I know you’ve been there before. You feel like you’re speeding down a winding road, cliff on both sides, the brakes don’t work, the windshield is dirty, and you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders (hell, you’re not even in the driver’s seat!). Your business is growing and you have to make sure cash flow keeps up, your children are getting older and have more and more extracurricular commitments, your employees are counting on you for a massive vision that inspires them to follow (and, a paycheck). You feel like everyone wants a piece of you, and you don’t have any more to give. So how do you handle it all without going off the cliff? Better yet, how do you manage your life, energy, and mental fitness, so that these out of control episodes are just fleeting moments that you experience and move on from in minutes, not months? Mental fitness.
We’ve talked about mental fitness before, but can we really talk about it too much? It’s the foundation of how I’ve designed my life and built five businesses over the past ten years. It’s the core concept that I teach in all of my business and leadership courses. It’s part of who I am now and the more people I can teach about mental fitness, the better. We have to train our mind, just as often as (if not more than) we train our bodies.
Here are some great tricks for gaining control, when you are feeling out of control (tricks I’ve used while racing, but apply to all areas of life):
- Count to 100. When we feel like we are spiraling and are caught in an endless cycle of panic, doubt, and uncertainty, what we are looking for is stability and control. The fastest way to change our state is to control our thinking. Counting to 100 serves multiple purposes – it is a distraction from your overwhelming thoughts, it gives you something to focus on, and it puts you back in control right away. It anchors you and allows the bad thoughts or feelings to pass, clears your mind, and gets you into a mindset of clarity so you can take action.
- Give. Give someone a high-five, give money, hold the door open for someone, smile, give someone your undivided attention, send someone a thank you note or shoot a quick text and let someone know how awesome they are. Just give of yourself, provide value, and spread love to others. It can be simple, it can be big. The trick is when you are out of control and feeling all the negative feels, finding it in your heart to come out from behind yourself and spread joy to someone else. And you know, that no matter how hard it is in the moment, you will immediately feel in control and happy. It’s impossible to be selfless and give and be fearful at the same time. Just try it!
- Be Grateful. When I’m racing and the going gets really tough, I move towards gratitude. I start making a mental list of everything I’m grateful for – my fitness, my health, the volunteers, water, my breath, my family, the other racers, the weather (yes, even if it’s cold, sweltering or raining), the view, anything that can occupy my mind. Again, focusing on gratitude prevents me from focusing on the pain (or any out of control feelings) and puts my mind somewhere else until I’m back in my groove.
And then, of course, the best way to keep these out of control thoughts and feelings at bay is by creating a daily routine of meditation, gratitude, exercise, giving, etc. to prime you for the challenges ahead. You can try my tricks above or create your own go-tos. But no matter what, when challenges show up, you have to make sure you have your practiced methods of breaking free of the thoughts that are holding you back.
With practice comes calm, clarity and control. But you have to be self-aware, disciplined, and practiced, so you can call upon your mental fitness whenever you need to. What are you go-to methods for developing your mental fitness?