Just following graduation of last year I found myself in the midst of an organization nightmare. Like every other summer I’d returned home and with me hauled every piece of clothing item to my name, an inordinate amount of books that typically scatter themselves around my dorm room, and at least four pairs of sneakers that probably shouldn’t see another mile but still make their trek with me every year back and forth because I clearly have a problem with hoarding.
Per usual I spent the first day or so of being home organizing, decluttering, and repacking my things, putting the winter clothes and my kitchen utensils in the garage, attempting to part with old running shoes, getting rid of the valentines day cards from an ex’s over 10 years ago, the usual.
It was then while adding to the contents of one my storage boxes I found all my journals and diaries. I spent the next hour criss-cross-applesauce on the floor thumbing through the days, months, and years, grimacing at the fact my handwriting hasn’t improved since third grade and smiling that over the years I’ve managed to reach (most) of my goals, at least in relation to running, if not exceeding some.
I suddenly started wondering why I’d stopped writing down my thoughts, dreams, and ambitions? If I had time to fit in meditation every day, surely I had time in my day to jot down my day, my thoughts toward a goal, and whatever else came to me.
After moving the next week to Boston I started my journal. While it might not be the juiciest journal ever written it holds more value than I’d ever thought it would. In it, I tracked my mental frustrations with my booted leg, the journey back to fitness, and the realization that more than anything in this world, I do in fact want to continue running after college, something I’d never been fully confident to confide in anyone. Realizing this fact, I started to think about the logistics of the matter, namely whether or not this reality was actually attainable.
The next logical thing to me was to write down my goals for the coming year. As I put pen to paper I thought back on my former journals and the goals I’d written in them.
7th grade Michelle’s goals:
Win a Palm Beach County Championship I’ve won 4 (more if you count relays)
Break the school record in the 400 I broke the record that year
Run in College look at my now
While setting goals is great, I needed to get out of the habit of making comfortable goals. It was at this point the light bulb went off in my head and everything became clear: I needed to change my perception of my abilities as an athlete and what was actually within my reach. As Dumbledore would say “it is not our abilities that define us, but our actions.” Regardless of how much talent or abilities I possess, if I don’t have the guts to perceive and act on them, then they’re wasted.
As I journaled throughout my cross country season I slowly began to realize the true power of perception as an athlete. I started finding my mind wandering on long runs and thinking to myself that 10 miles really isn’t that far or 17:30 for a 5k really isn’t that fast or that far out of reach. I’d started to journal down my expectations for a meet the night before, essentially giving my brain a pep talk and at night drift off thinking about the race, every step, turn, and hill. Through journaling, I found a way to channel positive self-talk, a new way to push the boundary and run better than I had before.
In How Bad Do You Want it? Matt Fitzgerald sums up the phenomenon I’d been encountering through my journaling. If you haven’t read this book, I’d recommend grabbing a copy and bunkering down with it because it stories accounts of mental toughness from some of the greatest runners in the world providing every reader with a healthy dose of motivation. Fitzgerald explains how perception is the dividing line between success and failure. It’s the perception of pain, of how hard it is to reach that time or jump that mark, how bad you want it vs the girl in the secound place. It’s a game of mind over matter, what separates the excellent from the average.
As anyone will tell you while it’s simple in theory, being optimistic and altering the way we view things isn’t all that easy. For years I’ve listened half-heartedly to my coach drone on about positive self-talk, but never really knew how I was supposed to change my mindset. Journaling has helped me develop and gain confidence through writing out my beliefs and having something tangible stating that whatever it is is possible. It’s helped me find a change in perception.
Rather than approach this last go around with nervousness and fear, I’m clawing at the line, ready to try and turn my new perceptions into realities.
With the new year setting in and track season here I challenge you to take action in changing your own perceptions, push the boundary of what you think is possible, and leave it all out there.