To Have and Have Not…
One of my clients asked me why some people succeed and some fail ... either in sports or in any area of their lives. As a side-note, I'll say that she's a very religious person. She sent me this:
"Does God just decide to favor some and put some through the mill? One particularly disturbing quote from the New Testament is, 'to those who have, more will be given; from those who have not, even the little they think they have will be taken away." I really think there's more to this than I'm letting myself see. Just curious what you think. Of course, someone can really put all the work in the world into a project and have it fail; another can happen upon something and succeed. What is operating? What is the bottom line? How does winning actually take place (not just in sports)?"
I've decided to offer my two cents worth on this subject as I see it pertaining to performance anxiety, something I think all of us suffer from at one time or another. This is an expanded version of the response I sent her. It's my angle on the quote from the Bible.
Let me back up a bit. When I started racing seven years ago, I would go to a race and have such butterflies in my stomach and so much adrenaline pumping through my veins that I'd almost never sleep the night before. Then, when I'd wake up on race day I'd be excited, but nervous. All of the doubts in my brain would come pouring out of me. "Am I trained well enough? What if I crash and burn? I know this is going to hurt." Then I'd show up at the start line and find myself staring blankly at what looked like a crowd of 6' 3" former state cross-country runners. My eyeballs would be level with the waistband on their running shorts. Then the inevitable question would pop up "Why do I do this to myself?" Sound familiar?
This didn't just apply to running races. This theme has woven itself in and out of my personal history for as far back as I can remember. I can think back to having to give an oral book report in the 5th grade and getting such "stage fright" that I was tongue-tied. I remember having a final exam in a sign-language (for the deaf) class in college where we were asked to tell a story with our hands and my fingers wouldn't work! Believe me, I've had my own bouts with performance anxiety.
Then, when I started developing Chi Running, a change began to take place. My focus was on improving my running technique to make it more efficient. I began to discover focuses that worked for me. Then I'd practice those focuses during my training runs how to run uphill how to run downhill when to take in fuel how to relax my arms. The list grew and grew until it seemed that all I did when I went out for a run was think about focuses and try them out. I basically built a huge "toolbox" of focuses, and at this point I have a focus for just about any situation that could possibly come up. This process has allowed me to feel increasingly self-assured that I can handle anything. I also was learning to focus my mind so that I could use it properly in tough situations, instead of letting my attention slip into nervousness and anxiety. Now, I rarely get nervous before races and I don't direct my mental energy towards sizing up the competition. I take it one step at a time and allow the run to unfold while trusting that the appropriate response to any situation will come out of me.
Back to the quote from the Bible:
"...to those who have, more will be given; from those who have not, even the little they think they have will be taken away."
If you come from a place of concern about what other people think, or come from a place of comparison, envy or self-deprecation ... you can end up in the crowd of those who "have not" and from whom "even the little they think they have will be taken away."
I see this go on in myself and in others all the time. Rather than focusing on the positive and the possible, we tend to focus on why weíre not good enough and we miss many opportunities to learn and grow.
By focusing on your technique, as required in Chi Running, you can learn to feel your center working when you run. And, when you learn how to be centered and move from within yourself regardless of the competition, the threats, the fears and all the childhood boogeymen in your brain, you will become one of those who "have". You will have confidence, belief in yourself, a strong center... and to whom "more will be given". Then, it won't matter how fast and far you ran, or whether you won the race. What will matter is that you efforted to respond well and intelligently and with grace to whatever came your way. And, you probably will succeed beyond your expectations.