Going Full Throttle … in Neutral

Neutral.

It’s a powerful place to be. 

I was introduced to neutral thinking by a mental coach named Trevor Moawad. His two books – It Takes What It Takes and Getting to Neutral – are game changers. Both of them have had a profound impact on my life and my new coaching career.  

I love his approach: Not too high … not too low … conquer negativity.

When I’m working with my clients who are athletes, neutral thinking is imperative – because there is always a next pitch, a next snap or a next tee shot. When I’m working with business leaders or entrepreneurs, neutral thinking is just as powerful. There is going to be another important decision to make, another potential opportunity that presents itself or another fire to put out. 

Not too high … not too low … conquer negativity.

For some people, the concept of operating in neutral doesn’t make sense. It’s like a foriegn language.

Let me try to interpret.

If you’re in the midst of a winning streak and you get too high, you’re going to lose focus and get cocky. That’s when details get overlooked or you cut corners. That’s when you get humbled by Murphy’s Law. 

If you’re in a rut and get too low – thinking there is no hope and life is unfair – you’re never going to generate positive traction. You’re going to stay in that pit, at least until the death spiral swallows you whole.

That is why neutral thinking is so powerful.

You: “Neutral sounds like a bad place to be. You’re not moving.
Doesn’t it mean you’re stuck?”

Me: “I thought the same thing. Keep reading.”

Moawad, who introduced me to this mentality and coined the phrase “neutral thinking,” said:

“It’s a method of making decisions that requires us to strip away our biases and focus on facts. It allows us to make decisions in a judgment-free manner – that accepts what has happened in the past with the understanding that what happened before doesn’t guarantee what will happen next.

It’s about focusing on the here and now – the situation at hand. Neutral thinking accepts the past, but understands it has nothing to do with what happens next. 

Moawad shares this powerful example in his book: If a basketball player makes 10 consecutive shots, there is no guarantee that the eleventh shot is going in. In the same breath, if the same basketball player misses 10 straight shots, that doesn’t mean the next shot will bang off the rim, too. Each shot is its own shot. 

What I love about neutral thinking: It squashes negative thinking without the rah-rah, bubbles, rainbows, fairy farts and unicorn dander (a.k.a. positive thinking).  

These phrases – and similar phrases – are not always accurate or true:

“Everything is going to work out!”

“If you stay in the fight, you are going to win!”

“Life will get better!”

Nope. Nope. Nope.

Those three examples are better than the narrative on the other end of the spectrum, which is engulfed in pessimism and negativity, but that doesn’t make those phrases absolute truths or guarantees. They are nothing more than glorified hopes and wishes.

Neutral thinking removes emotion from an emotional situation without forcing you to be an emotionless robot. (That’s a lot of emotion.) My point: No one is saying don’t get fired up when you experience a big win or say “damn it, that sucked” when something doesn’t go your way.

The key: Not staying on that plane too long. 

More greatness from Trevor Moawad:

“Neutral thinking asks you to set emotion aside when you make decisions. But once you’ve made those decisions, I want you to live passionately – love, celebrate, have faith. You can do all these things while still thinking neutrally.” 

Not too high … not too low … conquer negativity.

I recently had to practice what I preach. I had to engage my own neutral thinking.

When you have a “Grade 2 tear of the medial head of the gastrocnemius” – and your running streak of 11 and half years comes to an abrupt halt – you better find neutral as fast as you can. 

When you’ve run at least one mile for 4,150 straight days, and a pop in your left calf brings that streak to an end, the darkness is looming. The self-doubt is tapping you on the shoulder. The head trash and self deprecation are on a mission to destroy you. 

I wish I had a good story that went along with my streak-ending injury, but I don’t. I was running from Point A to Point B in front of our house – only about 150 yards. It was around 9:30 p.m. I was wearing my boots and jeans. On my third step of this intentional lope – not even an all-out run – it felt like someone stabbed me in the calf with a steak knife.  I immediately knew it was bad. I couldn’t walk, much less run. 

This is the Facebook post that I made the day after it happened:

Broken.

I always wondered how my running streak would end. Would it be a stomach bug or bad Chinese food? Would I be stuck in a random location without my running shoes? Or would I just accidentally forget? I guess I should have known that it would be something less dramatic – one unlucky step that would bring my consecutive days of running to an abrupt halt. 

