Blaming Others and negative thoughts can lead to self fulling results that hammer relationships and lack of achievement.
Scott pushed hard to get a robust start in his first cyclocross race even though he was in the back of the pack. He would have to earn a place near the front of future races, and he was ready to do so as he trusted his perseverance and strong lungs, arms and legs. The race started. He was riding tough when the group just in front of him fell at the top of the first hill. “What a bunch of losers,” he thought. “I will never be able to get anywhere in this race because of those newbies. I may as well quit….”
While Scott’s body and new cyclo-cross bike were ready, his mindset was not. His blaming of other people and foretelling a bleak outcome for his own future in cyclo-cross because of them could prevent him from ever enjoying the sport even though he had just purchased a bike.
Downbeat thinking can prevent us from maintaining the exercise, making friends, and performing at our best.
And if is it true in exercise, negative patterns of thinking affect other areas of our lives as well. One can blame co-workers for not completing a project successfully rather than doing what it takes to get the task done. Lunch with “deadbeats” won’t be an option for the blaming employee. Job satisfaction and work toward goal attainment will be dampened with thoughts like, “Management will never promote me.” Why give it one’s all if efforts will be overlooked anyway?
Negative thoughts come in various forms. David Burns, MD, created a list of common “Cognitive Distortions” that he now calls “Unhelpful Thinking.”
In Scott’s case, he blames other people for making the race less fun, and he catastrophizes and predicts a short future in cyclocross even though he just bought a new bike. Just by exercising his mind with new self-talk, he could change his personal outcomes without changing anything about the other riders. But he will need to practice new ways to thinking! “I hope no one broke a bone when they fell. I dread the day when I do that. Time to carry my bike up the hill! Good practice for future obstacles. I can do it!” Changing the way we think takes as much work as building physical muscles, but the results can bring about amazing changes in our lives.
When Scott takes personal responsibility, he is back in control of his life and choices. Rather than predicting an end to this sport, he uses his character trait of perseverance and even enjoys taking one muddy hill at a time. Accepting that he may never be “the best” but that he can still race will help him rather than impede him from actually maybe winning.
Of course, Scott will need to go through the process of dealing with his disappointment. Friends, family and fellow cyclists will hopefully let him vent and validate his frustration rather than respond with, “It’s not important. Just get over it.”
Validating a person’s thoughts and feelings about aggravating experiences frees the person to let go of negative thought patterns and practice new ones. I would hope to say, “Ugh…how disappointing. I sure wish the riders in front of you had not fallen. I know you will be at the front soon because you are such a determined person.” Scott might then reply, “Well, at least I will have fun trying.”
With his determination and new ways of thinking, he has probably already signed up for every race this season!