“Flip the switch”, “Two sides to every coin”, “Flip it on its head”. These are just a few of many phrases that people latch onto that essentially mean the same thing: THINK DIFFERENTLY! Cognitive restructuring (i.e., changing how we think) is a technique commonly used in psychotherapy and something I’ve done time and time again with my clients. However, David Goggins (click here for his bio and I promise, if you don’t know him, you’ll be impressed) hammers this point home better than I’ve ever heard in Rich Roll’s Podcast just one week ago.
When we push ourselves to the limit, we get closer and closer to who we really are. Our defenses are stripped away and we no longer have the capacity to keep them in place. This is a scary, intimidating experience because we’re not used to it. It’s why we struggle to take steps towards our goals. It’s why we stop when we haven’t finished. It’s why we quit. Goggins believes that when we think we’re done, we’re only at 40% of our potential. Our fear of failure, embarrassment, or whatever the fears may be cause us to fall off of our path towards our goal; towards greatness. It takes a ton of self-discovery to figure out what these insecurities are at their core but we get much closer to them when we’re outside of our comfort zone. We just have to be willing to be uncomfortable in order to reach our true potential.
Cue in-vivo experiment during a cycling workout on my trainer in my beautiful (and cold) garage. Here’s a picture of the bike, trainer, and garage where this type of workout goes down:
This morning I did a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test in my garage on my cycling trainer. Basically, this involved a long warm-up, few gradual builds in effort/power output, and finally 20 minutes of sustainable maximum effort. At around 5 minutes of the max effort, I thought to myself: “This already sucks! How am I going to make it?”. At around 10 minutes I considered giving up completely and was making excuses like “I don’t really need to be pushing myself this hard. The race isn’t for another 6 months” and “What if I can’t make it?”. At this point, I was well aware of these toxic thoughts and knew that if I continued to think that way I would quit. Fortunately, I went into this training session with the full intent of leaving my comfort zone. I wanted to welcome these negative thoughts out of fascination. I wanted to be mindful of them so I could “flip the switch”, “look at the opposite side of the coin”, “flip those thoughts on their heads”. At this point, I consciously set a goal to put these negative thoughts aside. My plan was to think, not just positive, but completely opposite to the negative thoughts I had been having for a period of 60 seconds. I thought to myself: “I can make it. I’ve been in pain like this before”; “This pain will make me better”; “It’s gonna feel awesome when I finish this!”; “I want to be great in my training no matter how far out the race is”. As expected, it worked and when I looked to see if my 60 second goal was up, over 90 seconds had passed putting me that much closer to the finish line.
Here I am after crossing the “finish line”. My apologies for the quality! My hands were just a little shaky. At least I had my Duschenne Marker working for me 🙂
Positive thinking to create positive change is real. Research has shown that those who think more positively are more open and receptive to pretty much everything. As a result, their brain structures are constantly evolving and changing because new neural pathways are being developed. This receptivity and these changes allow us to live a more satisfactory life and we tend to perform at a higher level (find out more about positive thinking in an article published by Barbara Fredrickson here). Negative thinking mostly does the opposite. It pigeon hole’s us into a single mindset that results, typically, in a single outcome. Don’t get me wrong, negative thinking isn’t always bad. When my brothers and I were hiking in the Enchantment Lakes climbing up Aasgard Pass, a little bit of worry/negative thinking kept us from falling. That said, negative thinking didn’t keep us going when the going got tough. Mainly, we couldn’t wait to see the glaciers and lakes after summiting. Positive thinking helped to keep us going and intentional positive thinking will help me get to the finish line of Ironman Canada.
Getting good at the “flip the switch” technique takes practice. A lot of practice! So here’s to the next 6 months of pushing myself to uncomfortable limits. It will only be in those painful moments that I will be able to hone my skills to refocus on the positive when negative thoughts creep in and threaten to control my performance!
Until next time…