My Mind is Playing Tricks on Me!!
Recently, I visited Chicago and went to the Willis Tower, which is the tallest building in the western hemisphere. The observation deck is 103 stories up! I am not afraid of flying, heights, roller-coasters, or anything that is involved with heights. Until I learned that there were four glass boxes that actually stuck out from the building. See image below.
Of course there is no real danger here but the thought of being outside the building for whatever reason freaked me out and I was overcome with fear and thoughts that crippled me. It was a bit paralyzing. I wanted to face my fear so we got in line for the opportunity to get into the box. I love the saying “Run to the Roar” but I have to admit this was more like a slow crawl. I inched my way out into the glass box. I was very tense and tight.
Fast forward about a week later I am putting Christmas lights up on my house on a windy, wet, Iowa November day reaching over the edge of my roof to attach light clips to the gutter on my house without a fear in my body or mind. It really got me thinking and was the reason I had to write this article.
My mind was playing tricks on me. There was much more risk involved in the Christmas lights than the Willis Tower but my reactions to the situations were completely different. The question is, Why? I think it is a number of factors:
Experience – I have put up Christmas lights numerous times, I had never been outside of a building in a glass box!
What is vs. What if – I was playing the what if game. What if I fell, what if the glass breaks, what if the wind blows the box off the tower (I was in the Windy City, seemed reasonable at the time but now seems completely ridiculous), what if too many people piled in and the weight limit was reached, what if, what if, what if.
Unprepared – I really had no idea until we were in the building that there was such a glass box. I just thought we were going up to the top to look around. No one said anything about stepping outside of the building.
In sports our minds play these same tricks on us. Our fears, lack of confidence, inexperience paralyze our performance and restrict us from being at our best. We worry about what if I don’t get a hit, we get nervous from the fact that this big game is the most important we have ever played in, we get thrust into the spotlight off the bench and feel unprepared. So many thoughts about what if play apart in an athlete’s make-up. Trying to rid yourself of these thoughts would be impossible, we are human beings not robots. Anyone who tells you to just don’t think those thoughts is absolutely crazy. What we can do is recognize these fears, what if’s, and feelings that cripple us during competition and spin them to our advantage and let them help us play our best.
Experience – can come before you have done something through visualization. My problem with the box at the Willis Tower was the only visualization I was doing was me falling 103 stories. Then I started to recreate me walking out onto the glass and everything being just fine. Seeing myself the way I wanted things to workout instead of the terrible alternatives. We must focus on what we want to happen instead of the things we are trying to avoid. Visualization can be a big part of this.
What is vs. What if – Again, focusing on what is helped me get out into the box and conquer fear and the what if. I told myself thousands, possibly millions of people have walked out on the glass box and have lived to talk about it. Stayed focused on the process of one step at a time instead of outcome-oriented thoughts of failure or falling. Same thing in big moments, change your thoughts from what if I don’t come through for my team or what if I strikeout to what is type of thoughts. Remember what is = facts like you are playing a game that you have played all your life, you have spent hours and hours preparing for, let your hard work shine, beating yourself in the last thing you want to do.
Unprepared – It seems as if I was unprepared for this but really it was only walking right? I have done this my entire life so I was more prepared than I thought. We tend to over think things, keep things and your thoughts simple. Often time we don’t give ourselves enough credit for how prepared we are or we let the circumstances or environment affect our focus and thoughts. Don’t let it.
103 Stories Up! Keep reaching high and striving for excellence. DON’T let your fears win!