"Don’t Panic"

I found myself struggling through my run this morning thinking about the “Don’t” word.

They say that often in a motor car accident, things will go pear shaped and the car will be skidding and while it is skidding there will be one object which the driver will absolutely not want to hit and by focusing flat out on not hitting it, staring it down to make sure they avoid it all costs, concentrate so hard so that they don’t hit that tree they of course drive straight into it.

Two weeks ago on a friends farm, one of their staff drove their Land Cruiser over a minor cliff. When I spoke to the driver later that evening he told me he had dreamt about driving off that very piece of road a year ago. I don’t know what he was thinking as he drove spun out of control and went over the edge, but possible it was “don’t drive over the edge!”

Some of the work my partner Paddy Upton has done with cricketers around the world has centered on this very thing. His discovery is that by concentrating on anything you bring it into the forefront and then it has more chance of becoming reality. “Don’t go out” (in cricket) becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. “Don’t get nervous (when you walk out in front of 30,000 people and you’re opening the batting)” is quite hard to do.

It seems that by thinking about something we bring it from our periphery vision into our line of site and it becomes something that we focus on.

Let me try out an example on you that I use in workshops.

Close your eyes and what I want you to do, no matter what, is “Don’t think of Pink Elephants”. Ok what are you thinking about?

I see it with my kids and I have no consciously changed my language (whenever I remember). Instead of saying ‘be careful don’t fall now’ when they are climbing a tree, I instead encourage them with positives such as “There you go, I knew you were a great climber.” It’s amazing but they fall less when I say that.

So I’m writing this because I started to panic on my run this morning. Just over five weeks to go to the Ironman and while I’ve done some great work to date, and I believe more than I did last year, I headed out for the first real exercise in about 14 days after being sick and hoping of course I would feel like a stallion. Not. More like a crippled donkey with a really sore knee. So I found myself thinking “Don’t panic” which brought up the string of thoughts above – as I of course panicked.

So instead I’m now saying to myself, one day at a time and enjoy the journey. Follow your training strategy and all will be good.

Let me try that one more time…
I am training for Ironman South Africa on 5th April 2009. This blog posting reflects on my experiences in training. This is for my benefit and also for anyone contemplating the Ironman. I completed the Ironman in 2008 for the first time. My primary goal is to finish, to have fun and learn. I’m by no means a serious competitor.

Author: Dale Williams

Dale is based in Cape Town on the southern tip of Africa from where he maintains connections with people all over the world through his portfolio life.