Preparing For The Unknown

As much as you may plan, prep, and envision for your future – there will always be unknowns, there will always be uncertainty, there will always be unexpected bumps in the road we didn’t see coming. I’m not trying to be a downer, but I am advocating being prepared for the unknown, and recognizing that the unknown isn’t scary – some really great and wonderfully unexpected things can arise from the unknown. When we open ourselves up to allow a little unknown in, we can find some pretty amazing stuff we never thought we’d try. Taking a chance on a new job, or new city, don’t shy away from the unknown or what “might” happen.

In two weeks, I’m running Spartan Race for the first time. Spartan Race is an obstacle course mud run (http://www.spartan.com). I’ve never done it before and I’m pretty gosh darn nervous. And excited. In two weeks time, I’m going into the unknown. If anyone else out there is going into a new situation, here are a few tips I’ve learned in my preparations for the August 9th run.

What DO you know: Even going into the unknown, what do you know. I’ve never run Spartan Race, but I know it is similar to mud runs I’ve done in the past. I know there are online resources I can review to find information about preparing for the race. If you were moving to a brand new city, use the tools you know (twitter, yelp, open table) to find information about your new city. If you don’t know what you want to do with your career, think about what you do know – the skills you like using, the skills you want to develop, the activities you don’t like to do. Scary unknowns seem less scary when you realize you do know some stuff!

Focus on what you can control: While you can’t control everything in your life, there are some things you can. I can’t control the weather on race day, and I don’t what obstacles I will face. But I can prepare for it by going to the gym, strength training, and reaching ways to prepare myself for the various obstacles that may show up on race day. If we use our not knowing that to do in our careers again, you can control doing your best in your current job, going back to school, researching job openings, etc..

Get a support network: You can’t do it alone. Having a support network of family, friends or mentors to help you through – good and bad – is one of the best things to have going for you. I’m running Spartan with my boyfriend – instant support when I’m stressed about training and will be my rock during the race if I want to quit. A support network isn’t one way. When they need you for help, make sure to make yourself available, genuinely available, for a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.

Power of Positive Thinking: And don’t ever forget the power of thinking positive. Earlier I talked about what you can control in your life – and you can certainly control your attitude and choose to have a positive outlook on the situation. As nervous as I may be, I remember the wonderful high and feeling of accomplishment I felt crossing the finish line of previous mud runs and 5Ks. It also reminds me I’ve successfully finished similar events in the past, which gives me an optimistic outlook for 15 days from now.  When something unfamiliar is starting you in the face, keeping an optimistic view will help get you in the right frame of mind to be successful.

Think In Stages: My milestone is to complete Spartan Race. But as the book “Switch: How to change when change is hard” suggests, think about “inch pebbles” when milestones (get it!) is too hard. If I think about all 15 obstacles and 3 miles as a whole, I feel overwhelmed. But during the race if I break it down into “I can make it through the next mile” or “I can get over this obstacle” if makes it easier to digest. And I feel mini accomplishments during the race for celebrating the “inch pebbles” over the race course. If something new or unknown seems daunting, think about it in tiny chunks. How would you eat an elephant – one bit at a time.

 Take Away: Great reward and excitement in life can be had from embracing the unknown vs. shying away from it.