept us from the mouths of lions. Now, negativity puts us in the jaws of dismay. Peak performance isn't the product of fear and self-flagellation but the construction of confidence and positivity.
The Ultimate Positivity Tool
The quickest way for many athletes to begin to unravel the tendrils of negativity lies in a 3 minute exercise whose elegance is outweighed only by its impact.
At the end of each session, remind yourself of everything you did that will take you closer to your vision of success. In short, Count Your Wins.
And I don't mean a cursory glance, but a reliving of successes. Spend a couple of minutes writing down your achievements, no matter how small. Everything from PRs to a acknowledging your Inner Athlete goes into that list.
For now, ignore what went wrong; it’s time to try a different approach.
This 'capping' of the session will slowly begin to alter how you view the session and yourself. You will build in confidence and begin to act in a way which is indicative of your limitless potential.
Do the same thing at the end of the day. Remind yourself what you have done today which helped create your ideal future.
Trial it for the next 14 days and observe the immense difference it creates.