February 3, 2011

Should you trust your inner quitter?



The view takes the edge off the pain...
I've written here before about trusting your gut, especially when your gut is telling you not to do something that might be a big mistake or might be harmful to you.

But what about those times when your gut is telling you to quit or give up, and your gut is wrong?

I had been away from the stadium for almost three weeks, due to a bad chest cold. I finally decided it was time to get back to my workout, knowing it would be difficult to pick up where I had left off, as it always is after a long break. On Tuesday, I completed seven sets of stadium stairs, and while it took a little more time than usual, it didn't kill me.

The next two nights I didn't sleep well and also had to get up early to do trainings, so I was tired and not feeling fully up to my workout, but my schedule was open on Thursday and I knew I had to take advantage.

I don't remember the last time a workout was so hard...but not because the workout was any different from what I usually do. Mentally, I was just not feeling strong.

View from the bottom
With still-sore calves and quads from coming back to the stadium on Tuesday, every set of stairs burned, especially the last 15 steps or so, which are steeper than the rest.

During the first three sets, every time I reached the top, I said to myself, "It's okay if I only do half a workout. Half is better than nothing."

Then I pushed myself to complete the fourth set, and at the top thought, "I'm dying. I can't do any more."

When I got to the top for the fifth time, I said to myself, "Okay, you only have to do one more."

As I dragged myself up for the sixth time, I said, "My legs are about to give out. This is the last one for sure. I absolutely can NOT do any more."

And then I reached the top of the stadium for the seventh time. And it hurt.

And at the top I felt such pride that I was able to override the powerfully negative messages that would have made it SO EASY to quit. Every argument was legitimate: I was tired. My legs did hurt. I didn't have as much energy as usual. Half a workout is better than none.

View from the top: Santa Barbara harbor
But every time I reached the bottom of the steps, took a drink of water and let my heart rate come back down, something happened. I "forgot" the pain of the last set! Once the pain and struggle was over, it seemed completely feasible to climb the stairs one more time.

So instead of listening to the message at the hardest part of the climb, I listened to the message during my recovery. That was the reasonable message, the most truthful message, and the one that was based on fact rather than emotion.

Emotion gives us good clues, and I would never completely ignore the emotional messages my brain is giving me. But in this case, my emotions were attempting to overrule my rational mind, telling me I couldn't do something when in fact, I was completely capable of it.

Now what the heck does this have to do with public speaking? Glad you asked.

Your fear and anxiety about making a mistake, boring the audience, looking like a fool... these fears keep you from taking speaking opportunities and keep you from making progress.

They keep you from seeing your true capability and they keep you from accomplishing what you could be accomplishing.

They are all legitimate concerns; your brain is very clever this way. You might make a mistake, sure. You also might lose the audience's attention from time to time. But these problems are not insurmountable. In fact, they are fixable, and you can still give a great presentation. Or at minimum, connect with your audience and inspire them with your passion.

Another spectacular view from the top
Is your gut trying to protect you? Yes, of course! I trust my gut most of the time to keep me out of trouble.

And sometimes your gut is just plain wrong. Your emotions tell you one thing and the facts tell you something else. Only you can decide which way to go.

See what happens when you're not stressing out, when you're not at the height of your anxiety. When you are not struggling, you'll find that your rational brain might give you the more truthful answer.

2 comments. Please add yours! :

Alyssa Gregory said...

Dead on...emotions certainly have a way of clouding our judgment from time to time. Have to shake it off to really look at the situation clearly, even when every instinct is telling you not to. Love this post, Lisa!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for stopping by, Alyssa! Intuition is a tricky thing!

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