Recently, at the start line of a 100-mile race (Ancient Oaks 100), I was once again reminded of the power of the spoken word when a runner who was attempting to finish a 100-mile race for the third time said to myself and my fiance, "you gotta not let me quit - I know I'm gonna quit in the wee hours of the morning." My first though was, 'If you say you will quit, it is already a given.' Of course I didn't say these words to her, but the truth is, once we speak something, especially to ourselves, we set in motion a process that seeks to complete that statement.
What I knew would begin to happen to this runner, as happens to many first time 100-milers, is that she would begin to struggle physically — as we all do in a 100-mile race — and then she would begin to develop a host of reasons as to why quitting would be the right thing to do. See, once we say to ourselves that we are going to do something — and express an intention to do it — we want to justify our decision. Much like buying a car and then filtering out all of the bad reports that car might have received because you don’t want to consider that you might have made a mistake. Instead, you pay more attention to the reports that rate your car favorably. In this way, filtering helps us make sense of our decisions, leaving us to feel that we have made the best decisions.
The problem is, when it comes to a 100-mile race, nothing — and I mean nothing — is more important than the thoughts that are going through your head. There will always be pain, and sometimes a significant amount of it, that makes you want to quit. If you focus on the pain, you can always find a reason to quit. In order to finish, you have to train your thoughts to only consider one outcome — and that is that you will finish the race.
Once you decide to allow yourself to think about finishing and filter out any thoughts that you will not, the process of justifying that experience will begin, and you develop reasons of why finishing — and pushing through the pain — is the right decision.
And when it comes to ultra marathons, I have never – and I mean never – heard anyone say that they were glad they didn’t finish. Instead, as we age, it is typically the things we don’t accomplish that we tend to regret more than the ones that we did.
So next time you attempt a challenging race, run, or experience of any kind, watch what you say, and if you can train yourself to only think, speak about, and consider the outcome you want, that is the outcome that you will get.
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Originally published at: www.RunSouthFlorida.com