The news came one afternoon, an employee was announcing her pregnancy. But, due to her advancing condition, she could no longer commit to run the relay for the office team in the Frankfurt Marathon. It was up to me to find a replacement runner.
Looking down at my 10kg excess weight, a man who pays for a gym membership for the sauna, I was ill-prepared to run her 7km of the relay race. My self-awareness did not include the role of runner.
Self-awareness, also known as our identity, is defined by our beliefs about ourselves. We hold beliefs about who we are, what we are and what we can and cannot do. We accept these beliefs to be truths, making them exceptionally powerful. They influence what we do, what we experience and what we learn.
Our beliefs do not only control our minds. They control our bodies. Our bodies react to reinforce our beliefs. If I believe that I am not a runner, I stop running after only 5km, legs aching, lungs starved of air. My inner voice receives confirmation that it is correct, and my running never improves.
Personal identity is so powerful that our subconscious will even take action that will do us harm just to reinforce those beliefs. We collect only the memories, experiences and references that support these supposed truths. For me, the collected “proof” that I was not a runner included coming last in races at school.
So what happened when I, a non-runner, committed to running a relay marathon?
I learned a valuable lesson.
Change begins in the mind. Everything in the world around us began as a thought, the smartphone in your hand, the wedding you attended last week. Thoughts are the foundation of all change. Mastering a new challenge must also begin in the mind.
I decided to train. My thoughts became a desire to master the task at hand.
Following my thoughts, my behaviour changed. I trained. I was getting fitter, running longer, and my beliefs started to adapt. My new identity became stronger. “I am a short distance runner.”
We can all apply this to our everyday lives. To push our limits and progress from the level we are at, we must change our beliefs about our identity. If we can upgrade our beliefs, our actions will follow to reinforce these new beliefs, consciously and subconsciously. It is only this habit which separates us from the people we admire, the people we aspire to be like.
The day came. I ran the relay and more importantly, I enjoyed it. My identity had undergone a major upgrade, I was a person who liked running.
From being the guy in the sauna, I became the guy who organised the office relay team, even volunteering to run the longest stretch at 13km. Being surrounded by “real” marathon runners impressed me, and I began to think that one day I might be at the starting line amongst them. But that day felt a long way off, my belief still held me back, “I’m not a marathon...