I used to be a short distance runner. That’s probably a little misleading. What I should say is, back in high school, I used to run short distances really well. I didn’t like long-distance running, I thought I wasn’t made out for it. I was lying to myself.
10 years on and I wasn’t doing any type of running, short or long. I had a car and lived in a city that was chronically wet so truthfully, I didn’t even walk that much either. On all fronts, I was doing the bare minimum.
I decided to start running again so I used the ‘Couch to 5K in 9 weeks’ app for the nth time. I usually lost steam around week 2.
I was beyond happy when I eventually got to week 3 and continued to week 4. Plus, each week the running patterns varied slightly so it felt like I unlocked a new level on a Nintendo game.
Slowly but surely, I was on week 8 and the sense of satisfaction I got was intoxicating. I couldn’t believe that a) I kept it up and b) I was nearly finished.
Before, I thought running 5 minutes was amazing and now I was running for 30 minutes, non-stop. I was finally a long-distance runner.
Overcoming Limiting Beliefs About Yourself
It’s funny though because a few minutes into a 30-minute run and I was still tired. I still wanted to stop. 5 minutes in was where I would normally start to feel the pressure on my breathing and my chest.
The temptation would be to take a break. Take a minute’s rest and just walk for a bit. 8 weeks in and it still wasn’t easy. The internal dialogue would carry on throughout my run.
It was here that I understood how much my mind plays tricks on me. Why it’s so hard to start and maintain new habits. How my mind can convince me that some things are unachievable or not doable despite evidence to the contrary.
I’d done it before, so I could do it again. I’d gone further than my limit before, so I was definitely capable. Despite that, my mind still wanted me to stop, to slow down.
It was the same voice that convinced me not to run when it rained, that I was too busy to exercise or that I was more suited to short sprints.
Instead, I just kept going.
- I ran when it rained. I ran when I finished work late. If I needed to slow down, I slowed my pace but I just kept going.
- Sometimes I ran so slowly that it probably didn’t even seem like I was jogging at all.
- But it was important that I kept moving, that I pushed myself and my body against my mental limits.
Limiting Beliefs About Yourself Can Affect Other Areas of Your Life
It made me wonder if there were other areas in my life that I was limiting myself. Listening to the voice that wanted to stay unchallenged and comfortable. Where had I fallen into patterns that did not serve me?
With time, I learned I could use my mind against itself.
- Whenever I felt like quitting before the half an hour was over, I would pick an object in the distance and made it my goal.
- ‘When I reach that, I told myself, ‘then I can stop’. I was lying. I found that if I kept putting small doable goalposts ahead of me, I would complete my run.
- That idea of breaking the task down into smaller chunks was helpful and kept me going.
It motivated me. Each small win felt amazing and by the end, I felt even greater for having completed something so difficult.
For the longest time, my attempts to exercise were just me going through the motions. Knowing that exercise was good for the body so doing it out of duty rather than wanting to. Similar to how a parent might make a child eat their broccoli (which funnily enough I do not enjoy eating either). That ‘high’ people talk about after they exercise, the serotonin rush. Yeah, I don’t experience that. I never have. But I can settle for feeling like I’ve done a job well done.
Now, I try to focus on small wins. I still have big goals that I want to achieve over the next 5, 10, 30 years. But I know it’s the day-to-day wins that will build-up to the big wins over time. So, I daydream about the future but I work with the 24 hours in front of me.