Mindset Training Week 8: Action
It was a chilly March morning in Los Angeles. Rain misted over me in the darkness as I walked through the parking lot of Dodgers Stadium. Dressed in my normal running gear, I passed other runners covered head to toe in plastic ponchos. I laughed to myself. No, I was not afraid of rain. I’d run in much worse weather in Seattle. I felt courageous and proud. Today was the day I would run my first marathon.
This meant so much more to me than a race: It was a big step to conquer the obstacles of my own mind. At the time I started training, I was six months into sobriety. Without my normal social outlets for comfort, the depression, anxieties, and insecurities came flooding in. I didn’t know how I would get through that time in my life, so I found one thing I could do. I could run.
Running 26.2 miles had seemed impossible at first. In fact, I thought running was self-inflicted torture. I couldn’t even run a few blocks, let alone a marathon. I had been smoking on and off for the past ten years and was grossly out of shape. But I pushed these negative thoughts out of my mind, printed a running schedule, and tucked it in my pocket. Every time I had the urge to smoke or meet my friends at the bar, I pulled out that schedule to remind myself what I really wanted. Rain or no rain, every morning, I’d wake up early, lace up my shoes, and hit the pavement.
Training in the damp, overcast winter of the Pacific Northwest, my fingers would often turn white and numb. The only thing that would bring them back to life was 15 minutes in hot water. Running taught me how to push through pain and discomfort, and reject the negative voices in my head that told me to stop. When I’d look at my running schedule for the day and 10 miles seemed impossible, I would tell myself, “You can run for 10 minutes. You know you can run for 10 minutes.” And after each 10 minutes of running, I’d walk and give myself the same pep talk as I counted down the miles. Running became easier, my breathing became less labored. My body and mind were healing and getting stronger.
Now at Dodgers Stadium, the moment I’d sacrificed all those hours for had come. My running corral was called to the start line. Nervously, I jumped around. You’re ready for this, I told myself. The blare of the horn sounded. A clamor of memories from the last year flashed in my mind. Wedged within the large pack of runners, I felt carried by the collective momentum, as though I had already won: the first ten miles were almost effortless. This was fortunate, because I’d been warned that mile 18 would be the most difficult. They were correct. The last 5 miles were an agony of cramps, and every step was excruciating. I kept running. As I rounded to the straightaway and the brilliant blue ocean came into view, cresting with white peaks, someone on the sidelines saw my bib and shouted “Go Stoker!” It was a message from my higher self, through the voice of a stranger.
The wind kicked up and a chill ran through my body. I kept running. I called to mind a half marathon I’d just run in Washington three months earlier, 13.1 miles in frigid, pelting rain. I’d been close to hypothermia near the end. Even in the pain of right now there was something to be grateful for: I only had a few more miles to go, and the Santa Monica sun was warming my skin. I kept running.
Every footstep on the last quarter mile was a direct hit on all the negative voices in my own head. I felt myself swelling, my power radiating from every limb. The pain was beyond pain, and had reformed itself into my body as fuel. It propelled me.
I crossed the finish line, almost four hours exactly to the minute. Someone laid a medal around my neck. It pressed against my heart, still beating the rhythm of my feet. The me who had once puddled on a hotel room floor in self-loathing had never imagined she would be capable of anything like this. My entire body was trembling, drained of all energy, soaked with sweat. My spirit was powerful, proud, and free.
GET INTO THE RACE
Your life is a series of marathons. Conscious existence is an endurance event that takes mental and physical preparation for facing fear, pain, joy and excitement. Living your life instead of watching by the sidelines takes courage; there are so many things that are out of your control. All you need to do is turn on the news and you’ll be bombarded with world events that seem impossible to change. If you focus on the things you wish were different, you detour onto the rocky mental road of fear, denial, anger or selfishness. But when you accept the current situation, set your intention toward your highest self, and find gratitude, you get back in the race.
My choice to run a marathon did not change the world. What it did was set in motion a mindset of determination and limitless possibilities. It changed I can’t into I can.
Start with what seems feasible now. It will grow to greater things, I promise you that. One step becomes two, and the next thing you know, you’ve run your first marathon.
