This picture was taken of me back in the late 90’s as I had just started the bike leg of the US National Pro Championships race in Michigan. My thought as I was slipping my feet into my cycling shoes was, “I’m way behind and alone – this is going to be rough.” I was well behind the leaders in 7th or 8th position and had 25 miles to make up some ground against equally fit women. My headset was not at its best but somehow, as I moved through the bike leg and began to realize that I felt pretty good, I started to pick up both physical and mental momentum. My mindset shifted from “I’m out of the game” to “I’m getting back into the game,” – like a light switch! I came off the bike in 4th place and once my feet landed on the ground and I could feel energy in my stride, my mental state progressed to, “I’m going after this!” I ended up in 2nd place, just shy of 1st because I ran out of road. Second place was a happy place finish for me and I had completely forgotten about my state of desperation coming out of the swim and onto the bike.
Most of us have probably read about or heard somewhere of how being a part of a sport can teach us many life lessons. It’s true. The lesson I learned from my race in Michigan, as well as several others (almost all of them as a matter of fact), was that our mental outlook switch CAN flip. We can be feeling horrible and hopeless in one moment, yet if we are willing and able to be patient and persevere a bit longer, that switch may surprisingly flip. Perhaps, at first, we see a dim light in the distance, which can serve as a bit of hope and provides a spark of energy and strength to carry on. Then, gradually that spark may brighten until there is full on sunshine again. We also have the power to make the choice to flip the switch of our self-dialog or a situation that has put us in a place that doesn’t feel good. It takes great energy and the willingness to put in the effort and practices to make change. Flipping that switch might mean making the choice to substitute a self-sabotaging behavior with one that reflects self-love (repeatedly). It might mean constantly reminding ourselves that we have the power to flip it and not to give up! It may mean going beyond our comfort zone and reaching out for help. Asking for help is not a reflection of vulnerability but rather one of strength. Flipping the switch can also be as simple as being aware of how we present ourselves to others when we walk in a room. For example, changing our posture from being slouched to upright and relaxed as well as modulating our voices from being low and quiet to audible and engaging can make a difference in how we feel!
Pay attention to your inner dialog, your habits, your relationships and how they make YOU feel. If you’re feeling in a rut with any of them, perhaps it’s just a bad day and you just need to see it through – to ride it out. Or, perhaps you need to consider rolling up your sleeves, putting your hands in the dirt that you’ve avoided touching and spend some time working strategies to flip the switch. You may find, over time, that you are able to automatically flip it and shed light on your life more often.