I have to share a painful/slightly hilarious story with you.
I’m currently training for my first half-marathon. Yesterday, I was a little over 7 miles into my planned 8 mile run, and I was feeling good. Really good, in fact, so I picked up the pace. I crossed 75th Street, the busiest intersection on my route, and the next thing I know, my face was plummeting toward the ground.
- “What’s happening?”
- “I’m falling!”
- “This is bad!”
- “My face is going to hit the pavement.”
- Images of teeth shattering (one of my front teeth is already half fake because of a bike riding/pavement situation as a kid)
- “I’m hurt!”
Those were the thoughts that blinked through my mind in a jumbled instant.
Thankfully, I was able to stop my momentum at the last second, with my face hovering an inch from the ground, teeth intact. Stunned, I pushed myself up as a red minivan pulled into the nearby parking lot to make sure I was ok (did I mention it was a busy intersection? There were SO MANY cars stopped at the light, witnessing my fall.)
I was also able to stop my mind. Paying attention to the present moment I began to look around and breathe through my emotions.
Then another thought entered my mind: “You fell. You can’t run anymore.”
Fortunately, I was able to set that thought aside before it could take hold. I quickly assessed the damage, realized I was shaken but not seriously injured, got up, and finished my run. I even beat my goal time.
I was on a path I’d traversed 100 times. I didn’t feel myself trip or stumble. I didn’t see it coming. Yet, I fell. Hard. And it sucked. Yet I called in some positive emotions.
And I got back up and persevered.
As I finished my run then bandaged myself up at home, I reflected on what happened, and this is where the feelings of gratitude came in.
Gratitude is more than a throwaway emotion. It’s a verb. An active, not a passive thing. Truly being grateful, meaning that we are actively feeling and showing that gratitude, is really more of an action taking place.
I was feeling grateful to my past self for all the hard work she’s done to build psychological strength. That work was the reason I was able to get up and move forward so quickly. I had my eye on the goal and a clear sense of who I am.
- I’m the kind of person who can handle painful things.
- I’m the kind of person who doesn’t let my mind take me off course.
- I’m the kind of person who isn’t afraid of failure.
I can handle painful things.
I don’t like pain. I mean, who does? Yet, aspects of psychological strength help me move through painful experiences without getting crushed.
Yesterday, it was my mindfulness and acceptance skills that allowed me to notice and assess the painful sensations throughout my body without my mind turning up the pain volume. I didn’t realize when I started cultivating these particular skills just how crucial and widely applicable they’d be.
I don’t let my mind take me off course.
Minds are masterful excuse generators. They are SO GOOD at making up reasons and giving us justifications for not doing hard or uncomfortable things. Part of the psych strength work I’ve been focusing on lately is noticing when my mind is giving me those excuses, even the really plausible, completely rational sounding ones like “You just fell. You can’t run anymore.”
The reality is, I was stunned, slightly embarrassed, and in pain, but I wasn’t really injured. I saw the Excuse Generator for what it was and quelled it before it even had a chance to really get going.
I am not afraid of failure.
This one hasn’t always been true me. As a (mostly) recovered perfectionist, I’ve had to do a lot of work to redefine my relationship with failure so that it doesn’t hold me back, and it’s an ongoing process. Even after all the work I’ve done, deep down I still don’t like being wrong, making mistakes, or failing. It’s disappointing, and it hurts, especially when you’re feeling really confident and don’t see it coming.
That said, I am getting much better at picking myself up, dusting myself off, and persevering despite bruises (to my body or my ego). I’m steadily working on becoming the kind of person who Is not afraid to falter, who can own mistakes without internal angst, and who can even find the humor in my biggest fails.
I am grateful.
So here I am, a 40 year old woman with a bandaged up skinned knee and a deep sense of gratitude. I am grateful for the work I’ve done to build my psychological strength, for the community who supports my journey, and for the opportunity to help others.
I practice what we teach at Peak Mind every day, and it’s had a real impact on my life experience. I want the same for you.
You, too, can have a strong sense of who you are and be the kind of person you want to be. You, too, can pick yourself up and move forward through painful times. You can build skills like mindfulness and acceptance, and you can learn to find the bright spots even in the darkest moments.
You won’t regret the effort you put into building psychological strength. I know I haven’t.