I enjoy running. I know you might think I’m crazy. Or maybe you’re a runner yourself. Its added a lot of value to my life. Training for a race gives me a sense of purpose which is a builder of self-worth and bleeds out into other areas of my life. One time, I was on a break from running and my wife looked at me one day and said “you need to start running again.” I guess I was getting on her nerves!

I’ve run many different races at various distances, from 5k or about three miles and all the way up to a full marathon. Training is one of the most important aspect of success in the race. But as I’ve learned in my years of amateur racing, equally, if not more important, is an area that doesn’t get as much press as the elite shoes, latest gear or even the best training plan.

Your thoughts. 

How you are thinking while you are running. The message you are telling yourself. This can make or break a race. It can be the difference between finishing strong and tapping out. 

In Alex Hutchinson’s book Endure he spends time focusing on the mind/body connection. He says there is an increasing amount of evidence towards a psychobiological model in which non-physical factor affect our performance. These factors include our own self-talk. 

If our self-talk has such a tremendous correlation to physical performance, how can it not have a similar connection or our daily well-being?

What we say to ourselves, how we feel about ourselves, what we think, is so important to our mental wellness. Most of us go through life unaware of the messages we tell ourselves and we wonder why we are struggling. We wonder why we can’t get over the hump with this sadness or just the general malaise. 

Especially when we are feeling alone, our thoughts can get hijacked. We may not even realize that our thoughts are taking us to a place that we don’t want to be. And our thoughts lead to our feelings which lead to our actions. So our thoughts can lead us to become the version of ourselves that we are desperately trying to avoid. Like we talked about in our shame blog last week, we start to believe we are the person that should be alone. Or that no one truly cares about us. Or that we will bother someone if we try and share how we are feeling. So we isolate. And isolation is a Petri dish for negative thoughts. 

Thats why scripture tells us to take every thought captive in 2 Corinthians 10. God created us. He knows how our minds and bodies and souls work. He knows that our thoughts are so powerful. So he tells us through the words of Paul to examine ourselves. Become aware of how and what you are thinking. Our thought life is incredibly important. 

So you may say, “Ross that’s all great, but what can I actually do to change my thoughts?”

Well I’m glad you asked. 

The first thing I would tell you to do is cultivate awareness. Awareness starts retroactively. We start by reflecting back on the encounters and experiences of our day. How did it feel when you talked with your boss today? What were you thinking and feeling when you got upset at your kids today?Where did the joy come from on your drive home?

Then you can move to situational awareness. You can begin to ask yourself in the moment, why am I getting frustrated at my partner? What in me is rising up when my friend is pushing on that emotional spot? Why does that song trigger an emotional response? One of my favorite quotes is from Viktor Frankl. He says, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” We have the opportunity to create that space with situational awareness.

The next step is proactive awareness. In times of reflection prior to your day or upcoming events, you can begin to reflect on how you think you would respond. What will I feel if this happens? What will I think if my dad brings this up? How will I respond in a healthy way when I encounter that coworker? You can prepare for the encounters you will face. 

These are just a few ways to cultivate awareness in your life. We will always be caught off guard, but walking through these steps will help protect your thoughts. You will be able to take control of the way your brain responds instead of being at the mercy of your own and others’ reactions. 

This is hard work! And its okay for this to be a challenge in your life. Welcome to being human! But I believe this is an area that can have massive impact in your life. Growing in self-awareness is an upstream process that I would encourage you to give yourself to!

I believe in you!