Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will. – Zig Ziglar
Take The Hill
Each time I leave my house to go on a run, the first challenge I find is a small hill. It’s just high enough to make me want to stop and go back home. The first part of a run is always tricky because my body fights to remain stationary. My mind has to overcome how my body feels. This small hill on the road to completing my run challenges my goal. In those moments, which last a few minutes, my thinking is critical to accomplish the feat. I remind myself that there is a purpose to the pain my body is feeling. There are days I’ve wanted to stop and go back home or take a different way. I’m simultaneously conditioning my mind to be resilient and persistent each time I take the hill. As I inch closer to the top, relief starts setting in, my speed picks up, and as my heart rate rises, a smile comes across my face. I have won a small victory plus invested in future successes.
We all have hills. Challenges we encounter without prior knowledge or insight. They land in our lives, often unexpectedly. Before I run each morning, I have a set purpose. I put in the number of miles I plan to run in the Nike Run App before I start. A pre-set purpose or goal gives you more reason to take the hill or face the challenges in life. We miss opportunities to discover who we can indeed be because we face challenges without a purpose or goal in mind. One of Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is, to begin with, the end in mind. This means “to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.” Stephen R. Covey said, “People are working harder than ever, but because they lack clarity and vision, they aren’t getting very far. They, in essence, are pushing a rope with all of their might.” The picture of someone pushing a rope is absurd, but it is a perfect analogy of living without a pre-set picture of where you are going.
This season, graduations are taking place. There are many hills to take along the way. However, graduating is a sign of a goal or purpose in mind. Sticking with a purpose keeps one on course to culminate years of sacrifice and hard work. Taking the hill, facing and overcoming challenges starts with rejecting a mindset reflective of today’s lifestyle.
The Sedentary Mind
“Are you just going to sit there all day and watch basketball? Come play with us, daddy,” our six-year-old daughter Esther called out from her play area. It surprised me because I had no idea she was observing me and drawing conclusions from my behavior. It’s playoff time in the NBA, and after a long day at work, my reward was sitting on the couch, turning on the TV, and watching the game. It took Esther calling me out to have a reflective moment. Was I going to sit and watch TV after sitting in front of a computer working for eight-plus hours? I needed to engage with my children, which I did. I got off my sedentary posture and played hide and seek and tag with them. We ran and laughed around the house.
A sedentary lifestyle characterized by little to no movement or activity is part of the new normal. Sitting is often referred to as the new smoking. The automaticity of sedentary behavior struck me a few weeks ago. I took our kids to the park, and the first thing I sought out was a place to sit while the kids ran to the playground. I figured I would sit down, pull my phone out and scroll. Once I recognized this, I challenged my thinking with a simple question, “If I came to the park to sit and look through my phone, why didn’t I just stay home?” I planted a better thought, “Imagine how wonderful it would be to join the kids and play with them.” Again, I decided to engage instead of disengage. Driving home later, I felt the satisfaction of being actively present in a moment with my children. The pernicious influence of a sedentary lifestyle is subtle but deadly. A passive mindset follows a similar pattern and must be fought and won daily.
Winning the Battle
How do we overcome a passive mindset that sidesteps challenges and difficulties and prefers to plop on the couch of ease, comfort, and convenience? In addition to an engaging pre-set goal or purpose, challenging our current thinking process is vital. Author Shane Parrish says, “the best thinking is rethinking.” Without this, it’s possible to remain stuck in thinking ruts that lead to stagnant living. Anything stagnant eventually stinks. Use these questions to avoid stinking thinking.
- Why am I thinking this way?
- Where did I get this thinking?
- How has this way of thinking benefited my life?
- Can this way of thinking benefit my life regarding my purpose, vision, and goals?
- Do I need a new way of thinking?
By challenging our current thinking process, we make room to sow new and fresh thoughts that help us overcome sedentary thinking. These new thoughts ignite a fresh perspective. As you water these thoughts, your level of engagement with difficulty grows.
Final Thought: Constantly challenging your way of thinking keeps a sedentary mindset from sabotaging your desire and efforts to take the hill. Stay attached to your purpose and plant new thoughts that will germinate into a more engaging lifestyle. As author Ryan Holiday reminds us, “Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”
Keep on Keeping on!