This past week was interesting for me in so many ways that I almost don’t know where to start. Let’s start with the value and impact of the words we use:
Written: I write a lot of things throughout the week. I sit down and write out directions to athletes for workouts, I communicate on the EnduranceBaseCamp forums, I post status updates on Facebook, I send multiple tweets everyday, I send a few hundred emails, I send a few hundred texts messages and I often write things that end up in a blog post.
The point that I’m trying to make by listing all of those mediums is that I put out a lot of myself in writing each week. The one place that I no longer write is in my personal journals. This means that the majority of my own self discovery done through writing (which is my preferred method) is now done in an open forum.
What I have found interesting over the past couple weeks is that these words actually make it into the conciousness of some people. A few quick examples:
1. I was sitting at Panera Bread Friday evening with a guy that is looking towards a half iron distance triathlon. We were talking about his summer plans and what amount of fitness and skills would be necessary to participate in this type of endurance event, when a guy and his daughter came by our table. I personally didn’t recognize the gentleman (nor his daughter) but he came by and said, “I enjoy reading your blog.”
It kind of caught me off guard, so my response was a pretty quick “thanks”. After trying to think of a time in my past where I met the gentlemen I realized that he must have just come across the blog. It’s too bad I wasn’t quicker in my response because it would have been interesting to see where / when / who and what about this blog resonates with this guy. Maybe next time?
2. Twitter. Two weeks after a less-than-thoughtful tweet I received an email from a guy that Nikki and I know responding to that specific tweet. Yikes. I put so little thought into those messages. It might be scary to start piecing together patterns of thought and see how my impromptu mind works. (This response has actually turned into a good exchange of emails and phone call about things important to me.)
3. Race Reports. On Sunday I met a friend at the grocery store that mentioned he read my TTT race report. Not surprising really, but I have not seen this friend in months so it wouldn’t be surprising to also find out that he stopped checking in.
These are just a few ways I’ve seen the power of words displayed to me this week. None of these people came to me and said that their lives had completely changed or been turned around by my written thoughts, but each of them found it significant enough that they mentioned they had read something I wrote.
This was an important reminder that whether you are blogging, using a message board, micro-blogging or writing a note to your spouse, the messages you send have impact. Especially if the person receiving the message has given you some authority on a subject matter, such as some of my athletes and clients give to me in regards to wellness and performance.
Verbal: As much as I write, I talk even more. I hate talking on the phone, but I end up talking hours each day with clients. We talk about their eating habits, their sleep patterns, the latest news story, the weather and just about anything we need to talk about to keep motivation up during a training session so they can complete their tasks for the day.
As much as I enjoy writing, I find talking to be quite difficult to be effective. It probably has to do with structure? I try to have a beginning, middle and end to the things I write. While talking… it just falls out of my mouth. And while my verbal filter has become better over the years, it still lacks.
One example of how our choice of verbiage can create impact - is within my marriage. Nikki and I have been through the book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman. In that book we learned pretty clearly that I can best express my commitment to Nikki by sharing “words of affirmation”. Sounds like an easy task, but it can (and has) been a challenge at times. It is not challenging because I don’t want to express love to her, nor because she makes it hard to love her. It can prove to be challenging because speaking heartfelt and caring words is probably the most difficult form of communication for me to use. (Time, Gifts, Touch, and Acts of Service are the other four in case you were curious. I’m a “time” guy.)
This means that the words I use when talking to Nikki need to be well thought out and she needs to be positively affirmed often. The impact of the words I choose to use when communicating with her create either harmony or disharmony in our lives, marriage and relationship. (And because we work together, run a business together, train together and race together… our harmony is the most important variable in each others lives.)
Consumption of words: I realize that we often don’t consider words to be something we “consume”, but the truth is that we choose everyday what we are going to fill ourselves up with.
Today was a perfect example for me: On my way to work I had the local news playing. The first story was of a local doctor that killed his wife. The story was that they had been fighting and he pushed her off their boat. In an attempt to scare her, he ended up running her over and killing her. The second news story was even more sad. A 22 month old baby had died by drinking drain cleaner that the parents had left on their table. They had drain cleaner on the table because they were making meth. As if the story wasn’t sad enough, the father was 19 and the mother was only 14 years old.
At that moment I realized I had to make a change and turned the radio off. Why the morning news always has to focus on the robberies, deaths and accidents is not understood by me (but I bet a Waffle House or gas station gets robbed tonight and it will be the first story at 6am.)
It is in these moments that we can choose to consume or not consume these stories. This is one reason why Nikki and I also decided to get rid of our cable in 2009. In 2008, I was letting the CNBC talking heads determine my perception of the future - and it wasn’t looking very bright.
As we get bombarded with messages, news stories, sale pitches, advertisments, magazines, books and blogs - remember that what we choose to read and consume will impact us in some way. So choose wisely in what you consume. This also means you need to be wise in who you decide to associate with because in many ways your are choosing to infer meaning from their words and opinions.
Words you speak to yourself: I’ve written about the value of speaking positive affirmations, so I’ll post a link to that post here: Talk yourself into a better triathlon performance.
Our self image can be driven by the words we use in our own internal conversations.
Emotional Recovery: so what does any of this have to do with performance, triathlon or running? Well a positive self image, confidence and positive self affirmations have a lot of impact on performance.
But I have found this past week interesting from an “emotional recovery” point-of-view also. By emotional recovery, I mean my ability to wade through these oceans of words, stories and imagery and remain emotionally stable.
The American Triple T is now 9 days gone. This past Saturday (6 days out) I finally felt physically able to do a workout that I would consider “normal”. While my body seems to be coming around, my ability to mentally and emotionally recover has proven to be somewhat slower. Here are a few clues and symptoms that I’ve seen that make me consider this:
1. My mind is still trying to gravitate to the negative when I work out. “Your not going fast enough”, “You’ve lost fitness.” “You shouldn’t be this tired”, etc.
2. My ability to be empathetic is fairly limited.
3. My care taking ability has run out. Nikki had her wisdom teeth taken out on Friday of last week, by yesterday (Monday) afternoon my ability to filter out “production and work” and fit in “care taker” was gone. (Have I mentioned that I have the most patient wife ever? This is something all triathletes need to consider before deciding to make Ironman a regular and passionate pursuit.)
4. My mental ability to remain focused is limited to 30 to 40 minutes at best. And why this post has taken 3 days to write.
a. The words that you decide to write or speak mean something to someone, so make sure they mean something to you.
b. When you decide to listen, watch or read materials, be careful that they are leaving an impact upon you that you are willing to accept.
c. If you find yourself taking in discussions, stories or television that you don’t find beneficial: change the conversation, change the channel or leave the room.
d. When you have internal dialogue - be positive.
e. If you find the ability to effectively monitor your internal conversations to be difficult, examine your physical fatigue.
f. If you find the ability to show empathy and remain sympathetic difficult, examine your physical fatigue and be very cautious with who you interact with and how you interact with them.
All lessons that I’m trying to absorb this week myself.