I totally, completely and universally believe that negativity breeds negativity.
Think about it. If you surround yourself with people who complain, whine and focus on the bad things in a situation - or even worse, seek out to find the bad things in a situation - you're likely to get wrapped up in the negativity.
It. Brings. You. Down.
For the most part, I try to surround myself with "glass half full" people, the kind that kind find the humor in difficult situations, look on the bright side and generally brush off the not-so-fun stuff that happens.
I hope that people I know consider me to be one of those people. Mostly, I think, I am.
But every now and then, I find myself caught in that downward spiral of negativity. I don't like that negativity breeds negativity, but I can't stand it when it becomes a downright inbreeding situation - meaning, I'm the one perpetuating my own negativity.
I had some time to think about this phenomenon - and experience it first-hand - a few weeks ago during a solo ride on my bike. (Yes, I'm just getting around to finally posting about it now.)
I had planned for a 23-mile ride around a loop that I'd done twice before. (I seriously need to get over my fear of getting lost on the bike and branch out to do some exploring of new routes.)
It was a beautiful day and I wanted to take advantage of it. (I also know I need to keep at the cycling miles if there's anyway I expect to complete this duathlon - not to mention a Century Ride later this summer.)
I hopped on my bike and off I went.
About, oh, a tenth of a mile into my ride (perhaps even less) I encountered a car accident. Luckily I missed it by a few minutes, but the aftermath still forced me to deal with cars parked and stopped in every direction, drivers most certainly not paying attention, the narrowest "lane" for me to maneuver through, debris in the road.
Just generally stressful stuff for a new rider. For me, anyway.
Keep in mind, it's still early in the season and I'm a newbie rider. It's well documented that I'm not overly comfortable on my bike. The slightest challenges, changes of plans and little roadblocks can throw me off - even just mentally.
I successfully made it around the accident scene and pedaled onward - directly into a headwind. Uphill. Sigh. I'll just make it to the turn a few miles up and be rid of the wind.
I made the turn and continued to feel the oppressive headwind. How was that even possible? I kept going, noticing every annoying cracked piece of road, grain of sand and smallest holes along the path.
Drivers seemed too close, my bike seemed more wobbly than usual - was that a flat tire? - and my shorts and gloves didn't seem to fit right.
My shifting seemed "off" - either too late or two early - and it seemed as if I'd completely forgotten how to ride a bike. I struggled up the inclines (they weren't even hills) and wondered how in the world I'd make it the rest of the way. At this rate, I'd probably have a clipped-to-my-pedals mishap and end up hitting the ground.
I glanced at my odometer. I'd gone a whopping 6.2 miles.
At that moment - 10K into the ride - it was like a light went on. All of the negative thoughts in my head were feeding off each other, creating new little worries and self-doubt. I rallied my mental "you can do this" troops.
The troops (yes, sometimes I think that there's an inner army of cheerleaders I need to call upon sometimes) came to the rescue. They're less like cheerleaders than they are like drill instructors. I need them sometimes. They give me a few slaps in the face and kicks in the butt.
Get your head in the game, girl. You can do this.
If running those crazy distances and taking on seemingly impossible challenges has taught me anything, it's that sometimes things just come down to attitude and mental fortitude. Often times, actually. After all, with the right conditioning and training, our bodies will do anything our minds tell us to, right?
I decided to mentally break up the rest of the ride into three parts. At each mark, I'd evaluate the last leg and decide whether to keep going or whether to take any of the shortcut options I had along the route.
I hit the 12-mile mark seemingly quickly, still struggling more than I probably should have - but a far cry from the downward spiral of negativity that had been sucking me in during the first 6.2 miles.
I rode passed the turn for the first shortcut. I was in the ride for at least another six miles.
I chugged steadily up some decent hills, only thinking of them as daunting for a fleeting second at the bottom. Before I knew it, I was at the top of one hill. Then another. Then another.
I was almost surprised when I looked down and saw the 18-mile mark on my odometer. How did those miles fly by so fast?
I passed the point of the second shortcut without giving any thought to turning.
The last stretch was admittedly the hardest, not only because of the up-and-down terrain, but also because I was beginning to get "tired legs" after nearly 20 miles of riding.
While that last stretch was most difficult, it was a whole different kind of hard - drastically unlike the kind that my mind had created in first 6.2 miles.
It wasn't the kind that made me wonder whether I'd make it to the end. It was the kind that helped me realize how much I can do, the kind that I knew would make me proud when I reached the end of my route, and the kind that made me want to do more.
As much as it's important to have supporters, friends and loved ones cheering you on, sometimes having your inner troops believing in you is just as essential.
Those troops helped me rally and get my head back into the game. I didn't even care when, about a quarter-mile from my house, a couple of immature and heckling teenagers yelled at me and threw a crumpled paper bag at me.
Some day they'll learn. And if they don't, then they're the ones missing out on the good things in life.
Photo credit: www.blacklotusmartialartsacademy.com