I have made, stuck to and failed at achieving goals many a time already. I’m a goal setter, I make a to do list on a daily basis, most of the time I can happily check off everything on my list, but a lot of the time I end up grudgingly leaving some items un-attended. Alas that is the fickle fait of the goal-setter.
Ambition inevitably leads to overzealous goal setting, which can lead to feeling like a failure because you couldn’t stay on track.
Runners call this phenomenon “Hitting the wall” it describes the moment when you are running that you feel too fatigued to continue. If however you can play it smart through that dragging feeling pulling you down, and trying to make you quit, you will feel a renewed sense of vigour.
The terms Wiki page explains it like this.
In endurance sports such as cycling and running, hitting the wall or the bonk describes a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy. Milder instances can be remedied by brief rest and the ingestion of food or drinks containing carbohydrates. The condition can usually be avoided by ensuring that glycogen levels are high when the exercise begins, maintaining glucose levels during exercise by eating or drinking carbohydrate-rich substances, or by reducing exercise intensity.
The reason I like this analogy is because this is more or less how you need to treat your mind when you come to this mental wall of fatigue. If you stop all together it’s likely you wont be able to gain your speed again, and get back to where you where before, and even if you do manage to start again, it will take you quite a long time to regain your prior progress. In both instances a great amount of discouragement is likely to influence your ability to continue past this dip in motivation.
What I’m realizing is that I need to do the same thing as a runner would do when “Hitting the Wall”, slow down – but don’t stop – and refuel. If our bodies are tired we usually know exactly what to do, and even if we don’t our bodies are hard-wired to take over if we fail to make the proper choice. If we are over tired and pushing too hard, there is a point at which our bodies will actually shut down to repower if we don’t make the decision to sleep or rest soon enough.
Our minds however don’t do quite the same thing. We can push ourselves mentally for much further distances before out minds break, but usually this is manifests in more devastating forms, such as mental illness, anxiety and just plain stress.
Ironically enough, the steps to push past mental walls are the exact same. Slow down (but don’t stop), breath, refuel and continue. Four simple steps. During this resting process we are not gaining as much ground as before, but we have not lost all forward motion. We are still gaining ground towards our goals, just at a slightly slower pace.
Taking a small breather – to me at least – is a much better option than losing all momentum and losing motivation at the same time.
In the case of my horses, it could be as little as replacing riding when it’s not possible (horse’s health, weather etc.) with brushing them. It’s still time with my horses, it goes in the general direction of my goals and it keeps me motivated.
The most important thing I am trying to remember is that a human’s mind is it’s greatest asset, it holds all the power we need to succeed. However it can also be our greatest weakness if we let it. Life seems to be all about finding that balance.