MIND TRAINING STEP FOUR: TAKE ACTION
The fourth step in training the mind is taking action. Sometimes this will be simply asking yourself “What can I do right now?” Other times, you will need more detailed action steps. Use these steps below and the action planning worksheet from chapter 8 of your TMHH Workbook to build toward a larger long-term goal.
Your goals are the hopes and dreams for your future, your imagined self. So how do you stop procrastinating and make your dreams a reality? Break the seemingly impossible goal into smaller, reachable goals. Choose something you can accomplish within the next six months: something that is measurable, specific, and realistic. What is it you’ve always wanted to do, but seems too big? Can you walk it backward to a goal that feels realistic now? If you want to lose 50 pounds, the mind may tell you it’s too difficult. Can you lose 10 pounds? That may seem more reasonable. Then make it even more specific. Can you lose two pounds a week for five weeks? That’s more like it. Write it down. The mind will say, “Yes! I can do this!”
WHY DO I WANT TO ACCOMPLISH THIS GOAL?
What reason will keep you going when you feel uninspired? You completed this exercise in Chapter 2. Is there a different “why” for this goal? Your why needs to speak to this purpose specifically. If your mind doesn’t believe your why or if it’s not strong enough, it will not motivate you when things get tough.
WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK AND FEEL LIKE?
Imagine yourself completing your goal. Visualize it. What happens at the end that manifests success? If your goal is a marathon, imagine the last mile, crossing the finish line, and the medal around your neck. What do you notice? Who’s there to congratulate you? List all the details. What does this feel like? Awaken that feeling within you now and every day until that finish line is crossed.
WHAT CHARACTER QUALITIES WILL SUCCESS REQUIRE?
Keep your imagined self in mind, the one who has completed the goal. What qualities have they developed over the course of their pursuit? List these qualities and use them as daily intentions. Recognition qualities are listed in chapter 7 of your TMHH Workbook.
WHAT BOUNDARIES AND RULES WILL I FOLLOW AND ENFORCE?
To accomplish a goal, rules need to be in place for successful execution. You’ll need to postpone the immediate gratification of activities like going out with friends and watching TV after work. Your goal will require time, and finding time in your schedule means creating a schedule, then making rules for how you’re going to stick to it. If your goal is to get up early and get to the gym every day, think of your higher-minded drill sergeant who wants to get fit telling the TV-watching potato-chip-eating lower mind that it’s time for bed.
WHAT WILL I SAY YES TO?
If your goal is to present a TED Talk, start saying yes to every opportunity to speak in public. If it’s to meet a new partner, start saying yes to more social engagements. By saying yes, you’re confronting the fears that prevent you from conquering your life ambitions.
WHAT WILL I SAY NO TO?
When a friend or colleague asks you to do something, is your automatic response yes? Reflect on the last three months, do you feel you say yes to too many things? If it’s difficult to say no, rehearse it. Have a standard answer prepared like, “I don’t have the bandwidth for anything extra right now.” Then stop talking. Don’t apologize or give unnecessary reasons. Just say no. With too much on your plate, nothing will be done with the excellence that you’re capable of. Your goal will fall by the wayside, replaced with the goals and objectives of others.
HOW WILL I PREPARE? WHAT WILL I NEED TO LEARN, RESEARCH, AND GROW?
All goals require some preparatory work. Remember, growth is the goal above the goal. If you want to shift to a healthier nutrition plan, research which one is best for you, consult a nutritionist, choose what foods you’ll need to eliminate and what you’ll eat instead. Find proven reasons to stick with it, like looking up what the foods you’re currently eating do to your body. This reinforcement motivates you to say no when you’re offered a doughnut.
WHAT ARE MY ACTION STEPS FOR GOAL COMPLETION?
Break your goal down into smaller, doable tasks, mapping out as many specific details as possible. If your goal is to create one new video for your website each week for 12 weeks, what days of the week are you filming, editing, posting, and responding to your followers? Use a components sheet from Chapter 1 of your TMHH Workbook to chart daily, weekly, and monthly action steps. Set this chart near your meditation cushion to remind you of your tasks and mark off for task completion.
*Additional components worksheets are available at trainthemindhealtheheart.com
WHAT WILL I DO IF I GET OFF TRACK?
