6. Focus on opportunities rather than threats
When confronted with a challenge, your brain immediately deems it a threat or an opportunity, affecting your expectation of the outcome and your approach to the situation. That expectation is incredibly powerful in determining the outcome of the situation. If you view it as an opportunity, you are more likely to be successful; if you see a threat, you put yourself on defense, trying to protect yourself from pain or loss.
Take control of your wiring by mentally pausing to recognize when you perceive a threat. Focus on what you can control and keep moving toward your goal. Simply noticing the threat can help you take control of the situation.
Alex Schwartz, safety and training director at the North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS), says that students and instructors in NCOBS programs learn to focus on opportunities and manage expectations in order to have success on their challenging outdoor courses. “Expectation has a huge impact on outcome,” Schwartz says. “The belief that you are in control and can be successful impacts your success. We want to set students up for success and give them transferable life skills. We are teaching them an approach to challenge where they focus on what they can control. Effort and attitude are most important determinants of success.”
How does this transfer to running? If you’re nervous about a tough workout or race, it helps to pay attention to gains throughout your training. Think about the training you have put in so far. Focus on what’s ahead of you, not behind. If you’re in a race, don’t focus on the people who might catch you. Rather, think about the finish line and the things that you can control, like your breathing, form and level of effort.
This article was updated on August 12, 2020.
By Kate Schwartz. Schwartz has been running competitively for 20 years, and she currently runs with the Asheville Running Collective. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, Alex, and their cat, Clementine.