The Voices in My Head – The Brave Athlete

A friend calls you you for a run. The last time you ran together you felt aweful. You felt like you were holding him back. Now the call comes in and you are flooded with dread. The dread that you aren’t good enough any more to run with him. That somehow you’ve lost a step.  Is this rational thought?
There is a great new book on the market, The Brave Athlete, which tackles psychology through the lens of endurance sports. There are a large number of books that have come out in the last few years dealing with the subject of depression. I’m using depression not as the clinical definition but the overall feeling that things just aren’t going right in your world. This is not a new subject. In fact for me personally, it’s been a constant battle.

When work got to me, my go to relief was a hard run. I used to tell people running is great for opening up your mind. Running hard is great for bringing your mind back to focus. Unfortunately you can only run hard so often before you break and in doing so you open yourself up to a huge number of other mental anguish problems.

What you can expect from this book:

1. You’ll learn in a very easy to understand way how your brain works.

2. You’ll be given exercises to fully understand what they call your chimp (monkey) brain. That’s the part of your brain that reacts to fight or flight. It’s also the part of the brain that takes your memories (from the computer part of your brain) and turns them into current day reality day after day after day. Like the day your teacher told you “You aren’t working to your potential” Your monkey brain if left unchecked can turn that into a life long truth.

3. You’ll learn that you are not alone in this. Although social media tells you otherwise many are dealing with a brain that is full of it.

4. Most importantly you’ll learn how to engage your rational brain. The one that can look at a situation and rationally make a decision on it. An example in the book is Michael Phelps. We all saw the video. The one swimmer is trying to get into the head of Michael Phelps. Trying to engage his monkey brain, get him thinking about all the things that could go wrong in the upcoming swim. Instead Phelps has  a game face on and probably has his favorite music blasting at a volume loud enough to drown everything out. He wears those headphones until he gets to the starting block. He never looks at anyone in the eyes. It’s his tool of for drowning out all of the distractions including those between his ears. We know the result. Phelps won! This is Phelps rationally understanding if he just ignores all but what’s playing in his headphones, everything else will work out fine.

Almost all of the excercises show up in the most excelleant book Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris.  The change makers of the world practice the examples set forth in The Brave Athlete on a regular basis. One of my favorite excersizes from both books is part of my daily morning routine. Writing a list of what I’m afraid of. It’s really easy once you write it out to realize it’s a false narrative coming from your monkey brain. As an example my day job involves starting a business that doesn’t exist in the world today. I rely on companies to pay me for my work. Like you or me, companies like to hold on to their money as long as they can. My rational brain knows from years of working in this industry that the companies are waiting to get paid before they pay me and everyone like me. My monkey brain invents all these reasons why the companies aren’t paying me. My work is crap. There is no real meaning to the work I do. Even though I have a contract the thought crosses my mind that the big bosses have said all “consultant” contracts are null and void. Monkey this, monkey that all day long. When I write this stuff out and then write out how freaking lucky I am to be able to build this business everything becomes right.

Why this book hit home when so many others haven’t.

1. It’s based on endurance sports. If you are reading this you are one of me. It’s quite simple, our brains invent all kinds of reasons why we shouldn’t go out the door or why we obsessively can’t miss a workout. When we can apply this to something we truly love like sport I believe we can apply it to the rest of our life.

2. Any time spent with Leslie Patterson and you’ll understand the title of the book and the straight forward language used. Leave it to the woman from Scotland to simply say what all of us are thinking. “Calm the F@ck down”