Plan for what to do if something goes wrong. How will you pivot if necessary? Don’t worry, your time is never wasted and you did not fail! Get back up every single time. If your goal is to quit drinking and you cave to a beer after 10 days without one, forgive yourself and get back on track as soon as possible. What did you learn and why did you give in to the craving? Wear a bracelet that will remind you of your commitment to yourself. Avoid places that create a strong urge for you. Look back at Chapter 2 for a refresher on overcoming cravings. Don’t forget your meditation practice. A teacher once told me, “The answer is always to meditate more.” Meditation will align the part of you that wants to be healthier and give you the grace needed to overcome the strongest of habits.
WHEN WILL I SCHEDULE MY DAILY ACTION STEPS?
Prioritize yourself and your goal by marking out a specific time for daily action steps in your schedule. Use a values components schedule from chapter 1 of your TMHH Workbook to create a visual reminder of daily priorities. The time devoted to your goal is nonnegotiable. Unless it’s an emergency, everything that comes up during this time, you say no to.
WHEN WILL I COMPLETE THIS GOAL?
Make a fair estimate of how long your goal will take you to accomplish. Don’t skip this step. Not deciding a completion date sets you up for procrastination. However, this date is not set in stone. Allow for flexibility if legitimate unexpected events occur.
Once you know how long it will take you to accomplish your goal, choose a start date that gives you plenty of time to prepare prior to execution. Set yourself up for success.
WHAT CAN I DO TODAY?
Things don’t always go as planned. When this happens, asking yourself “What can I do today?” will continue moving you forward while you adjust your current plan. There is always something you can do.
Presence is the key to growth. Use each day as an opportunity to move the needle. As I said to myself during each step of the 26.2 miles, “right foot, left foot, inhale, exhale.” Keep going until you reach the finish line no matter how long it takes. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will get there. When you do reach your goal, all the effort, sacrifice, and discomfort will be worth the reward of accomplishment. The level of pride you will feel will only be matched by the next goal you crush.
Meditation, focusing on the gaze, breath, and senses, trains the mind to be present in the moment. It sounds counter intuitive but focusing on the “right now” is the only way to accomplish a long-term goal. When beginning marathon training, the finish line might as well be in Siberia, it feels so far away. To make progress toward your goal, focus only on this step, this breath, and what’s happening now. When you find thoughts of impossibility creeping in, come back to your breath and focus, just as you do in your meditation. Then, continue with unrelenting determination, one step and one breath at a time.
ON-CUSHION: EIGHT-MINUTE EMOM MEDITATION
Start each morning and end each day with an empowering intention that encapsulates the feeling of completing your goal. Speak to yourself as if you already have that quality, because you do! It is within you. Say to yourself: I am strong. I am powerful! I am successful!
This week, you will increase your meditation to eight minutes, alternating minutes between conscious breathing and the breathless state. Awaken within you the qualities necessary to reach your potential by speaking these words to your heart as if you already embody them.
- Read your statement of purpose.
- AM: Read value and goal components. PM: Check off value and goal components.
- Program your timer for eight minutes with interval bells to sound every minute.
- Sit up tall with your spine aligned in a neutral position.
- Inhale fully through the nose then exhale, Haaaaa, through the mouth.
- Start your timer.
- With eyes closed and without strain, concentrate the gaze on the center of the forehead.
- Inhale through the nose for 3 counts, Om 1, Om 2, Om 3, pause.
- At the top of the in breath say silently to yourself, “Heart.”
- Exhale through the nose for 3 counts, Om 1, Om 2, Om 3, pause.
- At the bottom of the out breath say silently to yourself, “Mind.”
- Hold the breath for two 20 second intervals.
- Listen for the heart beating in the chest.
- Silently repeat “Love.”
Continue until the timer goes off. Notice the feeling of peace after meditation practice. This is Love awakening from within. Affirm I am worthy of love.
OFF-CUSHION: GOAL REINFORCEMENT
With your goal in mind, write down tasks you plan to complete for the day and encouraging words. Place your notes where you’ll see them often. Repeat qualities to yourself that you want to reinforce to ensure success. Notice what you’re doing right and recognize yourself for your accomplishments. This will foster self-reliance. Each success is its own mini finish line. If this feels self-indulgent or guilt-producing, remind yourself that you deserve to be happy. You deserve to succeed! Don’t wait for someone else to recognize you for your efforts. Be your own cheerleader.
Complete introspection questions and Chapter 8 exercise from your TMHH Workbook.