By Mike T. Smith
For the last three years I’ve participated in a race with some friends called Tough Mudder.
It’s twelve miles of running and it’s not only physically grueling and challenging, but mentally as well. In addition to the running there are several obstacles, such as a grown up version of the playground monkey bars, climbing walls, jumping into construction dumpsters full of ice water and a few that fit into the ‘Are you freaking nuts?!?’ category. I know this because several people asked me that exact question several times.
The number one obstacle from the coveted ‘Are you freaking nuts?!?’ category is the final obstacle of the race. It’s appropriately named Electro-Shock Therapy. Allow me to describe it for you. It’s roughly forty feet of muddy terrain. It’s slippery, dangerous and the ground has a few hills so it’s far from a casual walk.
The running and mud is not what anyone is worried about. It’s the live electric wires hanging down below that has us spooked. Yes, several hundred live electric wires that are pulsing electrical current that will zap you as you are only forty feet from the finish line.
Honestly my intentions from the first time I registered for my first Tough Mudder several months before race day was to skip this obstacle all together. Nothing about that sounded appealing to me, but it was the last obstacle and I was all in at that point.
This is not a Tough Mudder advertisement so here is the point in telling you all of this.
People had three different approaches to Electro-Shock Therapy. The same approaches that we have towards our goals in life.
The first approach was avoidance and procrastination. So many people walked up to this obstacle and fear overtook them. They would just sit there for several minutes worried about getting shocked instead of focusing on the finish line that’s within sight at this point. This is what happens to so many of us in life.
We tend to focus on what we don’t want and let that fear slow us down to reach our goals. As the case with some of my fellow racers, some would not even try, thus cheating themselves out of the satisfaction of completing the entire race. So instead of focusing on what we don’t want, let’s focus on what we want. It doesn’t mean there won’t be pain, but it’s a constant reminder that the pain is well worth it.
The second approach was overly cautiousness. Some of the racers would tiptoe slowly through it as if they were walking thorough a field of sunflowers. Taking extra caution to make sure they didn’t fall as they were gently moving the wires out of their way while they walked towards the finish line. This approach guaranteed that they would get shocked, and they would get shocked a lot! Some would get halfway through the obstacle, get shocked, and then retreat back to the beginning of the obstacle. The beginning of the obstacle! They were halfway there and as soon as it got uncomfortable they turned around and went back to their safe point, only to have to start all over. Being halfway there means it would have been easier to keep your eyes and feet forward and move to the finish line. It actually took more effort to turn around and the reward wasn’t there.
Some took an even more overly cautious approach. They would lie down on the ground and crawl on their belly in an attempt to avoid the electric wires overhead, only to find out that some of those wires were on the ground too.
Those people got shocked even more than anyone else. Just like the obstacle the overly cautious approach to life means that we slow our progress towards our goals and we end up making it harder than it should be.
The third and final approach is reckless abandon. This is the approach that I took. When I got to the front of the obstacle, I’ll admit I was scared. I was terrified. Who likes to get shocked? It never gives you super powers like it does for the Marvel universe. I focused on the finish line. I then quickly surveyed the forty feet between me and my goal looking for the best way to get there. I watched the people who did it before me, learning from their successes and their failures. I then took a deep breath and ran. As I ran I leaned forward.
I made up my mind that if I fall I will fall forward, and I would get back up and keep going forward. This is the ultimate way to approach life.
Eyes forward, looking towards your goal, leaning forward so if and when you fall you fall closer to your goal, not further away. Learning from others and never looking back. That’s how you succeed in life. Happy racing.
Mike T. Smith helps adults help teens and helps teens see a bigger vision in life. For tips on helping adults communicate a higher vision to teens sign up on Mike’s email letter at www.mikehelpourschool.com.