The idea of having control can be exciting and empowering, but a lot of us will choose control only when it is convenient for our ego. We love to be the decision maker and frequently call ourselves “control-freaks,” but when something occurs that is out of our control we become fixated on it. We will put all of our focus on blaming someone or something, and because we can’t control that one aspect of the situation, we give up all control surrounding the event or circumstance.
Controlling the uncontrollable
I used to do the same thing; I loved to be in control of my training sessions and be involved when my coach planned my season competitions. I wanted to feel like I had control over my destiny, but whenever I had a bad race or didn’t perform to the level, I thought I should it was ALWAYS my coaches fault.
“He (my coach) didn’t believe in me, so I performed poorly,” was a frequent thought I let wreak havoc in my mind. “He (my coach) doesn’t care how I feel; he wants to mess with my head and make me quit,” was another one I remember vividly saying after being somewhat scolded for not adapting quickly enough to a higher volume of training.
These limiting and negative thought patterns completely gave away any of my control over the situation. They focused only on the uncontrollable; what I assumed my coach thought of me, rather than on what I could control; my focus and thoughts.
Take back your power
So, someone doesn’t believe in you. It’s not the greatest situation to be in, but the reality is that the only person whose belief matters is you. The beliefs and thoughts of others are ultimately out of your control, so instead focus on what you can control; your thoughts, feelings and actions.
Having control can be scary because the only person to blame for failure is you. Taking control is also incredibly empowering because you don’t have to rely on anyone else but yourself. Blaming others is a lot like chewing cheap dollar store gum, it tastes good at first, but very quickly all of the flavour leaves and you are left with a sticky and unsatisfying situation.
When reflecting on an obstacle or adverse outcome, think about what you can control in the situation. When you start to blame others, refocus and think about what you can do to move forward, learn and grow. Failure is a gift; it teaches us some of the most valuable lessons we can learn in life. Fearing failure is a healthy and human reaction, but you have the power to change your thinking. When we turn our thinking to focus on what we can control, take ownership of our thoughts and our reactions, we empower ourselves to achieve things we never thought possible.
An Exercise in Control
A great exercise to start taking back your power is a reflection, write out one or two circumstances in the past where you focused on the uncontrollable. There is no shame or judgement here, recognize when you have previously blamed someone or something else. After you’ve taken a moment to reflect, write out what you could have thought or done that was within your control. If you start to beat yourself up over the past, you might as well stick that gross cheap gum back in your mouth. There is no point in engaging in self-judgment, you can’t change it so you might as well own it.
Ditch the blame, and practice catching yourself whenever you start to give away your control. Over time, you’ll train yourself to let go of those limiting thoughts and take control of your experiences. You will open yourself up to options, possibilities and opportunities you never thought possible because you’ve widened your focus to growth, rather than shrinking it to blame.
We all have our response when we feel fear, for some, it’s more physical, and for others, it’s more like a mental block. Mine typically manifests as a tightness in my throat. When I’m afraid, anxious, stressed or just down I feel like there is a soft scarf around my neck slowly being squeezed. I lose my voice.
Fear can be a debilitating thing to many, stopping us in our tracks from trying something new or taking a risk. Anxiety can also be a teacher; it can shine a light on the things we should be doing, or the path we should be taking. Sometimes, fear can be a symptom of subconscious expectations that are based on experiences from our childhood. Those experiences could be real, or merely a figment of our childhood imagination.
The origins of where these fears come from however are not necessarily where we should always focus, although it can make for an interesting reflection. The real questions we should pose are:
Are you allowing that fear to hold you back from living the life you want to live? Are you letting that fear to stop you from being the person you want to be? Are you allowing fear to decide your fate and your life?
I know that most of my fears are about sharing my message; I feel fear when I think about how others will think of me. I feel fear when I think about the potential repercussions of being blatantly honest in regards to my failures and my struggles. I feel fear when I think about whether others will think I’m old enough, experienced enough, educated enough to share this message.
That fear is not something rooted in truth, and it’s a fear rooted in not having control of how others perceive me. It’s a fear that in the past I allowed to hold me back from being honest and sharing what I was going through with others. It is not a fear I allow to interfere with who I want to be, or the life I want to live, anymore.
Although the physical experience of fear is not something I enjoy, I’ve committed to chase that fear and to use it as a guide when I make decisions, take action, or use my voice. It’s not always easy, and I don’t always get it right - but that’s not the point. The point is that you can choose how you experience fear in your life.
Where is fear holding you back?
The extraordinary life lessons learned through stress and discomfort
I’ve experienced a lot of different coaches with varied and sometimes bizarre coaching styles. Each Coach brought forward great learning experiences in my life, even though at the time they could be somewhat painful. What I’ve learned is that pain can be a tool and that stress and discomfort can reveal truth and self-awareness unlike anything else.
Nearing the end of my athletic career, I had a great coach who enforced the rule that you could never look like you were suffering or tired, even if you were doing the most intense and challenging practice or workout you had ever done; you had to keep your composure and act as if you were unfazed. I hated this rule; it was incredibly difficult not to turn beet red and groan in agony after a hard work out.