With that said … that’s exactly what happened. It’s over. 

More details to come, but last night I suffered a pretty severe leg injury. All the signs are pointing to a torn calf muscle. 

This morning, I put on my running shoes (and a compression sock) to see if I could push through the pain. I couldn’t. It was too excruciating. (Plus … my doctor said it was stupid and reckless.) 

So … after a lot of prayer and several medical opinions, my running streak will end at 4,150 days.  

An MRI confirmed it was that Grade 2 tear that I mentioned before. The less sexy term for my injury: Tennis leg. (I like the scientific diagnosis better; it seems more legit, especially since I haven’t played tennis since George W. Bush was in office.)

No matter what you called it, I couldn’t run and my streak was over. 

Again, my primary objective was getting to neutral. 

But before I explain how I did that, I have to acknowledge the demons that showed up on my doorstep. They were screaming at the top of their lungs:

“You’re soft!”

“You couldn’t have pushed through?!?!?”

“Eleven years and you go out like this?!?!?”

These demons were also holding demoralizing hand-painted signs that read:

“Quitter!”

“Pain is only temporary!”

“Are you effing serious?!?!?”

Not too high … not too low … conquer negativity.

First I had to recognize and acknowledge the facts: 

  • I had a sharp pain in my left calf; if I stepped just right, it literally took my breath away;
  • I couldn’t run, but I could walk;
  • My streak was over and there was nothing I could do about it. 

With those three truths in mind, these are the things that I intentionally focused on to get me to neutral (and stay there):

#whatdefinesme

A lot of people don’t know this, but before I went to bed on the day my streak was broken, I tried to run one more time. It was 1:30 in the morning. We had just gotten home from my daughter’s softball tournament.

“I have to try one more time,” I whispered to myself as I carefully slipped on my running shoes.

I walked out the front door, through our gate and onto the county road that dead ends into our property. I took a deep breath and started to jog … very slowly. I only took 10 steps and stopped. I couldn’t do it. Remember that steak knife? Every other step it felt like someone was twisting that blade into my calf. 

“It’s over,” I said out loud. This time I knew in my whole heart that those two and half words were real.

As I walked back into the house, I immediately started shifting into neutral. I had these empowering thoughts:

“This running streak does not define me…”

“What will define me is getting healthy and starting a new running streak…” 

“I will start another streak!”  

Not too high … not too low … conquer negativity.

#beabadass

The day after my running streak officially came to an end, I went upstairs in our house where I like to workout. I remember hobbling up the stairs and whispering to myself: “I need to figure out what I can do – and stop focusing on what I can’t do.” 

To my surprise, I was able to do a push-up. I was able to do a sit-up. I was able to curl a dumbbell and hold a plank. The only two things that I couldn’t do 100 percent were squats and lunges. 

So, I put together a series of daily hashtag workouts. 

I assigned exercises to each letter of the alphabet. (Example: S = 25 push-ups and E = 15 military press.) Every day, I would pick an inspirational word or short phrase and put together my workout accordingly.  Some examples of my first hashtag workouts: #beabadass #noexcuses #strength.

On each workout, I also wrote an inspirational quote about resilience or strength. Again, I was determined to focus on what I could do … not my current limitations. 

Not too high … not too low … conquer negativity.

#whatsnext

I decided that setting a handful of goals while I was on my “running hiatus” would help keep me in neutral. Here are six things I wanted to accomplish while I was resting and rehabbing: 

  1. Do a 10-minute plank;
  2. Do 1,000 push-ups in one day; 
  3. Read five books. My first one was Living with a SEAL by Jesse Itzler. That’s actually what inspired me to tackle Goal No. 2;
  4. Write a new keynote about this experience, specifically the power of neutral thinking;
  5. Re-launch my blog (you’re currently reading my first post);
  6. Turn those blog posts into a new weekly podcast.

Obviously, I can’t sit still. I have to keep moving and keep doing. But, again, this is also how I’m working through my injury, combating the head trash of my running streak ending and staying neutral. 

Despite the circumstances, I’m in a great place. I’m focused on getting healthy and improving in other areas of my life. After I stood up to my demons and gave them the middle finger, I decided that pushing myself in different ways and being just a little extra is exactly what the doctor ordered. 

My main goal is to find a new rhythm. 

I’m almost there!

#onward

,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: