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Getting Out of a Rut + The Myth of Greatness

October 26, 2017


Interesting Thought: Getting Out of a Rut


Last week, I wrote about emotional agility, or the ability to hold a variety of emotions at once—happiness, joy, and enthusiasm at the same time as anger, sadness, and frustration—and being able to feel differently at various points throughout the same day and perhaps even the same hour.

Feeling a variety of emotions is human (and good). But getting stuck in a depressed or anxious mood isn't something anyone wants. This week, for my column in Outside, I wrote about the things we can all do to get out of a rut. The beginning of the column is below and you can click through at the end for the full story. 



This month, following an extraordinarily rough stretch of current events—hurricanes, mass shootings, wildfires, regressive health care policies, global instability—a close friend, normally a happy and upbeat guy, called to tell me he was down, stuck in a rut. I told him I felt the same and that I doubted we were alone. It seems like lots of people are having similar calls and feeling a similar way. The question is what to do about it.


During trying times, self-care can seem self-indulgent. Amid so much tragedy, the thought of going for a hike or run—and, god forbid, enjoying it—feels a bit off, perhaps even wrong. And yet constantly being down doesn’t do anyone any good. “When you’re overwhelmed with sadness or angst, you’re unlikely to take productive action to make the situation better,” says Kristin Keim, a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating depression in athletes. “And then, of course, being depressed or dysfunctional in and of itself isn’t a desirable state. Being in a dark place sucks. If you don’t do something to disrupt the cycle, you end up feeling helpless.”


This doesn’t mean you should put your head in the sand and completely ignore all that is wrong with the world. But it doesn’t mean you need to feel depressed. If anything, when you take care of your own mental health, you become more resilient and are better able to take care of others and your community. Even if it feels like you need to force yourself to follow the advice below—and it might—you’ll almost always feel better for doing so.

For more on the tactics themselves, click through to the original article on Outside here...the rest of the story is about a 5-minute read. 


Coaching Corner: The Myth of Greatness

At the 1972 Munich Olympics, Frank Shorter did the unthinkable for an American: he won the marathon. At the same race, his friend, countryman, and occasional training partner Kenny Moore ran an incredibly strong race to take the heartbreaking 4th place spot. In his book Best Efforts, Moore describes a conversation he had with Shorter the day after the marathon:

"You know," I said, "all this time I thought the Olympic Champion was somebody incredibly special." Frank gave me a consoling look, as though he would have liked to protect me from this final disillusionment. "And then you found out," he said, "that it was only me."

Often in life, we build up the greats, anointing them to a throne, allowing them to sit on a perch above us. We watch from afar, imagining the great powers, talent, or work that allowed them to get that point. Frequently, we are left wondering, what was their secret? What did they know that we haven't yet grasped?

When we give into the myth of greatness, we fall trap to several mistakes. First, that there is some secret, that what we are missing is some piece of knowledge that they have, that we do not. Secondly, that in order to reach great heights we need to be near perfect; superhuman, the athlete who has a perfect diet, washboard abs, and has never missed a workout.

Both of these ideas do harm by setting up false expectations, which brings me back to the conversation between Shorter and Moore. I think the point they were trying to make is a simple yet profound one. What they had been doing, each and every day, was enough to reach greatness. The normal human that Moore had been training beside was indeed all of the things we'd expect from an athlete of that caliber, dedicated with an enormous work ethic. But he wasn't perfect. He was human, with flaws, imperfections, and workouts that he bombed.

When we realize that we are all humans, it doesn't diminish what Shorter and other amazing champions have accomplished, but instead, makes you appreciate it even more. As I often tell my collegiate runners, the best of the best go through the same doldrums, lack of motivation, fear of failure, the anxiety of racing, and inner demons of self-doubt that you go through. They feel and experience it all. They are human. Release yourself from unrealistic expectations and you free yourself up to 
perform to your own capabilities.


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