It took a long time to get the hang of it, but every day after our hard repeats and workouts I would abide by the rule. I would slow down my breathing, hold back any noises or grunts I wanted to make, and merely smile instead. After workouts, rather than whine to my fellow teammates, I would hop out of the pool, thank my coach and hit the showers. It wasn’t until a few years later that I started to understand the power of this rule, and how important it was in developing a healthy mindset.
I used to think that it was all about showing others I was tough, putting on a show sort of speak. I thought that when other teams or competitors were around the point was that they would see that I could do incredibly hard workouts without suffering. I was so wrong.
My Coach had a bigger plan. He aimed to force me to change my physical reactions to stress. He wanted me to focus on merely looking calm, so that over time my body would naturally react to stress and intensity with calmness. He believed that if my body could learn to be calm in the face of intensity and stress, that my mind would follow suit. He understood that by reducing any physical reactions to the hard work and difficult training that above else I would also be training my mind to focus on one thing: being calm. Genius.
In moments of stress and intensity, your mind will naturally focus on the pain and discomfort. You can, however, change that reaction through consistent training. By concentrating on slowing down your breathing, adopting a relaxed posture, and essentially faking that you are calm, you can shift your mind into focusing on being calm rather than the discomfort. Over time this process will become more and more natural, to the point where you naturally settle into high-stress situations as if they are a place of calm focus.
Sometimes our Coaches have what we think at the time are crazy and useless rules or practices. We don’t understand the long-term game, and sometimes our Coaches can’t even correctly verbalize what it is they are trying to do. Buying in and committing to the process is incredibly important as an athlete. Understand that the lessons might not come right away, but have faith that they will.
To my Coaches, thank you. All of you.
How a craving for adventure lead to a massive turn into the unexpected
I can remember vividly; it was last September when the weather was still warm and sunny. I was sitting on my bed chatting with my husband while he got ready for work. "I think what I'm craving most right now is Adventure," I said excitedly. "I want new, travel, fun, spontaneity and adventure."
He looked at me and smiled, responding "Babe, adventure is something you create on your own. It's not something you have to go out and get. You turn things into adventures."
I stopped in my tracks; I couldn't think of any response because he was right. I had the power to create the adventure in my life; I didn't need to go away or seek it out.
It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life, one that I had no idea where it would lead. Following that conversation, I made an internal agreement to start saying Yes to adventure. I start putting myself out there and open myself up to allow new and exciting things to happen. I agreed to go on a few trips even though my schedule was already hectic and planned to embrace how lucky I was. My life became so adventurous in fact that I've been M.I.A from my blog, social media, and really everything for the past four months.
It started with a weekend trip to Nashville with my Mom. We had always talked about going to music city, and finally, this dream was coming true. We arrived in the city and immediately knew this was going to be the trip of a lifetime. We pulled out our cowboy boots, and my mom had a massive list of places we needed to visit. Now, this was a country girls adventure if there ever was one.
We started with a walk along the strip, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. We'd stop every 10 feet to listen to the fantastic music playing from every bar. We ate a ridiculous amount of comfort food, drank the drinks, and danced the nights away. We checked off every single spot on her list and sang every country song that played.
My mom and I have an incredible history of amazing trips we've taken together, and this was just the beginning. After Nashville, I came home for two weeks only to head off for another country-themed girls trip with Mom. This time, Vegas.
My mom and I have been to Las Vegas many times, both together and apart. It's where I spent part of my honeymoon, and where she and I meet almost every year for the National Finals Rodeo. Yes, a rodeo in Las Vegas.
I love Las Vegas during Rodeo season; it's like the city turns into a 90's country music video. Almost everyone wears belts and boots covered in bling; we felt under-dressed everywhere we went. They play country music in every hotel-casino, and it just seems like Vegas slows down for a few days. My mom raised me on country music and line dancing, so the Rodeo just feels like a natural place for us to go. We packed up our boots once more and headed off to the desert.
We almost always stay at the host casino, the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. It's right in the middle of the strip, so it's easy to walk anywhere. We unpacked all of our freshly used country attire and just like in Nashville we danced through the halls singing every country song that played.
There was one huge difference between this trip and Nashville, and it wasn't the desert. As we got ready to walk the strip and take in the Vegas sights, I sat on the hotel bed and casually said: "Hey Mom, would you be upset if I wasn't able to drink on this trip?"
She poked her head out of the bathroom and looked at me thoughtfully. "Well…of course not, I don't care if you drink. Why do you ask?" she said curiously.
"I may, or may not be pregnant…"
"WHAT?!?!" Mom jumped into the room smiling, but also still very serious. We talked for a few minutes and determined that it was probably best if I acted as the designated walker this trip. I swore that we would still have just as much fun as always, but she didn't seem to care at all. I could tell she was genuinely just happy to be spending time with me.
We spent a day horseback riding on a local ranch where my Mom looked the happiest I had seen her in a long time. She grew up with horses, so it was like she was in her natural habitat. I fell in love with the horses and the three ranch dogs that jumped onto the horse's backs and rode along with the ranch hands. We enjoyed a cowboy dinner by a campfire and wanted to stay forever.
