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When The Going Gets Tough…

| | Personal Leadership
When The Going Gets Tough…

Many years ago I completed my first MS 100. It’s a two-day, 100-mile bike ride to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis. I had barely trained, so completing the first day was a hard-won and very satisfying accomplishment.

I was ready for Day 2 with a sense of optimism and confidence that I would actually be able to finish. That was until I had to confront sitting on that tiny little bicycle seat for another 50 miles. Ouch!

For the first 10 miles or so, I had to push myself hard mentally to keep riding in spite of the discomfort. At some point my discomfort was no longer in the way, and I shifted my focus on how great it would be when I crossed that finish line. As the sky showed signs of dusk approaching I crossed the finish line feeling triumphant.

The next year I trained hard. I realized I was lucky to even finish the year before due to my lack of preparation. Not everyone on our team was so lucky. So I decided that this year I would really be ready. I was also determined to make it to the middle of the pack and finish long before dark on Day 2.

So I got on my bike on Day 1 raring to go. And then something happened as I approached that first hill. I came face to face with resistance.

I remembered that hill well. It was one of the toughest of the ride. Despite all my training, I found myself face to face with a mental wall rather than a physical one. I could feel myself resisting the climb even as I took it on. Somehow it was even harder than I remembered.

When I got to the top, I didn’t feel triumphant. I felt discouraged. I definitely wasn’t looking forward to more of those hills I knew were coming up. I wondered why I decided to do this stupid ride anyway. I started to think to myself things like, “If I don’t want to finish the ride today I can always jump in one of the vans. Besides, no one really cares if I finish anyway.”

In other words, that little voice in my head was giving me a way out.

In fact, it was trying to convince me that it didn’t matter and I should quit. Ultimately I worked through the noise in my head and finished. Yet I still remember how hard that ride was every step of the way.

Fortunately, now I know it doesn’t have to be that way.

There is a way past the resistance that slows us down and needlessly sucks our energy.

Fast-forward to today. I am working on a really big project right now with a tight timeline. It represents a huge breakthrough in my work. And just when I was getting on a roll there was that darn little voice again. It started giving me all the reasons why this wasn’t going to work and showing me all the ways I can just do less than I planned, and be good enough rather than exceptional.

There’s nothing I am preparing or doing that is beyond my capability. Just as with that 100-mile bike ride long ago, I have trained hard for this. Yet I noticed I was starting to feel unusually tired and unmotivated, and finding it increasingly hard to focus on the daunting list of things I need to do in the next few weeks.

Fortunately, after few days of pushing along, I could recognize all the ways that little voice showed up and recognize it for what it is – my subconscious mind’s way of keeping me from taking too big a risk and protecting me from working too hard for something I could fail at.

Here’s what I’ve learned: even though I know I will not quit, I’ve discovered that giving any attention to that little voice and all of the ways it shows up will only add drag to my efforts.

So once again I am reminded to let go of the drag by ignoring that little voice, and choosing instead to refocus on the future I am creating.

Keep in mind that it won’t give up easily. It will try intently to engage you. It may even make you feel like disengaging just when you need to press on the most.

So watch its antics as though it were a ticker-tape in your mind, and simply watch its chatter fly off the screen as fast as it arrives. Then consciously choose to focus on the possibility of the future you are creating instead, because that’s where you’ll find the fuel to finish strong.

When the going gets tough, how do you keep going?

 

Image credit: Simon

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Randy Conley   |   09 September 2015   |   Reply

Excellent thoughts Susan! As a fellow cyclist I can relate to having times of doubt and second guessing myself. One thing that keeps me going is reminding myself that I’ve accomplished similar (and even harder) things in the past, and that I’ll look back on this experience with pride knowing that I persevered.

Take care,

Randy

Susan Mazza   |   09 September 2015   |   Reply

Great points Randy! Imagining how finishing will feel is something that always helps me persevere, too.

Stephen Akinsanya   |   09 September 2015   |   Reply

Inspiring Susan giving in or not to the little voice most times is the difference between failure and success in almost every area of human endeavour,besides focusing on the benefits of our endeavour, we can draw encouragment from others by sharing our doubts, sometimes we may get suggestions of even easier ways of accomplishing the objective.
Thanks for a most brilliant contribution and comforting to know that doubts affect the best of us.
Kind regards,
Stephen.

Susan Mazza   |   09 September 2015   |   Reply

Thanks for your kind words Stephen and a great suggestion! When I was riding that second year it probably would have helped to talk about my doubts with fellow riders rather than be embarrassed I was having them and feeling like I had to tough it out on my own.

Stephen Akinsanya   |   09 September 2015   |   Reply

Inspiring Susan giving in or not to the little voices most times is the difference between failure and success in almost every area of human endeavour,besides focusing on the benefits of our endeavour, we can draw encouragment from others by sharing our doubts, sometimes we may get suggestions of even easier ways of accomplishing the objective.
Thanks for a most brilliant contribution and comforting to know that doubts affect the best of us.
Kind regards,
Stephen.

Francie Stirling   |   09 September 2015   |   Reply

Thanks Susan! This is just what I needed to read today. Picturing that little ticker tape with the doubting voice flying off edge of screen is a good visual.

Susan Mazza   |   11 September 2015   |   Reply

Glad it made a difference for you Francie!

Gary Gruber   |   12 September 2015   |   Reply

How we face and overcome obstacles or resistance in order to press on regardless requires us to draw on internal resources which hopefully we have put on deposit earlier. One strategy is to build up a reserve of confidence and courage when it’s not necessarily needed, know what that feels like and where it comes from so you can go back there when you need to do that. That is knowing yourself, a deep level of self-awareness that even when the going gets tough, we have the strength, the resolve and the will to carry on.

Susan Mazza   |   13 September 2015   |   Reply

Building that “bank account” to source your stamina in the face of resistance is a great way to look at the value of building self awareness and confidence over time. Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation Gary!