Monday, November 12, 2012

Power of Negative Thinking

I posted this article on my Facebook a while ago.  I consider myself to be a pretty strong realist.  I see things as they are.  I view optimists as strong willed people, as long as the odds are in their favor.  However, once the odds are no longer in their favor, they can fall apart.  Pessimists are more annoying because they never give themselves a true chance at success.  Sure, they appear to never be let down by lack of success, because they never expected it in the first place, but in reality, they constantly let themselves down.  If the odds are 99.99% in their favor, they will find the .01% reason why they should (and will) fail.

The article states research that says that people who viewed their success as already being accomplished can have that view backfire.  When they fantasized about achieving their goals, they became less energized because part of them felt the task was already accomplished.  This past spring, I became really focused on running under 14 minutes in the 5000m at the Music City Distance Carnival.  My "peak race" was the US Half-Marathon Championships but I really didn't have a time in mind for that race.  I just wanted to race hard and compete well because I was racing people, not the stopwatch.  However, running under 14 minutes seemed to take a lot of my focus because it had a tangible number to it and was against something real, predictable and controlled.  Not to mention, running under 14 minutes was my main goal in college, before I had struggled with mono and low iron.

Based off workouts, I felt that running under 14 minutes this past spring was my destiny.  I constantly visualized how the race would unfold...I would go out between 4:25-4:30 for the first 1600m, come through 3200m trailing the leaders in around 8:55, make a move with 1000m to go, before falling apart on the final lap, but finishing just under 14 minutes.  I knew it would happen and felt that it was just a matter of running the race.  Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned for myself, which threw me totally off my game and once I saw my "reality" slipping through my fingers, I fell apart mentally and ran 14:13 (and the leaders came through exactly as I envisioned, except I wasn't there). So much for optimism.

I don't know why I got so focused on that race and so obsessed with a time. In college, I followed that mindset and it led me to some great and also some terrible races.  Since my return to racing, I've taken a much more carefree attitude to training and racing and it's resulted in a lot of success.  I train in the moment, but with a long term approach.

When visualizing future races and performances, you need to visualize all the possible scenerios.  I believe (and the article states) that it's also important to envision things going poorly and working through them.  Heck, I feel it's even more important to view the bad things over the good because when things go well, it's easy to continue to stay motivated because you get the constant positive reinforcement.  But when things go poorly, it's a lot harder to continue to fight. Someone who is mentally tough isn't someone who can push themselves to achieve top-level performances, it's someone who can push themselves hard when things are going from bad to worse.

So many times, I've heard people say "the race was going well and then..."  Well,  the race didn't end when that happened.  In a way that's when the race really began. Before you find yourself in that situation, visualize it and practice it so you can get out of it.

I really don't know where I'm going with this post and have rambled a bunch of random thoughts.  But when you think about your future races or anything else in life, think about things going poorly and working through them so they go from a negative to a positive.  Also think about things going poorly and not getting better, but also continuing to work through them.

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