This year we had tickets to the final night of the rodeo, the ultimate night of cowboys in a Vegas show experience. We started in this giant tent outside the stadium where daring spectators would try their hand at the mechanical bull. Riders included grandma's and grandpa's who seemed to have more fun than anyone. There were table dancers and free shirts thrown around, and a lot of familiar faces.
My favourite rodeo event is the barrel racing where women race at lightning speed around barrels on their beautiful horses. My mom loves the team roping event where two cowboys chase down a calf; one cowboy ropes the head and the other the back feet. She would giggle as I squirmed during the calf roping event when the little calves were flung to the ground to be tied up. I've had a soft spot for cows since my childhood; they were my favourite animal growing up. I know, not your typical choice for a young girl's favourite animal.
After the show, we attempted to venture into the hotel bar where there was a fabulous band playing. The massive crowd was getting a little too rowdy for our liking, so instead, we sang and played the penny machines.
On our final day we checked off an item on my bucket lists, we took a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. It was more incredible than I had ever imagined. My mom had already done this tour before, and since then she has been planning to take me along with her. I will never be able to repay her for the incredible memories of that day. The views, the experience, and the day with her on top of the world.
By the end of our few days, we were both exhausted and ready to head home. Although not for long. We parted ways again, but I left with some of my most prized memories.
When I arrived home, I knew that things were going to be different from then on. I told my husband of our incredible trip, showed him all of my pictures, and later confirmed…I was pregnant.
I started feeling sick about a week later, general nausea and a nasty metallic taste in my mouth. Nothing I wasn't expecting, although I didn't realize that morning sickness would last day and night my entire first trimester.
We were beyond excited, I had asked for adventure, and that was what I got. Two weeks later it was Christmas, and off we went to Orlando for a family vacation with my parents and brother. We love going south for Christmas; it takes what can sometimes be a stressful holiday and turns it into a real vacation.
Myself, my husband and my brother all had five day passes to Disney and Universal Studios. We are all kids at heart and spent every minute we could at the parks. The first day was Universal Studios where my husband lived out a childhood dream at the Harry Potter parks. He and my brother bought it all, robes, scarves, wands, all of it.
The two of them rode every ride imaginable, I, on the other hand, was trying to survive the hits of nausea that would come and go throughout the day. I played Mom and held their bags, bought food, and shopped the Disney stores.
One night before a family dinner, my husband and I decided it was time to take a pregnancy test. There it was, we hugged and smiled beaming with joy as the test read positive. With my Mom already knowing, and my brother becoming suspicious of his sister who loves rides not going on a single one, we decided it would be best just let them know.
We sat down at dinner, both unable to hide the smiles on our faces. They were thrilled with the news just as we were. The remainder of the trip consisted of random hugs, constant smiles, and joking about how our lives were over. After an incredible week of sun, Disney magic, and family we returned home to the cold.
Here I am, after three months of morning sickness and trying hard to hide my nausea from coworkers and friends I can happily say we're expecting. There were a lot of things I wasn't expecting, like the fact that morning sickness is like three months of having the flu.
This chapter of my life is definitely one of adventure, and not just because I took a lot of trips. I'm committed to being open to adventure, possibility, and excitement as I move forward in this amazing journey. I'm excited to share this journey with you, hopefully, more consistently now that I'm not constantly plagued by nausea.
What it means to surrender has almost always been challenging for me to grasp. It always seemed so counter-intuitive to "loosen my grasp" on the things that I wanted most. That was until I was able to witness myself grasping to my so-called goals so tightly that I was suffocating them, and causing myself an inordinate amount of stress. I became so set in the idea that it all had to happen in a specific way that I had blocked myself from seeing any other possibility.
Having a clear vision of what you want is essential to achieving goals, BUT we also need the flexibility to see an even better opportunity when it presents itself. Knowing you want something is good, but having faith that you will get it is the true key to achieving your dreams.
If you are anything like me, you love to plan. Organizing to-do lists and creating schedules is as satisfying to me as chocolate. Sometimes we get caught up in creating the perfect plan, only to block ourselves from actually letting what we want to happen naturally. This is where the concept of surrender comes into play.
Start by setting your intention or your goal, then take the time to see yourself with it. Visualize how good it will feel when you achieve it, and what you will do with it. Then, go about your life acting as if you already have it. This will allow your subconscious mind to remove those blocks to seeing possibility and opportunity. Rather than focusing on seeing if the plan is working, look for signs that it is going to happen naturally.
Of course, visualizing and acting as if it already exists does not replace the hard work required to achieve certain goals, it will however positively affect your mental state while you put in the hard work. If you can put your nose to the grindstone and see signs of success rather than focus on the perfect plan you will take your mind out of a state of lack. You will allow yourself to attract the outcome you desire, or something even better.
Mike Tyson once said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." This I know to be true, life is bound to throw a few punches your way. To surrender is your ability to go with the flow while having faith that what you want will happen, even if it's not to plan. The openness to surrender is allowing yourself flexibility and possibility to move forward in your life without feeling "off-track.