Determination is only enough if your attention is well focussed
Determination can be defined as both the act of deciding definitely; and a fixed intention to achieve a desired goal.
I think both of these parts are essential. The first considers the importance of making a decision to do something. Anything. What are you wanting to do in your life that you aren't at the moment? What's stopping you? Make a decision to change something. Decide to do something about it. What is one thing however small that you could do to take a step in the right direction?
To give an example: A few years ago I took part in the Paras 10 race at Colchester, Essex. It was a very hot day and the race or tab involved 10 miles with a 35lb (16kg-ish) pack, boots and regular trousers. It's one of the hardest races I've taken part in and the only thing that really got me round was determination. It made me think about what it actually is and how it can be used to achieve goals like this race and goals in life.
For me the decision was twofold. Firstly of course I decided to book myself on the race. It was something very different to other running races or obstacle races so had the novelty that I'd never done something like it before. The second decision was of course to then get to the start line and begin. Doubts started creeping in the day before when I finally sorted the 35lb weight into my rucksack and picked it up. My goodness it felt heavy. I also knew it was going to be a hot day and in my experience hot sunshine, sweat and rucksack straps aren't a good combination.
However as usually with doubts and nerves the best thing you can do is keep pushing forwards. So there I was with my LSW (long-suffering wife) sat in the shade of a tree in the middle of a Colchester park trying to keep cool and waiting for the start time to hurry up.
Now the second part of the definition mentioned above was about fixed intention. The intention being to get to the finish line in one piece. What is your fixed intention? Don't worry about getting there yet, just what is your end goal? How will you know when you get there?
Mine was an image in my mind of crossing the finish line with my LSW hollering support and me sitting down next to a burger van (our agreed meeting point due to the crowds). Whatever your fixed intention, make sure you constantly remind yourself of it all the way through the journey to it. If a doubt comes into your head, which they do, push it to one side and re-engage the intention.
Some of you may be sat there going "yes but that's easier said than done." I'd have to disagree. Check in with your determination. Do you want it enough? If you do then you'll keep moving toward it. In my experience most people's greatest achievements come from those things they have to work hard for, and which was a real struggle at the time.
Beating the doubts is where you have to beat the natural psychological process that many have where we talk ourselves out of success.
This is where there needs to be a shift of "attention". A definition I like for this is that attention is the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on one aspect of your environment while ignoring other things.
So for your goals, those that you are determined to achieve, what are you placing your attention on? Are you putting your attention on to the aspects that you don't want - the struggle, the effort, the failures? Or are you being attentive to what you do want; your fixed intention?
Attention is what I used to help me complete the Paras 10. I used it in two main ways that you can use to achieve any goal you want. The first and obvious way is what many people do with large goals and that is to split it into smaller actions. Within the race I did this constantly. In terms of the mileage and mile markers between one and five miles I concentrated on the next mile marker.
So as soon as I passed mile three I set my head to achieve reaching mile four. Thinking about the 10 miles was too much so splitting the distance helped. You'll notice I said one to five miles only there. From six to nine miles I still set the next marker as the target but this time converted the mileage to what was left to go.
So for the first half it was "ok that's two miles done", "that's four miles done". After five miles it changed, for example at mile seven "only three miles to go". At eight miles "only two miles to go". At nine miles "it's the finish line next". That way the numbers were reducing in a positive way. How can you reduce your numbers? For your goal, how can you reframe how you think about it so the distance you need to travel seems smaller?
I also used attention more specifically linked to the previous definition by focussing my attention on aspects of my environment to control my thinking. Through most of the race my body was screaming at me. My shoulders were aching from the pack. My lower back sore from the base of the rucksacks rubbing my skin off. My hips hurt from running with the extra weight.
On the uphills when I dropped to a fast walk my head was screaming to slow down "surely you'd like to walk slowly for a bit, or even take a load off and sit down in the shade. Think how nice that would be." But I knew if I stopped I don't think I'd have got going again. As with any life goal there's something to be said for maintaining momentum.
So I shifted my attention. I might concentrate on a patch of shade 40 metres ahead and then on the next patch after that. Aim for the guys back up ahead and see if I can catch him. Watch a Buzzard glide in a circle. For some sections I counted: 100 paces run, 100 paces fast walk and so on. Focussing your attention like this helps distract the brain from wallowing in self doubts. It's difficult for me to think how much my back hurts or how tired or hot I was when I'm keeping count. Even part of this content was rolling around in my head as a focus of attention during the run.
So back to your focussed intention. Where do you need to place your attention? What smaller steps can you set to achieve your fixed intention? And what do you need to do to distract yourself when the negative thoughts pop in?
So there we go. My learning from the Paras 10 and how it can help you achieve what you want to achieve.
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