Growing Planes

Waking up today with a pounding headache, dehydrated, slumped over the side of my bed feeling about 10 years older than I actually am. The cause?  Simple.  An incredibly successful cross-country meet… Let me explain.

Yesterday I had put on the ‘Family and Friends Versus Runners’ meet that I’ve done for the past 7 years with my Middle School cross country team. The purpose of this meet is to help kids and their parents, and loved ones build closer, more resilient relationships with each other through a shared hard effort!  As with most of us though, it’s not the only thing I have going on in my life that is stretching me a bit.

I’ve recently written a book called Changing Your Weather, a mental-emotional resilience book for children and young adults, I’ve done over a dozen workshops in schools for kids, had an adult talk at a wellness expo, and now I’m getting ready to do parent and child workshops, and waiting to hear back about a possibility of speaking to cadets!  I have had some hiccups and glitches along the way (who doesn’t).  But for the most part, I’ve been succeeding at a slow and steady pace for over a year now.  So… although I am familiar with the format of my ‘Family and Friends Versus Runners’ meet, and am not as anxiousness as I was in past years, the other competing ‘mental emotional stretching’ has this meet feeling a bit bigger than it actually is.

Well the meet for the parents and runners went incredibly well, without me doing nearly as much self-monitoring. I was able to trust myself, be myself, and know that I could handle any bumps that came up from time to time.  This is a relatively new kind of self-confidence for me.  It’s one where not only do I know that I can succeed, but I can do it without the training wheels of ‘over-vigilance’ and fear to keep me sharp.

I left the meet feeling confident, proud, and successful. So, how did I celebrate?

Spare ribs, fried rice, egg rolls, jelly beans, Ben & Jerry’s (this is in no particular order). To top it off, I drank no water and stayed up waaaaay too late.  So, now I have a pounding headache, I’m dehydrated, and I’m feeling years older than I actually am. I check in with my ‘positive internal coach’ to examine my mind through the fog…

Me: Seriously, what was that all about?

Coach, very matter of fact: Self-sabotage.

Me: Why?! My victories were well earned, my efforts sincere.  It took much less out of me.  I am getting blogs and vlogs done faster, moving forward with workshops, speaking engagements, social media, etc. I am in a much better place with ALL OF THIS than I was a year ago.  So, what’s up? Why would I choose to intentionally bring myself down?

Coach: You’re not comfortable with your new plane.

Me, dissembling: I don’t have a plane.

Coach, completely sincere: Plane shifts, remember?

I do. My head hurts and it’s a bit fuzzy at the moment, but I remember.  A ‘plane’ is where we as individuals are mentally and physically comfortable.  When we push our growing edge—that point where we stretch outside our normal comfort zone in order to succeed—and it goes really well, causing us to gain confidence, our comfort zone expands, and we see ourselves in a new light.  A plane shift is when our old, “Oh, I hope this goes ok… I really want to do well…”  becomes, “I’ve got this!  I’m ready!”  In Gary Mack’s book on sports psychology called Mind Gym, he writes that we can sometimes become so uncomfortable when we begin to stretch past our own mental image of ourselves that we self-sabotage, so we can go back to a much safer, and more familiar (comfortable) belief system about ourselves.

Me: So, what’s the first step?

Coach: Stop digging the hole.

Me: What?

Coach: Observe your actions without judging yourself.

He’s right (usually is… Don’t tell him I said that 😊) I’ve taken the first step by asking “Why did you eat so much candy last night?” The key is, I have to ask the question without self-persecution (“Why did you eat so much candy last night?  Oh, that’s right, you have no will-power.  Why don’t you just give up already!”).  If I do this, my mind will be free from big, harmful emotions and free to examine everything that was going on for me: from my win with the Family and Friends Versus Runners Meet, to the realization that I accomplished that ‘win’ without experiencing as much anxiety and therefore energy output as I have in the past.  Also, there is the fact that, because of this, I had energy to put into other things I needed to do, but instead chose to put it into ‘old’ habits of self-medicating to bring me back to ‘center.’  Finally, there is the fact that I no longer needed to use these old habits, because I was able to manage my energy output and can re-center myself with my mental-emotional tools.

Coach: Now comes the choice.

Me: What choice?

Coach: Whether or not you are going to accept the new ‘plane’ you’ve grown into or choose to go in the other direction. Either way change is inevitable.

There is no greater truth. Change is our always happening, and it is just as easy to ride the elevator of change up as it is to ride it down. With work, I can have a choice as to which elevator button I choose (which plane I choose to try and reside on).  But there’s another hard truth to face.

I cannot be on two planes at once.

If I want to shift up onto that new plane I’ve earned, I can’t think or behave the same way as I did on the plane that I was just on. I need to realize that, in order to stay in this new plane (not just keep dropping by for a visit)— I have to live up to the new plane.  I have to embody the qualities that allowed me onto that plane in the first place.

That means, to make lasting positive change in my ability to handle groups of people and help them gain mental-emotional skills through an activity I have planned, I need to celebrate my victories with the same activities and life-style choices that it took to get me there. In the case of my Family versus Runners Meet today, that means: I have to get good rest the night before, read over my plan to be sure I have taken care of all the details and variables I can ahead of time, and then, eat smart throughout the day in order to have my energy high for the effort I need to put out during the event.  AND, if I want to keep feeling that confidence the next day, I have to behave in that same way: get good sleep, eat right, write and review my plan, and on and on… I have to work the formula that enables me to remain confident in the competence that I know I have.

So, what are my first steps toward keeping the plane shift I’ve earned? Pouring a tall glass of water for myself, and put the rest of the candy in the trash—I don’t need that where I am going!

What is your formula for maintaining your confidence? I’d love to hear about it.