This week I was challenged. These days it doesn’t typically happen in the traditional forthright and direct manner- a challenge is usually used as a euphemism for a problem or in being forced to deal with an annoying co-worker. But this time, I received an email stating point blank in the subject line, “ You’ve been challenged.”
Inside was an invitation to join some friends in an extremely difficult obstacle course/mud race/grueling physical event aptly named Tough Mudder. “Challenge” does not begin to describe it. Now I’ve never been someone who has done marathons or triathlons of any sort. I’m definitely an athletic person, but pushing myself at the gym to keep fit is just not the same thing. And while I still do tons of sprints when I swim three times a week, the last race I competed in was on the varsity swim team back in high school. I certainly remember it being physically demanding, but it simply doesn’t compare to the 10-12 miles of running, combined with a couple dozen obstacles, including traversing pools of ice water, crawling in mud under barbed wire, carrying massive logs, scaling walls, and enduring varying voltages of electric shocks. Yes, really.
But the challenge had been made- the gauntlet had been thrown. As I read through the challenges, the blogs of former contestants, the number of well-trained military personnel who regard this as the toughest event on the planet, my mind kicks into high gear with the self-talk. “What are you, crazy? You can’t do THAT. You’ll flat-out DIE,” and the barrage of reasonable, rational, self-preserving logic cascades through my mind. And yet, despite all of this, in defiance of all of the very well-founded reasoning my brain was churning forth, I already knew the inevitable result: I am doing this.
That’s the funny thing about intuition. When you trust that little intuitive feeling within you, when you’ve developed a strong bond with it as I have, the other thoughts don’t stand a chance against it. You hear them, but you’re no longer LISTENING. Before long, they are about as effective as the most boring professor you ever had to endure in school. Thoughts may flit through my mind, but intuition I can feel in a profound, deep sense. And the feeling came: “We’re doing this. Make your peace with it. Accept the challenge and get on with your training.” And once I did, all other mental flotsam went silent.
“There’s something about knowing that you’re eternal that takes the fear out of anything.” If I hold this to be true for me, then why not play this life to the hilt? Why wouldn’t I dig in and go for everything I have ever once been afraid of? Why would I pass up on any brilliant opportunity to master my mental fortitude, physical strength and emotional resolve?
January can be a time where many will consider a new challenge, and most will keep going with it – all the way to mid-February. But that’s not how I’m wired. I may live my life “by the seat of my pants,” but when I set my mind to something, you’d be wise to move aside, because this man is coming through. Last January, I decided after 20 years of lifting weights and working out, that I was going to finally see my abs. So I lost over 35 lbs. and have kept it off since. Now, that may seem like a vain, superficial example, but it’s something in all my years I had never experienced firsthand. I had few friends that had achieved this, and when I began, my own habits and patterns were clearly set in the opposite direction of this goal. That is, until I made the decision about the change in my life that I wanted to see. Now I hold it up as physical evidence of what we all can achieve. If I can do it, so can you. If you want to.
How? Tools and strategies played a part in it, sure, but the KEY element was and is the DECISION TO DO IT. Not try it, not see how it goes, not see if I can do it this time. No. DECIDE. Just decide. THIS will be what happens. Period. And the support will follow. The tools you need, the people who will help, all of that will show up when you need it IF you have truly decided that THIS IS HAPPENING.
There is no room for wishy-washy “I’ll try” nonsense. Decide how it will be, leave behind all doubt, and savor and revel in every baby step of progress. Expend no more mental energy on the inevitable speed-bumps along the way. Did I, for instance, steadily lose weight every single week last January? No. But I celebrated- mentally and emotionally – every inch of progress, and made simply a notation and slight course adjustment in those fleeting moments where progress slowed.
FEED yourself the thoughts that support your decision. Feel the excitement and joy of having already accomplished whatever it is you want, and you’ll be shocked at how quickly it comes. Abandon entirely any thought contrary to what you want- any negativity, any complaints, any beating yourself up for not doing things as well or as quickly as you want. Doing so not only wastes the present moment that could be better spent, but it attracts more of those feelings, more of those moments. Let all of that go, and remind yourself of what you have decided will be.
The bonus is that once something has shown up in your physical reality, it’s far easier to maintain. This is true of anything you have attracted into your life- bad habits or good. Complain about the problems in your life and you get more. Express your gratitude for all the good things you have attracted, and yes, you get more of those too. And with something you’ve manifested, you can look at it with your eyes, appreciate and experience it with your physical senses, and say to yourself, “I did this!”
Trust me, it won’t be long before you say to yourself, “Well if I could do this, then what else can I do?”
So for me, the Tough Mudder challenge has been accepted, and the process of training for it is already under way, which leads me to the next question: Where else would challenging myself and deciding what I want to accomplish be most meaningful in my life? Where else can I make such a powerfully effective decision?
And here is where I throw down the gauntlet for myself:
- I’ve decided I will book a minimum of 3 National Commercials this year. I’m currently enrolled in a set of intensive commercial acting/audition classes (which I’ll talk more about in future posts) that have me well on my way towards that end.
- I’ve decided I will complete the final draft of my screenplay, that has been bouncing around in various forms and drafts for 10 years.
- I’ve decided I will have my own professionally done acting demo reel with scenes I’ve selected and/or written myself, that expertly showcases my talent and my brand.
- I’ve decided to practice and develop and master the ground-breaking acting techniques and tools I learned while in Austin, until they have become second-nature to me.
- I’ve decided I will book a minimum of 3 speaking roles on 1 or more TV series.
No short order. But if I have already proven to myself what I am capable of when I am clear and focused, it stands to reason that reaching for the low-hanging fruit, or anything less than a true challenge would be a waste of time for me.
So if you KNEW that making a decision for yourself would guarantee it’s arrival in your life, sooner or later, and you were truly willing to train yourself to let go of all doubt of it showing up, what would YOU reach for? How would YOU decide to challenge yourself?