If Your Mind Senses Struggle It Stops

[3-Minute Read + Activities] Healthy self-esteem is the secret to removing the struggle from any challenge, large or small. The four points of the Go-Getter’s Compass are the shortcut to healthy self-esteem.

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Challenge Is Inevitable; Struggling Is A Choice.

Healthy self-esteem is the secret to removing the struggle from any challenge, large or small.

PHOTO: Running out of town at dawn on a day that would reach above 45 degree Celsius.

Making it look easy

“You’re doing it easy!” An enthusiastic pacer shouted back to me.

The temperature for the day had burst through 40 degrees Celsius by 10 am. I was running along a back road in rural NSW, 500kms into my first proper-long ultramarathon.

The night before, a physio diagnosed the pain at the base of my shin as a stress fracture. I rose that morning knowing my whole shin would fracture if I kicked a road reflector or tripped on a loose edge. Every step hurt, and I had to get my head around having 360km more to run.

A pacer is someone who runs along with you. In road marathons, they set the pace for your target time, but they tend to be there as a safety measure in ultra. They check your cognition, ensure you’re eating and drinking, and keep the good vibes flowing.

My pacer’s comment about doing it easy landed like a bomb, and I exploded in a tirade of expletives, tears and snot. He ran ahead, picking up on the cue that maybe I needed some space. Later, when the dust had settled, he clarified his comment.

“I meant to say you make it look easy.”

“Oh,” I said, “Thanks.”

Many people have said that to me during the years, and I now receive the compliment with grace.

I understand that people look at me when I’m “in the zone” and think it comes without effort. What they don’t see is the mountain of mental work I’ve done to arrive in that place. Most of that work has targeted the peaks and troughs of my self-esteem.

Healthy self-esteem removes the struggle

Self-esteem is another term for a healthy ego. It means I have the confidence to back myself without question. When I know and trust myself, I relax in the face of a challenge. That relaxed state enables my best performance.

The human brain, like most animals, is attuned to moving away from pain and toward pleasure. Pleasure (or joyful experiences) triggers the release of a set of neurotransmitters that help the brain operate at its fullest. From an evolutionary perspective, maximising the use of our brains allows us to stay atop the food chain.

When the mind senses struggle, it releases another set of chemicals that push you into the primal part of your brain. In there, your capabilities are strictly limited to survival responses such as fight, flight, and freeze. You have fewer choices, are less adaptable, and increase the likelihood of failure.

When I started running further in ultramarathons, I hit a stage where I failed several races. I had bagged a few 100km races already, and then I started trying to run faster and be more competitive. The desire to prove myself worthy of the title of ultra-runner motivated my thinking. The harder I tried, the more I failed. Something had to give.

A ton of inner work uncovered that while I had achieved more than most humans, I still didn’t believe in myself. It took years to gain healthy self-esteem, and I share that journey in The Route to Unstoppable.

PHOTO: On the first day of my 860km run I had to cover 93km in 46-degree heat. That day was a major turning point in understanding what made me tick.

Four paths to healthy self-esteem

Here’s the cheat sheet version of how I transitioned into that place of making things look easy. I’ve learned to:

1 – Know Me

My self-esteem and my power to achieve come from within me. I’ve learned how to listen to the messages of my unconscious mind and pay attention to what truly lights me up.

2 – Trust Me

My unconscious mind is always working toward the best outcomes for me. I’ve learned to listen to that inner voice, trust its wisdom and follow the path it lays down for me.

3 – Act with Integrity

I’ve learned to be emotionally honest, stand firm and back myself to do what my gut instinct tells me is correct. I’ve had to put down all the defence shields and be transparent about who I am and my purpose in life.

4 – Follow the Joy

Set my goals, and direct my life based on what generates joy. That has required me to step away from well-trodden paths and social norms.

Those four game-changers are now the points of the Go-Getter’s Compass. I use them to navigate my way through life. If the feeling of struggle returns, I take time out and reflect on which of the four points needs developing. There is always one that, with a small amount of work, will get me performing at my best again.

Activities to explore your self-esteem

Use the following journaling activities from The Route to Unstoppable to explore the source of your self-esteem.

6 – Why does self-doubt keep biting?

Twenty years into my career, self-doubt was still working hard to destroy my highest achievements. That day at the lectern I drew the battle line and learned how to wipe out self-doubt.

8 – Feel the adrenaline

Every person who has been through this program arrives at a day where their motivation dives. In those moments it’s likely that you’re confronting an unconscious fear.

19 – Listen to your intuition

‘Intuition’ is the label we put on the group of signals our unconscious mind sends to help guide us in the right direction. One of those signals is ‘joy’ and it defines the pathway to our greatness.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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