I recently discovered a way to reduce the anxiety that I feel when a big event is looming in front of me, which seems like a regular occurrence these days (who keeps on signing me up for these things, anyway?) It stemmed from an article that my mom sent me around feeling overwhelmed with day-to-day things.
The crux of the article was a rewrite of the classic Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.
I’ve written before about Courage – a popular theme in the hard physical training space. But not so much Serenity. It’s not a word we throw around too much these days – and maybe that’s a sign of our current crazy times – so if you don’t have a dictionary nearby, let me help you out. A couple good synonyms for Serenity are Calm, and Peace of Mind.
How do we achieve this Serenity that we are looking to use to accept the unchangeable? I think it starts with first accepting that there actually are some things that will happen in our lives that are not completely up to us. In order to calmly accept the unchangeable, first just accept that unchangeable situations exist!
There are certain outcomes that we cannot completely control, try as we might. Does that mean that not everything that happens in our lives is up to our own will and effort? Yes.
The outcome is in God’s hands.
Reader, I don’t know if you’re a religious person – I don’t even know if I am. I feel like religion is a tough sell for people that are intellectually curious, or students of history, of which I consider myself to be both. But I do consider myself to be a spiritual person. I believe that our true selves – or our souls – operate independently from our rational thinking minds and our physical bodies. And it’s been my experience that we can tap into that spiritual consciousness and listen to where our true self is trying to lead us. Maybe we call that prayer, or maybe it’s meditation or contemplation.
I believe that we are also all connected – that our souls share a true connection with God and all other living beings. The Native American representation of God is often written as, “The Great Spirit that exists in all things.”
Tying this back to CrossFit for those that are reading this and wondering “where the hell is he going here?”, I believe that training our bodies and our minds to be healthy and functioning at as high a level as possible can help us to connect more spiritually by eliminating any interference like pain or illness or negative self-talk. To climb the spiritual mountain, we must first pass over the physical and mental peaks.
Personal spiritual outburst complete, let’s get back to the message: The outcome is in God’s hands.
In training for an event, the only thing I have control over is my effort. And while my individual effort is a relatively small proportion of all the inputs into the equation, it is in the end absolutely vital. In the most extreme example, if my preparation for a 50K race includes no running, and eating and drinking whatever the hell I want, then I have virtually guaranteed the outcome to be bad – I might as well not even show up. On the opposite side of the preparation spectrum, if I follow a well-designed running program, continue to train hard and smart in the gym, do mobility work to control any pain points, and eat a sensible diet designed to fuel for endurance training, I have a high probability of success in the race. I can highly influence the outcome. But it’s not a done deal. All I can focus on is what is within my control, and leave the final outcome to God, or the universe, or the weather, whoever or whatever you think has the deciding vote.
In my journal this morning I wrote down, “COURAGE = TRAIN HARD. SERENITY = LET THE REST GO.” (I tend to write in all-caps if it’s something that I want to be able to refer back to later.)
I instantly felt lighter, and front-sight focused. I felt my ego let go of the outcome – it’s not even mine! I can own my training, and be severe with my self-criticism if I let myself down there, but I don’t own the final score.
The outcome is in God’s hands. Does that give us freedom to do whatever the hell we want, because the outcome is not up to us? No, not in the least. It means we need to train hard and smart to give ourselves the best chance possible. But it does give us the Serenity, the Peace of Mind, to know that things might not always go our way, and that’s OK, as long as we did everything that we could. Maybe that’s the way it was supposed to be this time. We reconnect to our innermost true selves, listen for the feedback of where we should go next. Then set our training plan again, and get after it!