A Hidden Self-Sabotage That Might Be Holding You Back

Black and white decision time at Black Hills 100.

A hidden self sabotage that may be holding you back

At Black Hills 100 this weekend, I found myself running with a guy I'll call David.

We were both students of running form, both had sacroiliac joint issues, and both from more humid places than South Dakota, which this year gave us a dubious advantage in the bizarre, race-day humidity.

We were also both interested in how our minds worked during races. David said his big self-sabotage was black-and-white thinking.

If things weren’t going well, he told me, he used to quit. There was no in-between.

Good or bad.

Strong or weak.

Right or wrong.

This type of thinking isn’t where you've made a decision to narrow your options on purpose.

It’s a form of perfectionism where you don’t see your full array of options - you only see two. The way it’s supposed to be...and failure.

We think this way because the mind loves efficiency and if you only see black and white, you don’t have to bother thinking up options, then trying them one by one. You can zip nicely and neatly to failure. Easy.

But it’s still a thought error and it isn’t helpful for your race.

When you experience the bad - tired, hurting, and miles to go, or the usual stomach problem kicks in, or you start feeling that knee problem again - you automatically bypass all the ways you could actually address the problem and assume it means you’re not going to finish.

So you give up.

And...voila...you don’t finish. 

So now you have a self-fulfilling thought pattern that you believe...and repeat in the next race.

But most race circumstances aren’t either/or, with no in-between. 

You can be tired, hurting, with miles to go AND sit and regroup at an aid station while you get something to eat and drink, start feeling better, and can go on.

You can fall and break a bone in your hand AND keep going to finish. 

You can miss your drop bag because it didn’t get delivered to the aid station AND improvise anything you needed from it to keep going.

The trick to redirecting black and white thinking is first recognizing you’re doing it, then asking your brain to look at the grey area between.

“Ok, I’m hurting, tired, with miles to go - what do I need to do to still finish?”

“Ok, my stomach is going south again - how can I make it happy?

“Ok, my knee is starting to bother me again - what's one thing I can do to fix it?.

I saw David at the half way point. On this out-and-back course, it’s the furthest point away from the finish and in the middle of the night. He was struggling but hadn’t dropped.

The next time I saw him, he was passed me, smiling, on the way to his well-earned finish. 

Despite “looking into the abyss” as he put it, he refused to make it mean he was doomed to DNF. He purposefully looked for the “how I can finish anyway” path between black and white.

The only way black and white thinking is true is if you believe it, and make it true.

Don’t fall for its false either/or - look for the “and's.”

You can make “finished despite looking into the abyss” true too.

Susan Donnelly’s signature

PS - I have one opening left for a 1:1 client. With coaching, you get a 100-mile expert consultant, mindset coach, and running coach all in one - the perfect combo if your looking to finish a 100-mile race.

If you’re considering it, don’t wait - this may be the last opening for the year.

Email me here to set up a free consult call to ask questions and see if this is a fit for you!