Doubt. Fear. Anxiety. Pressure. Stress. Deadlines. Anger. Frustration.
Confusion. Control. Have to. Should. Need. Expectation. Discomfort. Pain.
Just reading those words makes my shoulders tighten up, my jaw clench and my brow furrow. Words are powerful. They carry with them the potential to help or to hinder us. To support or to crush us. Words are more than just a mark on a paper, they carry with them a meaning and a connotation that extends far beyond the page and directly into our hearts and minds.
Negative words then, quite literally take the positive energy out of a person, situation or scenario and replace it with with something quite the contrary. Instead of providing support and encouragement, these words invite us to bring in tension, to decrease productivity and creativity, and to operate from a place of discontent.
In stark juxtaposition then to the aforementioned list stand these words:
Believe. Embrace. Calm. Happy. Creative. Understanding. Flow. Clarity. Flexible.
Dynamic. Confident. Brave. Courage. Breathe. Stretch. See. Know. Learn. Grow.
Positive words offer up kindness, generosity and goodwill. They bring out the light in us, the inspiration, the affirmation in ourselves that we seek. In fact, re-read those lists, then notice your body after you read them. What are your facial muscles doing? Your shoulders? What kind of memories or visual associations do you carry with each word? I’d be willing to bet that the first brings up some pretty serious shit for you, while the latter signals your body to relax, to let go, and to well, CTFD; right?
Okay, so. . . what now? What’s the big deal anyway? So sticks and stones will break our bones and words will actually hurt us. Yep. Roger that. And. . .?
Well, consider this first. The person we hear the most each day is ourselves. It’s our own little voice in our own little head providing the days’ newscast. That live, in action, play-by-play commentary comes from us and therefore, the words we choose to use have a rather profound effect on our day-to-day activity, our mood, our energy and in sum, our lives.
Starting to doubt me? Ha! There’s that negative word again, doubt. Tiny word, huge repercussions.
Reflect for a minute on how you have spoken to yourself today. Have you been kind? Have you encouraged yourself? Have you cheered yourself on?
Or, have you put yourself down? Gotten frustrated with yourself, said some not so nice things to your soul? How many things have you said “no” to simply because you told yourself “I can’t?” What limitations have you placed upon yourself and your potential by creating a jaundiced internal dialogue?
Hmmmm. Ready for some authenticity now? When we can recognize what we are doing in our lives that is preventing us from progressing or serving as a barrier to our happiness, we can finally begin to do something about it.
First up, positive self talk. Be your own cheerleader. Tell the negative committee in your head to sit down and shut up. Pessimism, you’re on the bench. Optimism, suit up.
One of the best examples of this for me comes to light during exercise. I know, you are just shocked to hear this news. Can’t hardly believe it. Please do contain your excited surprise at this discovery. But really, as I recently wrote about in CAN’T GET YOU OUT OF MY HEAD, whatever is going on in my “real” life plays out for me on the mat and on the trail (or um. . . asphalt). Fortunately, that works both ways- if I can work it out there, I can work it out anywhere.
Over the weekend I got a chance to a) have my ass handed to me, on a silver platter, b) get out, WAY out, of my comfort zone, and c) practice positive self talk. That’s right, another triple play there. The universe just keeps throwing all these lessons my way. Based on the premise that it only gives you what you can handle, I must say it really must think I’m a badass. How’s that for positive self talk?
Okay, back to the lesson. In October I had the grand and spontaneous idea to sign up for a half marathon (13.1 miles) to do in November. I workout at least once a day, usually twice, and I’m in pretty good shape. However, a half marathon is a slightly different beast than the 3-5 miles I put in five days a week so I planned to actually train for this deal- you know, with all of my spare time. . .
Quit laughing. Seriously. Stop it. You already know that shit didn’t happen.
Spending over two hours a day exercising is not exactly on my list of priorities right now. So… I did my usual yoga and running routine and plus maybe two six miles runs in during a six week span. Then I thought about switching to the 10k. Hell, I thought about switching to the 5k. But I didn’t. I am not a quitter. When I commit, I follow through. When I’m in, I’m all in. . . except for training apparently. Or things that are too hard. Or when I don’t like them. Wait. Hmmm. So okay, well, usually, within reason, sometimes, I totally commit. Damn, that sounded like an excuse right there. . .ROB, again. Sigh.
