Yes, we have obstacles “out there” to conquer.
We have goals to achieve, we have habits to change, we have body transformations to make.
There is no lack of mountains “out there” to climb.
The thing is…most of what we’re talking about when we talk about overcoming obstacles or climbing mountains doesn’t actually have to do with anything “out there.”
Most of what we need to overcome when we’re moving toward our goals is within us.
It’s the lack of belief in what we can do that we need to overcome.
It’s the lack of faith in what we can tolerate.
It’s the lack of understanding of how our minds and behaviors work.
Don’t get me wrong: if we’re going to conquer external obstacles, there’s plenty external work to do. I learned this while preparing to run marathons.
(I’m still learning this, even as I prepare to run my fourth marathon in April.)
Yes, there is conditioning to be done. There is stretching and strengthening to be done. There are things you need to physically do to prepare your body to run 26.2 miles at once.
But the more important— and by far the harder— work in preparing to run a marathon, just like the harder work in conquering any external obstacle, has to do with conditioning the mind.
It’s in getting yourself to belief you’re even capable of doing it.
It’s in envisioning what you’re going to do if and when the task gets unplesant.
It’s in talking back to your internal dialogue that tells you you can’t possibly do it— that internal dialogue that encourages you to look for reasons to quit instead of reasons to keep going.
We can get ourselves ready to conquer external obstacles all day long…but all that work will be for naught if we don’t take seriously the work of overcoming the obstacles that exist in our minds and hearts.
The thing is, most of us, in trying to overcome the external obstacles we’ve decided we want to conquer, get the equation backwards. We think that most of our preparation and conditioning needs to focus on the external, physical aspects of the challenge.
We worry about what gear to purchase.
We worry about what to wear.
We worry about what to eat and what supplements to take.
All of which are important, don’t get me wrong. You don’t want to be in the position of trying to overcome a serious physical obstacle while not having paid attention to the physical realities that go along with that task.
But, again: all of those external, physical preparations are going to be for naught if we haven’t warmed up to the internal, psychological, emotional mountains that we have to climb.
A big mistake many people make is assuming that if we prepare enough on the outside, somehow our internal landscape will shift such that we won’t have to worry about it.
Again, using the example of marathon training: I know runners who put all sorts of faith in their training routine, figuring that even if they’re getting mentally psyched out by the race, if they’ve physically prepared to run 26.2 miles, their fitness and conditioning will carry them through.
I’m here to tell you: your physical fitness and conditioning doesn’t mean anything if your mind doesn’t buy in.
Your mind has the potential to negate almost every physical advantage you have.
Your mind can make you feel tired when your muscles aren’t objectively all that fatigued.
Your mind can invent sources of pain when there isn’t any physical dysfunction to be found.
Your mind can convince you you’re literally about to die when there is no proximal threat to your life.
Don’t get me wrong: absolutely prepare on the outside for the physical challenges you face. Prepare your body. Prepare your surroundings. Buy the gear you need. Follow the diet you need. Take the supplements that will be helpful.
But don’t buy into the fallacy that any of it will overcome a mind full of unbelief.
The old phrase, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” has always had it backwards.
The truth is you’ll see it if and when you believe it…and not before.
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