Five years ago, I would have told you I could never run a half marathon. Although I have been a runner all my life, 13 miles was twice as far as I had ever gone and simply seemed like way too many. Then one day, I saw on social media that my friend Angie had just finished her first half and I realized that if she could do it, I could too.
So I recruited a friend to run it with me, started training, and less than six months later, I finished my first 13-mile race. While I was nowhere near the fastest person there, simply running that distance in one go, a feat I certainly had never expected of myself, made me wonder what else I could do that I had previously thought impossible.
Later that year, I decided to take another plunge and start rock climbing – I was immediately addicted. Every route you climb offers a new challenge, a new puzzle to solve. I could feel my upper body becoming stronger each time I got on the wall and it was amazing to see myself learn new moves and improve over the years. I have continued climbing to this day and I love that every person’s body is suited to different types of routes and that the climbing community as a whole is incredibly supportive of one another.
But what I love most about climbing is that it reminds me on a daily basis of that lesson I learned when I ran my first half marathon: that the difference between what is possible and impossible is determined mostly by your mental state. I used to think running 13 miles was impossible until I realized that a mere six months of effort and dedication could get me there. And I have lost count of the number of times I have begun a route with the thought “This is impossible, there is no way I’ll be able to finish this” only to get to the top a few minutes later and be completely shocked by my own accomplishment.
After enough of these moments, I have finally gotten it in my head that the thoughts that say”I can’t do this” are mostly driven by fear and that I do not have to believe them. Now, when my mind is telling me that I can’t do something, I am much quicker to dismiss the thought and remind myself of all the other times I thought I couldn’t something and then proved myself wrong. Although the fear is still often there, it has gotten less prominent with time as I have learned to replace it with the idea that I am the only one limiting myself.
Through these experiences, I have learned that we are usually the ones holding ourselves back the most. It’s not a new or original thought, but it is one we each have to learn on our own. The first and often most important step in achieving any goal is first believing that we are capable of it. So many of us hold ourselves back from learning a new skill, starting a business, accomplishing a lifelong goal, or saying “I love you”, simply because we believe the voices in our head that tell us it is a mistake, or we will fail, or it will never happen.
When you hear that voice telling you that you are not enough, that your goals are impossible, that the life you want is for other people but not for you, remember that you are in control and you don’t have to let this bully in your mind run your life anymore. The mind is a powerful thing, but just because a thought pops into your head doesn’t mean it is true. Start replacing those negative thoughts with ones of empowerment and determination. It may feel cheesy at first, but after a while it will become as natural as breathing.
And on those days when you just can’t seem to stop those thoughts from circulating in your brain, remember this simple piece of advice: you don’t have to believe everything you think.
Olive Ryan is a traveler, educator, blogger, photographer, lover of glitter and acro yoga enthusiast! Although her hometown is Portland, Oregon, she has lived in and explored many corners of the world and looks forward to spending the rest of her life doing so. Find more of her writing, music, and photography on her travel and wellness blog, oliveabroad.com.
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