Find the Joy!
It’s too scary… What if I can’t do it… I don’t think I fit in… People will judge me… What if I embarrass myself… I think most people have experienced feelings of fear and self-doubt as one point or another, and these were the thoughts I was wrestling with before last week’s USA Powerlifting American Open.
As the meet drew closer, and we were in our final couple weeks of preparation, I started to get more and more nervous. My stomach would get queasy just thinking about the meet, I was scowling through my training sessions, and I would find myself distracted when trying to focus on other things. In theory, I knew that no good would come of any of this. I would remind myself to be “in the moment” and only focus on what was happening right now. I would tell myself “you can do it”. I had been practicing breathing and meditation techniques that were helping, but something was still missing.
Then one day as I was deadlifting about a week out, a thought popped into my head that changed everything: “find the joy!” Oh yeah… this is supposed to be FUN!! Several months earlier, I signed up for the meet because it was something I wanted to do… presumably because there is something about this I enjoy. I actually like to challenge myself and see what I am capable of.
So for the rest of that training session I approached the bar with a smile, and a feeling of joy and gratitude each time I came into my set up. I found that in addition to having more fun, I actually felt stronger and more confident. Not to mention I was a much more enjoyable person to be around!
When it came time for the meet, I reminded myself that the training and dedication leading up to the meet had prepared me, and my main job now was to focus and enjoy myself. Each time I approached the bar I reminded myself to smile and find the joy. Was I still nervous – yes, absolutely! Will I be nervous again next time I compete, or do something that takes me outside my comfort zone – most likely! But it’s possible to be nervous and happy at the same time. It’s possible to take something seriously, and have fun doing it as well.
Life is too short to let fear or self doubt prevent you from doing something you want to do. Life is too short to sit on the side lines and wonder what would happen if you jumped in and gave it a try. As it turns out, I was able to set USA Powerlifting California state records for my back squat, bench press, and total for my age and weight class. I’m so happy and humbled by that, but my proudest PR of this past meet was finding the joy in the whole experience.
Maybe I’m just being cheesy because the Holidays are upon us… Maybe this idea won’t work for everyone… But next time you are feeling afraid, or nervous, or doubting yourself, here is what I recommend: Take a deep breath, put a smile on your face, and see if you can find the joy. I can’t guarantee a new strength record, but I can guarantee you will feel happier – and you’ll be doing your part to make the world a better place because joy has a way of spreading itself around!
Strength, love and JOY!