Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

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Mindset: It's Your House

April 12, 2018

By Nick Whitbread

Our mindset much like the food we put in our mouths is one of the only things we have complete control over. We cannot completely control what happens to us. We can only control our mindset and our response.

Our mindset can be determined by a number of factors depending on our level of awareness in the moment. The inner workings of the mind are obviously a complicated subject to explore. Today we would like only to discuss what we will call "Story". The story can be categorized as a narrative that we use to justify a feeling, an expectation or an outcome. 

When I'm (Nick) running a long race and things start to get difficult or start to look grim (as they usually do...several times during a race) I do something I loathe to do. In the moment when I feel the most defeated and don't know how I will make it to the next aid station, let alone the finish, I default and begin to craft a story. The story I create is of Me failing and why. I create a story in which it is ok for me to quit. I start work shopping the most effective way to tell someone why My race went wrong (usually it's not My fault 🙂 ), why I didn't finish, how it was really tough and that I couldn't possibly have gone on. All of this while I'm still racing.

This "Story" that I'm creating is a defence mechanism against the "feeling" of failure. The "Story" is a mindset that I can allow myself to devolve into. I am preparing myself to fail. I momentarily lose myself in this story because it is easier than facing the present situation. I'm in a long race, I don't feel good, in fact I feel the worst I ever have in My life, it's hard, there's a long way to go and I don't know if I can make it. The story might be that I had been running for 20 hours, I was suffering from altitude sickness, I couldn't eat or drink anything, I felt like a zombie, it was the middle of the night, it was cold and raining. That sounds like a legitimate situation to quit but it's more aptly just a description of ultra running and by no means a legitimate reason in My mind to quit. That though is the power of story.

Story has a very cyclic nature. The more emotion you feed into the story the more it perpetuates itself. Anger is one of the greatest example of this. Someone in Your mind does you wrong. you create a story, usually where you are the victim. You get angry, you experience it either internally or externally. This might be a moment or an extended period of time. You then you have the opportunity to let it go. If you think about the story of why you got angry in the first place the cycle viciously repeats. I think we have all been here at one time or another. 

Some people might offer the advice that I could use "Story" in a positive way in My predicament. Tell Myself that I'm tough and that I've done this before and that I'm going to make it. You could argue that it's a better choice than My usual option but it's still a "Story". It's no more real than the quitting story. It is just that, a story. It's just a different story that I am using to escape the present. In my experience if you use a positive story to prop yourself up and then you can't live up to it's expectations, that story it can be quite devastating. 

Some people refer to both these examples as both negative and positive self talk. I think that there can be merits to both in very particular situations, ultimately what I believe is the strongest path forward is awareness. Awareness can be defined as being present. When you are present there are no stories and no need for them. Nothing is happening to you, it's just happening. When I realize that I am spiralling into one of these "its ok to quit" stories I have a mantra that I use to bring me back to the present. "Don't try and tell an unwritten story". It's very simple, it requires no further thought and it makes sense to me. I'm still running or moving, the outcome is unwritten. I just have to keep moving forward. I can (usually) do that. This mantra brings me back to the present and has been very effective in controlling My mindset and evading the trap that is story.

Now imagine your mindset is like Your house and the people inside Your thoughts and stories. Hopefully it's a place where you feel calm, safe and relaxed at least most of the time. Your house is a place where you decide who comes inside and who does not. People don't just walk into your house, you invite them in and at the same time if they are being rude, hurtful or unproductive, you ask them to leave. Sometimes You even have to kick Yourself to the curb. 

We hope you found that helpful, if you did maybe share it with someone who you might think so too. If you need to clean house mediation can be useful. I use an app called Headspace which can be found below. It's free to try 

https://www.headspace.com