Our brains are amazing things. With our over-sized cerebral cortex we are able to perform powerful executive functions including abstract thought, planning, and reasoning.
But then there is the moments where it seemingly goes out of its way to sabotage us. Just as it can be effective in helping us navigate through our days, it is exceptionally talented at creating unreasonable expectations, ridiculous rationalizations, and powerful excuses that combine to keep us from achieving to our potential and feeling overwhelmed with doubt.
The internet has gotten a hold of the “scumbag brain” with gusto, with a cottage industry of memes splattered across the web that most of us can’t help but relate with.
The common thread with the aforementioned scenarios is that our brain is trying to justify not leaving our perceived zone of comfort, even if keeping us where we are is detrimental to our long term growth and ambitions.
We are wired poorly to be pushed out of our comfort zone, and this is why we feel resistance when we try to plod forward into new or unfamiliar territory.
Understanding this, you can place better context around the following excuses when they rear their heads the next time you are prepping to make moves:
I can’t do this.
For me the physical representation of this excuse is a swimmer crossing their arms defiantly, a furrowed brow, sporting a mild temper tantrum.
They have shut themselves off to the idea that they can accomplish something difficult before even trying, denying themselves the opportunity to challenge and stretch their skills and abilities.
Is it because you think it’s too hard? You’ve done hard things before, so why is this any different?
Is it because no one else has done it before? There are an endless number of firsts in the course of swimming and human history, so why not you?
First I need to XYZ.
This one of the more clever ways we use to manipulate our way out of doing the “right” thing with respect to our training.
We are down to do what is necessary, but first we need to make sure that our training circumstances are perfect…or that we are completely and utterly motivated…or that we get all the TV watching out of the way so that we can totally focus…and so on.
This is a first class, grade-A delaying tactic. And the reason it works so well is that it is relatively guilt free. After all, your intent is still to accomplish your goal, but first you need to remove this thing that is in front of you.
You see it all the time with people who are trying to eat better. (I’ll just eat all this junk food that is left in the house, and then I will start eating better.) Or people who want to exercise more. (I’ll start working out more when I have better supplements.) Or swimmers who want to fully commit to making all of their workouts. (I’ll make 100% of workouts once I have my license and can drive to the pool.)
Very rarely do you absolutely need to do something before you commit yourself to something.
The only “first” should be starting, of doing the thing that needs doing.
I’m fearful that I won’t be successful.
This one I can appreciate a little more.
It is terrifying to think about giving your swimming your all, your complete and utter devotion, time and energy, and then coming up short.
Of not making the Olympics. Of not crushing your best time. Of not making that cut.
Of not achieving greatness, whatever that may entail for you.
This fear exists on the thesis that you won’t be able to recover from such a defeat. That it will be such a crushing blow to your ego, sense of self, to your very identity that it will be impossible to recover from. The pain will be so deep, so cutting that you will never be the same.
Experience should tell you otherwise.
Look back into your inventory of moments where things didn’t go so well. Where you were hurt, down-trodden and disappointed.
Did you bounce back then?
Yes. Sure, the pain was there, and it was visceral.
But it certainly wasn’t debilitating, nor was it permanent.
In fact, looking back at some of those moments now you might be surprised at how resilient you were in the face of defeat and disappointment.
When the fear begins to well up, and the excuses and delaying tactics rise up, remember that they are largely constructs of your own brain, and that they are rarely grounded in reality.