“I can’t”

“I’m not fit enough”

“I’m not good enough”

“I’m too slow”

“I don’t want to hold everyone else up”

Have you ever heard yourself say any of these statements when nerves or fear stops you from doing something? You wouldn’t be the first if you did and you won’t be the last. I found myself saying one of these earlier this year when on a workshop and it made me think about where the fear came from. What if you could?

They are very natural responses but in order for us to prove the accuracy of them, we would have to do the thing we are discounting ourselves from doing. It’s ok to have some fear but when you say these things, have you ever considered who/what you’re comparing yourself to or even considered what if you did? What if you could do it? What if you were fit enough? What if you were good enough? What if you were quicker than you thought? What if you didn’t hold everyone else up and they were holding you up?

Let’s break each statement down. “I can’t” obviously suggests we can’t do something but this is usually said when faced with something we’ve never done. If we haven’t done something before, how do we know we can’t do it? There’s the fear of failure but how can we fail at something we’ve never tried? For that matter, we’re not really going to excel at something we’ve never done before unless we’re extremely lucky. The next three “I’m not fit enough”, “I’m not good enough” and “I’m too slow” tend to be said in connection with group activities like fitness classes or sports clubs where we begin to compare ourselves to others. The thing that’s not clear is who we are comparing ourselves to and how we know they are better than us. Certainly, we’ll be among people who have been doing the class/sport/activity for a while so are going to be better but we don’t really consider the fact that they started out at the same place as us.

I have heard these three statements, and the last one, in the past when I’ve spoken to people about my running groups and was the very reason I set up my 0-5k program. After all, how can we really be not fit or good enough, too slow or likely to hold everyone else up when everyone is starting at the same point?

I believe there is no such thing as failure as if we try something and it doesn’t go quite right, we will instinctively know the answer as to what we could do next time to get a better outcome. We learn more when we make mistakes than we do when we get things right. We become, stronger, wiser and more confident as we learn how to solve problems rather than beat ourselves up. If we get things wrong, it can often be as a result of not actually knowing what outcome we wanted in the first place. A useful strategy can be to visualise the outcome/goal. In the context of a marathon, I usually think about how I want my finish to be, how I want to feel as I cross the finish line and work back the way so I know how I want to feel at any given point so that I can ask myself if I can keep my pace and still have the finish I want. If the answer is yes, I keep going and if I have to think about it, I just slow down. In this scenario, I have thought not only about the outcome but also the steps along the way towards the goal.

Here’s your challenge, next time an opportunity comes up and one of these statements pops into your head, ask yourself what if you were able to do it. Think of how you would do it and give it a go.

What could you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?