Quick Summary of Episode 66
This week’s episode is an interview with Olympic marathon runner Jared Ward. Marathons are so commonly used as metaphors for life, so I thought it would be powerful to interview an actual olympic marathon runner to see how the research in positive psychology lines up with the marathon running of someone who has run on a United States Olympic team in the Olympics. I learned SO much from Jared on our call. Here are just a few:
- The can do mindset and being empowered by the reality that the best possible outcome CAN happen.
- Being present in your mind by repeating mindful phrases over and over.
- Success comes from the scaffolding of your relationships
- The powerful galvanizing effect of making important decisions once.
- Feeling a sense of calling in life may not just come to you, but you might just have to choose it.
- Doing YOUR best rather than being THE best.
This interview with Jared was so amazing so I wanted to give you even more of the juicy details and show notes below. I learned a lot from him and it made me want to solidify my own decisions more like he has. Here are some of the highlights I took away from our conversation:
- He talked about a “can do mindset” where he is empowered by the reality that it CAN happen instead of thinking about all the things that could go wrong. These pringiples were inspired by sports psychologist Craig Manning, and have helped Jared outperform himself, which Jared says is the key.
- He also talked about the power of being present. I asked him about how he keeps his mind occupied during the race. I didn’t mention this during the interview, but Jared’s best time in the marathon was 2 hours, 11 minutes and 30 seconds (AMAZINGLY FAST), but that also means that he has that much time for his mind to wander. This made me so curious what he thinks about during the race. So I asked him and he said that he just works on staying present. He mentioned a few things that he occupies his mind with: Breathe, look at the guy in front of me, relax my shoulders, stand up tall, swing my arms, ease into the pace. Sound simple? Go try to run a marathon like Jared! 🙂
- Another powerful strategy Jared talked about was to focus on three things that went well during the race. As soon as the race ends, before any critiques, he thinks about three things that he did well. Then at the starting line of every important race, he focuses on these things instead of on the things he could have done better.
- We talked about flow experience with regards to competitive distance running. He said this: “All the best races happen when all the other switches kind of turn off and I’m just racing.” This really reminded me of so many things that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi teaches about the anatomy of flow. All the other switches turn off and you are just in the moment, fully engaged.
- Talent + (Mentors + Family/Friends) = SUCCESS. I was very impressed by how humble Jared was about his success. He talked about what he called the “scaffolding” of success. He said: “Our success is like a stack of Jenga blocks and if you take too many of them our, the whole thing comes tumbling down.” How true is that?! He said that he believed that he was dealt a royal flush in terms of being able to be a runner.
- When Jared spoke about what he called the “galvanizing effect” of decision making, my ears opened wide. This is HUGE! He said that at first, regardless of the talent he may have had, he just didn’t love running. He looked at his job and he loved it. He looked at his relationship with his wife and family and he loved that. But when he was spending so much time in these incredibly taxing workouts, he just didn’t love that. Until he made the decision. He said that there was a point where he told his coach that he wanted to quit. But his coach told him that, among other things, he needed to pray about it first. So he did. And after praying about it, he felt that God really confirmed his being a runner, so he decided to commit. After this decision was made, things got more fun for Jared. He said: “This is what I’m supposed to do so I’m going to keep running up against that wall until the wall falls down.”
- He emphasized his relationship with God as “the biggest thing in life.” It is interesting how many olympic athletes draw strength from meaning derived from a higher power. I loved Jared’s conviction in this aspect of his life. It’s also cool to interview a fellow Mormon who also served a mission like me.
- The last thing we talked about was the bad advice that he hears being given all the time. He lamented the fact that our culture really supports the notion of being “the best.” He said that he didn’t like this because it’s not realistic and doesn’t help you become your best. “I wish there was more emphasis on doing your best as opposed to emphasis on being the best.”
Cover image credit: Jared Ward
Race image credit: Bjorn Paree