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Category: mental toughness

Manage Focus vs Time

We are in an attention economy. Endless things are fighting for your attention. Phones are dinging, inboxes are constantly filling, and there’s a billboard or commercial everywhere you look. There’s even a career called “influencer”, whose main skill is grabbing and holding your attention. That is a tough skill to master and cultivate.

What my head feels like with everything that must be done.

That’s the issue I have with technology. We’re too connected and attached; everybody is available via text message. Overbearing parents track their child’s location in REAL TIME with cell phones in 3rd grade. I know. I just picked up a “smartphone” for my daughter, but I’m trying to make it a dumb phone by removing all apps and social media that might steal her focus. There’s a saying, “May you live in interesting times…” Well, it’s TOO interesting. There’s too much going on, too much news, and too much spam. That’s why this quote got to me: “Don’t manage your time, manage your focus.” That is critical. If you don’t manage your focus, someone or something else will.

If you are not planning your day or structuring it meaningfully, then you will be subject to whatever way the pop-up-driven wind blows. You have to focus on the intention for each day and the following day, week, month, and year. Amazing things happen with intention, not magic. There’s a plan to do something great, write that book, run that race, achieve something great that you sat down and thought about for a minute. Otherwise, text messages and nonsense will fill your time, and then fill your life.

It’s hard to get away from the distraction of all the tech.

That’s part of where racing and running made a difference in my life. If you’re doing it right, your workout will disconnect you from all that. Getting a pop-up while running, biking, or lifting is much harder. The intention to work out removes you from distractions. That’s what I love about it. It’s the intention to travel to the trail, gym, or park, AND be present in that moment. Sit with discomfort and do something HARD that I enjoy as I age. You will say, “Well I just have too many other commitments that get in my way”. Are they, or are you just not managing your focus? That’s what I tell myself: do I not have the time, or do I not have focus? Ask yourself that next time you’re overwhelmed. This quote says it best: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Focus on health if you feel like crap, otherwise, everything else will be difficult. Focus on family. If your closest relationships are toxic, it will cause stress and unhappiness. Finally, focus on work. It will always be there, and we must pay the bills. You will not die with zero, but you could die with a lot of regret for what you didn’t do. I regret focusing on too much stuff that should never have been done in the first place.

Thanks for reading!

Fear or Curiosity

There are two primary ways to handle most of life’s difficult situations: fear of the unknown or curiosity about what lies ahead. Curiosity is the better choice of the two, and there’s a good reason. It embodies a desire to understand how things work. The key is to reframe the internal dialogue when fear raises its voice. It’s okay to feel fear, but it’s important to learn to speak over it and start asking questions. Choosing curiosity as your default response is more beneficial than succumbing to fear, and the choice is yours! You have the power to act and speak to drown out the voice of fear in your mind.

Don’t get furious, get curious.

Asking a silly question or taking a risk has often paid off for me. Reflecting on the major triumphs in my life, each one seemed beyond my grasp until it became reality. It’s remarkable to consider that if you fixate on a goal in your mind and refuse to give up, you can make it your own.

The next time you’re confronted with a fear-filled thought, try asking questions instead. Cultivate curiosity about the situation and explore why you feel afraid. Fear is the default reaction of our minds. Thoughts like “I don’t want to look like a fool,” “I have no idea what I’m doing,” and “This will never work” often race through my head. Fears may hold some truth the first time, but they diminish with experience. Remember, you possess the innate ability to improve your circumstances. Almost everyone experiences imposter syndrome; it’s part of our makeup. The challenge today is that social media often showcases only the highlights of people’s achievements, not their beginnings. But everyone starts somewhere. By asking the right questions, you can embark on a journey that shifts you away from a mindset dominated by fear.

I have a few things that can help you fight your fear with curiosity in your day-to-day life:

Stop comparing. Start somewhere, no matter how small, and make tiny progress. You will achieve anything you keep putting constant effort into EVERY SINGLE DAY, not just once in a while.

Seek out those at the top of their field and ask how they got started. People are doing what you want to do. Read their books, listen to their podcasts, and try to surround yourself with the tools to make progress. You are an average of the people you associate with most, be it real or fictitious.

Perfection is unattainable.  Those who overcome fear are those who are comfortable with the metaphorical punches—the setbacks and embarrassments. They are fine with appearing foolish, finishing last, lifting lighter weights, or struggling with a single chin-up or push-up. It’s the story you tell yourself that’s holding you back. You can acknowledge those thoughts, but then move on to start asking the right questions on how to change your current situation. If you do the work, you will eventually get to where you want to be.

Keep a journal of the little wins. Our minds love these small victories, no matter how minor they may be. It’s rewarding to the brain when we get things right. In an ultrarunning race, I break down each aid station into little checkpoints and do a mini-celebration once I reach them. I arrive, happy to see the aid station workers, eat some food, and celebrate the small triumph. Then, I shift focus and push myself to leave the aid station. This is a metaphor for success. On your road to victory, have a map or a planned outline of where you want to go, follow the route, enjoy the successes along the way, and then pause to look for what’s next. Shift your focus to the next target and keep moving forward.

In an ultra race, I am always curious about what’s coming up next on the course, whom I will meet, where they are from, and what they do for a living. How did they get to where they are now? Curiosity, not fear, drives me in these events. Fear cripples; fear diminishes you. It will get dark at times, but I am always curious about what the finish line will feel like and what food they will have at the end. I don’t memorize every detail as I head into a race because I enjoy the element of surprise. It’s that curiosity that can propel you as well if you keep seeking it in all your daily activities. Thank you for reading. What ignites curiosity in you during your adventures? Let me know in the comments below.