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Self-talk your way into overcoming obstacles

I hate being stuck in a rut - you want to get out of it so badly, but don’t always have the motivation to begin to figure out how. I sometimes sit here and say to myself that I want to get out of it, or even need to get out of it, yet I drown in the circles of my spinning head as I overwhelm myself with the thoughts of how. My latest rut: Figuring out what to write about in my blog. Silly problem since I am a blogger, I know.

Last week I was speaking to a colleague of mine, presumably about something work-related and the conversation somehow shifted to my blog topic problem and then to running (for those of you that hate running I promise I have a point). I told my colleague that I am a distance runner. I am not interested in the short and sweet. I enjoy the slow torture that can also be defined as marathon training. I even mentioned that I do well on courses that have some uphill (crazy, right?!? 🤪).

The reason that I do well on the uphill is because I speak to myself out loud while I am running (self-talk). I pick a point partway up the hill and I fix my eyes on it while I say things like, “You got this. We are going to the next stop sign. Ok we are here. Do you see that big tree? That’s where we are headed next. You got this. You got this…”. There is something so magical about uttering the words, “You got this” that keep my feet moving. The moment (I’m not lying, it is literally the second) that I tell myself, “I can’t”, my feet immediately go from a runners to a walkers pace and I’m done.

I have no problem saying “You got this” to myself one thousand times to keep my legs moving. The positive thoughts are what push me, not because I am bananas enough to try and run those long distances. Self-talk is one way I use to keep me moving forward, but that’s not the only thing that works for me. Let’s take a look at some other ways:

1. Break down your obstacle

I mentioned that I pick points along my course to run to, landmarks at a much shorter distance than the whole 26.2 miles. That is what ultimately keeps me chugging along for the entire duration of the marathon. This allows me to move from one small obstacle to the next instead of tackling one big hairy monster at once.

That same logic can be applied to more than just sports. If you are struggling with an issue in the workplace, try breaking down the issue into smaller chunks that do seem possible to tackle. The reality is that you do “got this”, but sometimes tackling one part at a time makes the problem that much easier to solve.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

We live in a culture where it is not always easy to say, “I don’t know” or “I need help”. I’m here to tell you that “help” is just a tool in your toolbox. The idea is that you use this as a learning opportunity so you can do it (whatever “it” is) yourself in the future. You don’t know what you don’t know, so don’t ever feel dumb for raising your hand and asking for help. 

When someone speaks to me in a condescending tone as a response to a question I asked, I often reply (in a sugar sweet voice), “I have different experiences than you. No one has ever taught me how to do this/what this means, so how could I know? Isn’t that how people learn, by asking questions?”. My hope is always that they realize that everyone is here to learn on this journey called life.

3. Laugh it off

You are going to run into obstacles. You are going to screw up. If we dwell on our failures we allow the cloud of doom to impede our progress. Allow yourself to laugh at the situation and say, “Well, that didn’t go as planned.”. And then you pivot. Get back on your horse, learn from your failures and move on. 

4. Talk it out

Have you ever told someone that you are struggling with something and when you talk through what your solution was you ultimately come up with the right answer yourself? I have found that the simple act of voicing where you are stuck forces the ideation process and allows you to see where you need to change your approach.

I personally try and talk things through with people who are far removed from the situation. Why? I’d like to come back to what I said in Point #2, “I have different experiences than you.” This is so amazing because this means people have a different perspective of a problem than I do. Guess what that also means? They probably have an idea or two of how they might solve it, which could ultimately lead you steps closer to your final solution. Please please please don’t suffer in silence when you could be working toward your next big obstacle! 

That last point is ultimately how I ended up with this topic for my blog post - I talked it out. I don’t know if I am too exhausted at the end of the day or if my creative side has taken a hit since kid #2. What I do know is that for the past few weeks I keep telling my husband, “I can’t think of any topics for a blog post.” I’ve been so focused on “not being able to find a topic” that my momentum stopped. It’s a little ironic that the moment I tell my colleague of this problem and we shift the conversation to mechanisms I use to get my ass up a hill while running that she says to me, “I think you have found a topic for your blog.” 😉 So I choose to laugh at the irony and continue my journey.


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