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The power of never….

October 15, 2009

I remember being at a Video Game Conference about 10 years ago and I was having dinner with some group who made controllers for video game systems.  They had stumbled on on this principle that set them  apart from the rest.  They were having tremendous success.  This success came from the ‘power of clear’.  Apparently video gamers were unable to resist the temptation to purchase video game accessories that had clear casings.

The things is, ideas have power.  If you can make this power work for you, you are much more likely to succeed at whatever it is you do.  I discovered that for fitness and weight loss, the power that I had learned to work with was the ‘Power of Never’.

When I approached any new eating regiment (not a diet, clearly you aren’t going to have long term sustainable success on a diet, so don’t bother even thinking about them), I would know I was cutting out some foods from my usual diet.  Bacon, potatoes, bread, candy bars, alcohol, ribs, pulled pork…  Whatever it was, if it was bad for me it had to go and I could NEVER eat it again.  It made me so depressed.  It pretty much set me up to fail right from the beginning.  This thought of never was overwhelming to me.  I loved these foods, how could I never eat them again.  I would lament living without them, really I would have a mourning period to try to come to terms with my loss.

This was so dumb.  I learned that with respect to food, I never say never.  It really is akin to the 12 step program for drinkers.  They don’t say, I will never touch a drop of alcohol again, instead they say, today I won’t have a drink.  It seems like a small difference, but ask any recovered alcoholic if that is a small difference and you will get a very heartfelt response.  On top of that, no food should really be a never.  If you enjoy foods, then plan to keep them in your diet by reducing your consumption of other unhealthy foods that you don’t love as much.  By eating more fruit and vegetables and reducing the portions of calorie dense foods, you can actually manage to keep those ribs in.  As well, when you eat ribs, try eating a half a slab rather than a whole slab.  You can totally avoid the entire concept of never and thus never have to fight the power that that idea holds for so many of us.

The power of Never is much stronger than that though.  Instead of just avoiding the negatives of this power, you can harness the positives.  As most of you know who have read my book, I really didn’t enjoy running.  I started doing it because it was an perfect match to my life.  I didn’t have much time, I couldn’t get to the gym as much as I liked, I need to fit in some of the most intense exercise activity that you can have on my own schedule.  There are 100 more reasons why this worked for me and why it would work for you, but you will have to pick up the book for those.  The point I am getting at, is that this same power of never can be so motivating.  When I am running along the seawall and I see a person in a wheelchair, out enjoying the day, I realize just how lucky I am (please read the note at the bottom of this entry regarding my feelings on what I mean about this ).  They will NEVER be able to move at the speeds I am by the power of their own feet.  Had I not got off my ass a few years ago, neither would I.  I would NEVER have run 10k and crossed the finish line.  I would NEVER have completed a half marathon.  I may NEVER complete an Iron Man Triathlon, but right now, I could build up to it and I might (I will cover the value of outrageous goals in a future posting).  I look at the older people who are smiling and clearly admiring the opportunities that youth brings as they wave and I run by.  I know that they will NEVER again be able to run like I can.  I know that some day I too will be in that spot.  There will be a day that I NEVER again run like I do now.  I want that day to be a long way away.  I want to take advantage of the time and health I have now.

I remember laughing with someone about 4 years ago and the discussion came down to things we would never do.  I had listed that I would never do a triathlon.  I was closing in on 40.  I couldn’t swim in any real sense.  I could get from one end of the pool to the other but that was it.  I couldn’t run more than 300 meters without stopping.  I had purchased a bike so I could ride with my kids and I was winded riding it home from the bike store, about 1 km… downhilll (in my defense it was/is a crappy bike).  I was sure that I would NEVER do a triathlon.  Since then, I have done 5!

That is the power of NEVER.  NEVER tell me I can’t do something.  I am betting that NEVER has the same hold over you.  What did you think you would NEVER do?  Why don’t you just do it?  Harness the power of NEVER right now!

Note about being lucky:

I didn’t like the way that sentence about running past someone in a wheelchair came across.  We all have our obstacles in life and for some people that can be being confined to a wheelchair or struggling with tremendous addictions to food or drugs or alcohol.  Whatever your obstacles are, don’t let them define you.  Never be defined by your obstacles, but by what you do to overcome them.  This is a simple little trite statement I know that.  I also know that it sounds so simple to say, but it isn’t for me.

Last year the World Triathlon Championships were held here in Vancouver.  I had the opportunity to be a handler for a competitor in the Athletes With A Disability category.  The competitor whose team I got to be on is Chris Bourne (I don’t think anyone would see me and Rob-the other handler-as being on a team, because we did almost nothing, but I like to think about it that way because the team of 1-me-doesn’t medal, or come anywhere close.  I hope Chris doesn’t mind me thinking this way).  In any case, Chris is a paraplegic.  He flew out to Vancouver from Ontario on his own with 2 wheel chairs, a wheel bike, wet suit and various gear.  I think of all of the little inconveniences that would prevent me from going to a triathlon downtown and I am ashamed of the lack of determination I have shown in life.   The weather was miserable that day.  The only thing that Rob and I were allowed to do to assist was to carry Chris from the water to his hand bike 30 feet away and help him out of his wetsuit.  That was it.  He had to change chairs and bikes on his own.   He had to complete an olympic distance triathlon and not only did he complete it, he came in second (IN THE WORLD – a small note, but if they had the proper breakdowns of categories he would have come in first).

When I run by someone in a wheelchair, I don’t for a second think that I am a better athlete, or luckier or less disabled, or anything of the sort, I have been aware for a long time that I am probably not.  Just that, who knows what may happen some day.  If I don’t use these awesome legs now, what would I say to myself later if I found out that NEVER again could I (I had to mangle that sentence to get the world NEVER  in).  That day will eventually come for me, one way or another.  I don’t want to look back and regret it.  I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone like Chris who gets out and against all odds competes at world class athletic events to have to watch people like me when I wasn’t getting off the couch; when I was taking my gifts for granted.  Those are the feelings that course through me as I run down the seawall.  A huge shout out to Chris as well, who is taking time off from competing  in triathlon to raise his family.  You are a huge inspiration to me.

At the World Triathlon Championships 2008

Rob, Mark and Chris Bourne at the World Triathlon Championships 2008

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