Mind F&$k

In general, people have negative thoughts because they suffer and because they have fears. Humans, unlike animals, can derive from their present circumstances and believe that they can predict the future. When things are going well, the future looks bright, and when they are not, it seems dark.

It’s human nature, we love gossip and negatively sells – just look at the news.

Negativity Bias:

  • Pretend you are a caveman. You’re in your cave preparing for a hunt, but something outside seems dangerous. You hear violent sounds you don’t understand. You have two choices; (i) skip the hunt, spend the night hungry, but live another day; or (ii) risk death and go outside.
  • Now, imagine you’re driving to work, someone cuts you off. You slam on your brakes, and you get angry. It’s enough to make you feel angry all day. You might be less productive at work. You might try to counterbalance the feeling with a quick shot of endorphins from junk food or mindless web surfing. This only compounds the problem. You justify it by telling yourself that it is that idiots fault from your drive to work.
  • So why does this one minor thing, getting cut off, have such a powerful effect on us?
  • The answer, the caveman. Research shows that our brains evolved to react much more strongly to negative experiences than positive ones. It kept us safe from danger. But in modern days, where physical danger is minimal, it often just gets in the way. This is called the negativity bias.

Our brains are programmed to protect us.

Filter out the noise and focus.

Last week I talked about can’t – v – won’t and I mentioned how YouTube is full of amazing people challenging themselves during this lockdown period, e.g.:

  • The 100-year-old WW2 veteran, Captain Tim Moore, who has raised more than £26m for the NHS by walking around his garden.
  • People doing the Everesting challenge. Everesting: Pick any hill, and complete repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 8,848m – the equivalent height of Mt Everest.

Every day, for the last 16 days, after work I walk MFH; ‘Mind F&$k Hill’ – my Everest challenge; now complete! This is nothing special, but doing it in one go? I’ll save that for round two.

  • Days on task: 16
  • Time walked: 24hrs. 45 min
  • Distance walked: 98.14km
  • Vertical elevation: 8,856m
  • Number of hill climbs: 328 at an elevation gain of 27m each.

Yes, it is a mind f&$k. There are days that I didn’t want to do this. What I keep discovering during these walks is how powerful our brains can be, once I get on the start line and move, then I am committed; ‘I got this; no task is too small.’

Get to the start line, move forward, momentum is progress.

While walking, I tend to daydream (see point six below) and I was wondering what the key factors are that get me out up this hill day after day. I have narrowed these factors down to six key points that I have learned from people that I look up to.

1. Stay Present:

  • There are so many misunderstandings about the statement of “stay present” – mostly because this can easily be made into a way to feel bad about yourself. It’s easy for the brain to make everything seem to be negative. The danger of this is that we can get into a negative ‘thinking’ feedback loop and contemplate all sorts of things. 
  • Focus on the positives, and shut down that caveman’s mind.
  • Stay in the present – when I am walking my hill, I am focusing on what I’m doing; breathing vs heart rate, taking another step and completing the task at hand.
  • When we are performing a task, when we are committed to the present moment and what we’re doing there, we learn to be disciplined with that time and restrict distractions. We need to stay in the moment. It is the continued persistent effort of pushing towards our goals, to bettering our lives to what we want, that keep us in these moments. 
  • I wanted to walk from sea level to the highest point on earth, simulated while on lockdown, to remind me there will be future, post lockdown adventures.

2. Control the Narrative:

  • It’s so important not to get drawn into a bad headspace about how I might be feeling when walking my hill. Instead, I control the narrative in my head and tell myself, “I got this, no task is too small,” positivity breeds positivity. 

3. Accept the Truth:

  • Yes, this is not easy. As much as I want to stay positive, let’s be honest – lockdown sucks. Repetitive hill walking sucks.
  • Acknowledging how you’re feeling is essential.
  • Sometimes, we just need to momentarily stagger – a tactical pause to keep it real.
  • If the negativity keeps knocking, accept it, and move past it.

4. Have a Personal Mantra:

  • A personal mantra is a statement to motivate and inspire you to be your best self. It is a positive statement that you use to declare the way you want to live your life / achieve a goal. It can be audible, visible, or in your thoughts.
  • Troy, what the bleep, you are going all yogi on us? Nope, this is exactly what military units have been doing for years with their mottos, insignia, and ethos. 
  • Believe in yourself, have a mantra that you repeat to yourself again and again when the going gets tough; “I got this; no task is too small.”

5. Back Your Self:

  • I tell myself that I am capable of enduring the hardship, and back it up with personal, scientific or historical data.
  • If this is the first time that you have been in such a situation.
    • Look towards others for inspiration.
    • Link all the similar smaller things that you have done and make them work for you in the present moment. Small gains gathered together equal large ones.
    • How bad do you want it?
  • Believe in yourself, back yourself; you got to the start line, you have momentum – now take it home.
  • Once the task is complete, now you can pivot onto something else, but to pivot, you have to have momentum. Sitting and talking is a start point, but the talk has to leave the sofa otherwise, it is just talking. 

6. Day Dream:

  • Time flies when I daydream; rather than engaging directly with what I am experiencing, I disconnect from the walk and think about my future plans, my next adventure, family, and friends.
  • Daydreaming to me, is one of the most powerful tools that I use when undergoing my challenges. I zone out, stay focused on the task at hand, and crack on.

7. In Summary – The strength of the mind:

  • The mind has serious strength, especially during these lockdown days. Actively tap into your mind and use it to overcome mental discomfort. It is powerful, explore its power; these, my  physical challenges, aren’t about the physical capacity, they are about mental ability. 

Weekly Tips:

Exercise: Implement exercise checkpoints during your walks. Choose checkpoints on your walking route, lamp posts, intersections etc and do a set of activities at them. 

  • 10 air squats: https://youtu.be/rMvwVtlqjTE 
  • 10 push-ups: https://youtu.be/0pkjOk0EiAk
  • Stretching: Build a stretching routine into your workout, stretch every day before you train. https://youtu.be/sTxC3J3gQEU
  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Walk.
  • Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: The prison, see blog one.
  • Sunday: Rest and reward yourself. 

Book of the week: Born to run

  • Author: Christopher McDougall
  • At the heart of Born to Runlies a mysterious tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who live quietly in canyons and are reputed to be the best distance runners in the world; in 1993, one of them, aged 57, came first in a prestigious 100-mile race wearing a toga and sandals. A small group of the world’s top ultra-runners (and the awe-inspiring author) make the treacherous journey into the canyons to try to learn the tribe’s secrets and then take them on over a course 50 miles long. McDougall tells this story while asking what the secrets are to being an incredible runner. Traveling to labs at Harvard, Nike, and elsewhere, he comes across an incredible cast of characters.
  • Purchased from Amazon books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Born-Run-Hidden-Ultra-Runners-Greatest/dp/1861978774

Movie of the week: Free Solo

    • Directed by: Jimmy Chin.
    • This epic movie features two of my digital mentors, Jimmy Chin and Alex Honnolds. Professional rock climber Alex Honnold attempts to conquer the first free solo climb of famed El Capitan’s 900-metre vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park.
    • Available on Amazon.

TEd Talk: Are we born to run?: Christopher McDougall

    • Christopher explores the mysteries of the human desire to run. How did running help early humans survive — and what urges from our ancient ancestors spur us on today? 
    • Link: https://youtu.be/b-iGZPtWXzE

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Until next week, Stand Tall.