The Present is a Gift – Live in It

What if Everything goes right?!

The brain usually doesn’t ask this. It usually goes for the opposite sort of question. Projecting forward is how anxiety occurs. We tend to catastrophize things. We start thinking things like, “What if I don’t get this job? And then if I don’t get this job, what if I can’t pay my bills? And if I cannot pay my bills, what if I become homeless? And if I’m homeless, what if I get a flesh-eating bacteria?” Etc, etc. It’s a vicious circle.

Being mindful of not projecting forward is a great tool for runners. It will help you get through a long training run and it will help you get through 200 miles in the wilderness. For example, today, my wife came home and said she had difficulty doing a 10-mile training run because she was also trying to squeeze in an oil change afterward. When we start getting tripped up about time, we become careless. This could lead to tripping on a rock and busting your head or the degradation of our workout in-general. This kind of thinking can also prevent us from enjoying our life.

So, when and why is not projecting forward really important – perhaps life-saving? I just got back from doing The Bigfoot 200 – a 200-mile footrace over 4 days in the Cascade Mountains (Washington State). It was absolutely essential that I practiced not projecting forward in that situation because it threw everything at me. I was in one of the worst sustained electrical storms I’ve ever experienced, was stung by bees multiple times, had to free climb the side of a cliff face as part of the ridgeline, fell into the abyss, was surrounded by bears, and possibly bigfoot, developed a nasty chest infection, hypothermia, dehydration, etc, etc.

The bee stings were the worst as far as “talking myself down” because they resulted in some systemic hives. I had to tell myself, “Keep running, you’re not going to die, you’re going to be just fine.” This, of course, was after I noticed the thoughts, “You just got stung really bad, the entire left side of your body is ballooning, and you could die, omg, you’re in the middle of nowhere. Dude, you could go into anaphylactic shock. Uh oh. This is bad, bad news!”

Needless to say, I lived to write about it, but the stories I didn’t tell myself are what made me pull through. More often than not, our prognostications never come to pass as the future is quite unknowable. We fear the familiar – not the unknown. This is because our brain creates scenarios based on its beliefs and history. It has no reference for the unknown, so it starts pulling information from that infinitesimally small pool of data swimming around in our brain. Don’t go down the rabbit hole with your brain and negative thinking! This may be a tall order for life-in-general, but at least try it while you’re running.

Photo by Howie Stern

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