Well, regardless of my total failure to adequately prepare myself, when race day came I rallied. I dragged my tired ass out of bed at 6am, gulped down the nearest and most readily available form of protein available on the first shelf of my fridge (still have no idea what I ate), chugged some green tea, covered my baggy eyes with a good pair of shades, and hustled down the freeway to the start line. My goal was to finish in under 2 hours.
Yes, that’s right, I wanted to run 13.1 miles in under 2 hours without having trained. I’m an overachiever, remember? Of course that was my goal. Obviously.
Now is where the story of strength, positivity and resilience begins. This is when I was tested; all that crap I said about not knowing how strong you are until you challenge yourself- players, it just got real. No chance to say it and not live it. This was me, called out on the mat, shall we dance, let’s do this, trial initiated, go-time.
Well if there is one thing I know is true about myself, it’s that I love a challenge. Love it. Want to handle it, all day every day. So I did. I actually finished that damn race in 1 hour and 58 minutes; 9 minute mile averages. Not my fastest pace ever, not a personal best, but I did it. I ran the entire race and I met my goal
How? Through positive self talk. Seriously. That’s pretty much it. Other than making sure I met nutritional needs along the way like water and snacks, the one thing that allowed me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, mile after mile, minute after minute, muscle cramp after muscle cramp, was my words.
The human body is amazingly strong. Incredible. The human mind, however, has unlimited capacity and potential for greatness. We can push ourselves way past the limits we perceive ourselves to have, if we choose to; if we tell ourselves we CAN, instead of we can’t. When we choose to stick through the discomfort, to break through the threshold, to hold through the shaking, the outcome is astonishingly beautiful.
This wasn’t easy. It wasn’t like I just said “Okay Michelle, just keep moving. Go you. Yay you.” No. This was very clear, very specific, and very positive talk. It was almost like mini-goal setting during the race actually, and it worked. Even when I wanted to quit at mile eight. Even when my left leg went numb at mile 11. Even when I could feel the blisters on my toes at mile 12. Even when I saw the end of the race a half mile away and I was so tired I briefly considered plopping myself into the nearest jogging stroller and hitching a ride to the balloon arch. Instead of quitting, I kept moving forward; allowing my word to carry my feet across the finish line.
As some specific examples, because I KNOW you like examples, these little pep talks looked something like this:
Mile One- “awesome. 1 down, 12.1 to go. This is going to be great. Can’t wait to see the next mile marker.”
Mile Four- “Wow. About one quarter of the way done. Only 9 miles left. At the six mile mark I’m going to walk through the aide station and give my legs a 10 second break.”
Sidenote- I am big on quantifying things (I know, not surprising at all. Apparently I’m playing the role of Captain Obvious today, my bad)
Mile Seven- “How cool. I haven’t run this far in at least three months. I am so proud of my body. And I am so impressed by all my fellow runners and the amazing volunteers giving their time to keep us safe and on course. At the next mile marker I’m going to thank one of them.”
Mile Nine- “How lucky am I to be able run alongside of all these great people, live this healthy life, appreciate this great community, and do this beautiful run on a sunny Saturday morning? Life is good. At the next mile marker I am totally ditching this shirt. . . ”
Sidenote- I saw a man throwing up on the side of the road about here, and sent him some positive encouragement as I passed him. Guess what? He passed me about a mile down the road. Incredible. The power of positive words at work, again.
Mile Eleven- “So my leg just went numb. That is a sign that I am pushing my body past its limits. SCORE. Now I can grow as an athlete and a person. If I can do this, I can do anything. If I can get through this discomfort, I can get through my other pains. If I can keep moving forward right now, I can keep moving forward through anything. If I can accept this level of intensity, I can manage even more later. Just.keep.moving. At the next mile marker I am going to check my pace.”
Mile thirteen- “Almost there. Finish strong. Head up, speed up, be proud of what you’ve done today. Thank you body for being strong. Thank you God for your grace, thank you Universe for providing, as always.”
Those are just a few examples, but they are all: specific, positive, and put energy and goodness into my body and my spirit. My words lifted me up when by physical reaction wanted to shut me down.
Now as much as I joke, I am not a superhero. I’m in good shape for sure, but people, if I can do that with simply the power of my words, imagine what else is possible. Imagine what real things, what real challenges, what amazing feats can be accomplished with more effort and positive words. I have goosebumps just thinking about it.
Now for you- find some inspiration, give yourself some love, offer some positive self talk and then go about your usual business of being a badass. Game. On
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