Without realizing it I've been working on managing my life better for years now. I had a sort of epiphany while out walking yesterday morning and came to the realization that life is not about focusing on what you can control, it's about learning to manage what you can and can not control.
For years I've been preaching to athletes about focusing on what they could control. I talk about controlling your attitude, your pacing, your nutrition, and what you're internalizing. I talk about directing energy toward the things you can actually control, not the things you can't control. Until now I had not realized how limiting this can be.
I have just realized that I've had it all wrong (this is a bit of hyperbole but you get the idea). What I'm realizing is that I'm leaving so many more options off the table with the control word. When you swap "control" out for "manage" everything gets just a bit more... manageable. Seriously though!
When you manage something you work with it as best you can. You have more wiggle room for adaptation. There is more grey area to work with. By managing your race day you can work with the things you have control over AND the things you don't have control over. The idea of being able to manage any situation includes taking best options and applying them to the task at hand.
When you focus only on what you can control you don't factor in the things you can't control. By managing a situation you are able to take something you can't control into account.
And that is exactly the point. While some athletes will thrive with a control/no control mindset I believe the vast majority will benefit more from a manage mindset. It's how you think about what you're doing.
To offer a more tangible explanation I'll relate this idea to how I give direction in swimming to a good deal of my athletes. Depending on the athlete I'll use A LOT of different words to (hopefully) elicit different types of imagery and then different (and often better) form for their swimming. I'll use words like "strong", "fast", and "steady" to talk about swimming that all generally ends up being about the same pace but I want the process of swimming at that pace to be approached a little differently.
On the slower side I'll use "easy", "smooth", and "relaxed" to talk about swimming that tends to be slower but one word isn't meant to convey an even slower speed than another word. I just want my athletes to think about that speed in a different way.
In the same swim set across two workouts, using the word "easy" in one workout and "smooth" in another, is typically going to have the same athlete approach that same swim speed with a different mental frame of mind.
This is what I mean when I say you should think about managing what you can in a race rather than controlling what you can in a race. The power of that single word sets a different frame of mind. I believe it sets a frame of mind that is more open and flexible. Ultimately those two ideas should make most athletes faster.
I have spent so many hours, days, weeks... years trying to control things I simply can not. If only I had shifted my focus to "manage" earlier. A prime example of this is dealing with my Meniere's Disease. I spent years and years trying to control my attacks, control my lifestyle, control my diet, etc. I highly doubt I ever thought about managing those things (maybe I did sometimes).
Doesn't the idea of managing your diet sound way more appealing than controlling it? Managing your attacks? Seriously, you can not freakin control a 12-hour long vertigo attack that has you on the ground, puking your guts out, soaked through your clothes, and in semi-convulsions (this was a regular occurrence for me, for years). You sure as shit can manage that. I realize it's terribly difficult to manage the attack but you absolutely can manage it.
I realize that while I was in the hospital for my PEs last month I was managing things without even knowing it. The moment I was given the diagnosis (enter doctor: "We've found you have blood clots in your lungs...") Christa and I looked at each other like "fuck, let's just do what we gotta do". The moment I was admitted to the hospital it was about managing life from breath to breath so I could be in good enough shape to go home (well, that and draining my Pleural Effusion REALLY helped). Every day since I left the hospital has been about managing my way through the day. And I'm going to keep managing to get my ass running again eventually.
You see, in the case of both my Meniere's Disease and my Pulmonary Embolisms I really can't control anything. Sure I can control my attitude but when I was in the middle of an attack or writhing in pain from my infarcs that wasn't about controlling anything, it was about managing the moment(s). I have and will manage what I can control AND what I can not control (and everything in between).
So believe in yourself. You can manage any situation sports and life throws at you. You can manage anything.
Today is a good day.
March 16, 2021