10 August 2016


Perceptions, the kind we have of ourselves, of the people around us, and about what we think we can and cannot do, are part of our daily lives. We go through our days and hours with certain beliefs of what we're capable of. These perceptions shape us. They guide our decision making. They affect what we do. They inform our personal choices about what we try to do and what we believe is now and forever beyond us.

Where do these perceptions come from? How did we accumulate them and accept them as "the truth"? Are they real? Are they currentAre they accurate? How did they come about? Many of us are burdened with labels, expectations, and so-called truths that we learned when we were younger - they were repeatedly told to us as we were growing up or they were things we "learned" about ourselves as we went through life. Sometimes those perceptions and beliefs about ourselves came from our parents, teachers, or peers; sometimes they arose through self-awareness.

It is very possible that we hold onto these perceptions (whether they were ever actually true or not) for far too long. They are there in the back of our minds when we decide our course of action or inaction. They keep us from trying something new or challenging. They keep us from achieving things we are actually capable of. They scare us into holding back and not gaining new experiences and not uncovering strengths we didn't know we had.

Of course I have to share my own example to illustrate this and of course it has to be triathlon related:
Before my 1st marathon - click pic to see shirt
As a teenager I was a competitive swimmer in San Diego. My best event was the 100 Freestyle, an event that takes less than 1 minute to race. It is a sprint race (the only event shorter is the 50 Free). As a competitive swimmer you tend to swim a large variety of events of different distances and strokes at swim meets. It might even include the "mile". This is the "endurance" event in swimming. Compared to my peers I was pretty far back in the pack in this event but was usually at or near the top in the sprint 100. So of course I considered myself a sprint athlete, not an endurance athlete. I carried this belief with me for decades.

This belief, this perception, this label was a big reason I never thought I could run a 10K, let alone a marathon. It was a big reason I never thought doing an Ironman (140.6 mile) triathlon was possible. I was a "sprinter", not an endurance athlete.  It never occurred to me that I could be both a sprinter and an endureance athlete. Never mind that as a teenage there were summer days where I trained over 4 1/2 hours in the pool. I was a "sprinter" damn it! 
Finishing my 1st marathon
Another 'limiter' I had in my head was, "How can I do an endurance race? I don't have a large intestine so of course I can't stay hydrated. Of course I can't be on the course that long without having to go to the bathroom. An Ironman? I'd probably die trying to do that!" 
Well it turns out I COULD do long distance triathlon. I COULD do an 11 or 12 hour race. I just had to learn how to do it, how to train myself properly,  how to hydrate properly, make sure there was a portapotty somewhere, and believe in my own abilities. 
Did a switch suddenly get flipped so that I knew I could do it? No. For me it was more a step-by-step process with small successes that built upon each other. There were setbacks along the way but each challenge that I met contributed to my belief that my assumptions and beliefs were absolutely WRONG! What was going on in my head -  not only was it not real, it was inaccurate and/or outdated. If I hadn't challenged those beliefs, sometimes purposely and sometimes by accident, I would never have known how wrong I was. I would not now be training for my 9th Ironman race in Arizona this November 2016.

I've had this quote near the top of this blog for a few years now...
"We limit what we can do by believing our limits are real and unmoving. These limits are self-imposed and simply need to be challenged. What if you are far greater than you think?" ~~Coach Skip Slade
What are you telling yourself that might not actually be true? What supposed truth is guiding you that is outdated and/or wrong? What limits have you imposed on yourself that merely need to be challenged? What are you afraid of that, with the right support, you could vanquish?
  • I can't swim - I'm afraid of the water!
  • I can't put my face in the water without panicking!
  • I'm not a runner - I could never run a mile/a 5K/a half marathon! 
  • I haven't ridden a bike since I was a kid. No way I could ride 12 miles!
  • I could probably swim and ride a bike but I could never run!
  • I'm not an 'athlete'. Triathlon is for someone else!
You are more powerful, more talented, more able, more capable than you believe. Change can push you into an uncomfortable or scary position but tolerating that, especially when you have role models and teammates around you supporting you, will lead to successes. Patience is required as it usually doesn't come overnight. Persistence is very helpful. Laughing at yourself and having fun can keep you going. Letting go of the self-imposed requirement of perfection will free you to improve.

What are you waiting for? Perceptions - Change Them!

No comments:

Post a Comment