From My Spartan Race: 3 Incredible Life Lessons!

I put together the team, but I became the student...

LeaderTribers!

Last year, at 55 years of age, I ran in 3 Spartan Races. You know, those crazy runs where you carry sandbags through muddy swamps, climb cargo nets, and crawl under barbed wire… And you have to pay to do it!

My wife (Dawn) attended all three events with me, and at the end of the “race” she would usually say, “The parts I could see look like fun.” Here’s the thing—she’s right! Yeah, you have to get in shape, and you have to have the right team. But if you can jog 3 miles without stopping and do 30 burpees within 5 minutes, I can get you across the finish line.

So I told Dawn, “If you’d like to start working out a little bit more, I’ll put together a team of people who will make it there goal in life to help you make it.” She decided to go for it! So a couple of weeks ago, our team of 18 people (coincidentally there were 9 guys and 9 ladies), completed a Spartan Sprint race! It took us a little over 3 hours and in Dawn’s words, “That is the most fun thing that I have ever done!” (She has the sore muscles and bruises to prove it.)

I learned 3 life-lessons along the way. These three principles will help in daily life and will become central themes if we ever run another Spartan.

  1. Stress can be a good thing.

At the beginning of the race, the 13 people on our team that had not completed a Spartan were nervous and a little scared. Their focus was incredible. They listened well to instructions and encouragement, they didn’t start too fast, and they were really glad they had begun working out 3 or 4 days a week. Putting their muscles under stress had paid off! Harvard Business Review has a great article on the benefits of positives stress. Bad stress is bad, but good stress is great.

2. Accomplishment is what brings self-confidence.

We had 2 ladies in their 40’s and one beautiful lady in her late 50’s running their very first Spartan Races. But they had been working out 3 or 4 days a week for at least a couple of months. About a third of the way through, you could actually see their confidence building. Their fear gave way to conviction and purpose. We’d complete a big obstacle and with a gleam in their eye they’d say, “What’s next?” Psychology research confirms that the key to self-esteem is accomplishment.

  1. Reframing your inner conversation makes life much better.

Our team members were not asking, “What’s the next obstacle we have to do?” Instead, they were asking, “What’s the next thing we get to do? Wow! What a difference!!!

Instead of “I have to meet with a guy who doesn’t get it,” choose a new mindset. “I get to meet with the guy…” Think of it this way. ‘Someone has to love the dude enough to say something—I have the privilege of doing that.’ Do I really want to help the guy? Yes! Then “I get to” becomes a powerful way to reframe the inner conversation.

A Stanford University professor shares a great story on this:

My favorite is a guy at Stanford who pretends that he’s a doctor who studies “total jerks.” When he sees these people in meetings, he pretends that it’s a privilege to be able to see such a rare specimen. It’s a sort of detachment — pretending you’re a doctor, just observing.”  

THE BOTTOM LINE: Yes, you can embrace good stress, accomplish some personally important goals, and reframe your inner conversation! Pick one—and make it a great week!

Dr. Rob

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