The first time you tell someone that you’re training for an obstacle course race, you generally get one of two attitudes about it: those who think it’s awesome or even just impressive, and those who don’t get the attraction. And that’s fine. Not everyone is into OCR.
But there’s an extreme form of that second attitude that I’d like to address today, those who don’t even understand why you would want to be in the right kind of shape to do those things and actively want to dissuade you.
These are the naysayers. You hear things like this from such folks:
- “Ugh. Why would you want to get so dirty?”
- “That’s for kids.”
- “You’re not in the military.”
- “When would you ever need to do that in real life?”
- “I can’t even imagine how many germs you’re probably touching.”
- “You’re just going to hurt yourself.”
- “What are you trying to prove?”
It’s pure insanity, isn’t it? And the worst part is that so many of these people think they’re doing you a favor when they try to dissuade you of something like this. They think they’re helping you to “stay realistic,” or “act your age.”
And that, of course, is pure bunk. But that doesn’t alleviate the frustration you can feel when it’s thrust upon you, even if it’s not directly at you. For example, I was on an elevator not long ago, and at the risk of sounding judgmental, a gentleman who obviously had let life beat him down a bit boarded. His posture was bad, he was obviously not in shape, his voice was whiny, and he had a malaise that literally followed him onto the elevator. He was talking with a lady that who’d gotten on with him, and he was talking about his wife. “She keeps coming up with all these fantastic ideas of things that she wants to try. And I sort of see it as my job to bring her back down to earth. Keep her realistic.” And he said it almost proudly. I almost lost it right there but managed to keep my cool.
This is the kind of person that I’m talking about. People like this are so worried about having their comfort level challenged that they try to dissuade anyone around them from challenging their own comfort level. And they come up with excuses about why you shouldn’t try something new instead of encouraging you to break out a bit.
And what’s the reason for this? At the end of the day, it’s just evidence that they could be doing the things you’re trying to do, but aren’t. These are the same people who will hear that you’re on a diet, and the next day they’re bringing in a plate of cookies for everyone at work, and getting offended when you nicely say “no thank you.” They want to sabotage your efforts at self-improvement because it shows them what they could achieve and are choosing not to.
It all comes down to fear. And in my opinion, it’s not a fear of injury, failure, humiliation, or anything like that: it’s a fear that they might succeed. Author/philosopher Marianne Williamson said it best: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
Isn’t that weird to think about? I mean, who doesn’t want to succeed? But having your comfort level challenged is simply too much for many people to handle. That’s why neuro-associative conditioning like Tony Robbins talks about (and I mentioned in my “Why Obstacle Course Racing” page) is so important. It drags the people who really live in fear of the unknown and change into a world where those facets of life can be helpful and less freaky. It’s a major block to get past.
So how do we deal with this? Frankly, I find that saying something like “I like challenging myself and trying new things.” You’ll probably get the “you’re just nuts” response as the naysayers wander off to something that’s safer for them to talk about (or someone WHO is safer for them to talk to about how nuts you are).
I like to use such sentiments to motivate me, too. Doing things that other people won’t try is a great way to boost your self-esteem and change your outlook on how the world treats you. It says that you are willing to take on a new paradigm in your life and shuck an old one, one that kept you mired in world of boredom, pain, unhappiness, and/or fear. It says that you are willing to push your boundaries further away and widen the world that you live in.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll change the mindset of a few of those naysayers and bring them with you on the trip. Few things are more satisfying and fulfilling than being able to help others via your own accomplishments. Be strong to be helpful, as Georges Hébert said all those years ago – and that strength isn’t only physical strength. The strength of your love of life can be just as important.