Will you choose Strength?

by | Dec 1, 2021

Darcy Luoma is one of America’s most highly credentialed coaches. She’s worked in 48 industries, with more than 500 organizations, and has impacted tens of thousands of leaders and employees.


5 minutes before the race, my heart was pumping.

I was nervous. I mean, it wasn’t like I’d had much training. Actually, I’d only ever attended two CX practice sessions.

On October 2nd, I did my first cyclocross race in the gorgeous Badger Prairie County Park.

I’ll be honest: it was a blast. I love the rush that comes from setting challenging goals, competing and pushing myself.

But alas, I came in second to last. And I had a painful crash that’ll add some new scars to my collection. And I was a sweaty mess by the end.

How do you respond to adversity?

After my race, I could’ve told myself: “Darcy, you suck at cyclocross! Everyone else is cycling away like a pro, and here you are with these bloody injuries and a pathetic race result. You shouldn’t ever do this again.”

This is what’s known as catastrophizing: when life gives you lemons and you interpret things in the most negative way possible—maybe even hurling those lemons out of frustration.

Or I could’ve been all tough-guy and blown it off: “Pff, it’s nothing. Just a scratch, and I know I’m a boss woman anyway.”

This is a defensive way to shield your ego. While this is a very human thing to think (we’ve all done it!), it isn’t the healthiest way to deal with pain.

So is there a better way?


Avoid black-and-white thinking

If you pause and reflect, you’ll often find that life is neither black, nor white. It’s something in between.

Some examples:

If you’re struggling in your marriage, there are more options than either getting divorced or staying miserable. Ask yourself: what other ways could I deal with my relationship pain?

You could go to couples’ counseling, read books like “Eight Dates” by John Gottman, or start a weekly marriage check-in.

If your boss says something that makes you mad, you don’t have to either quit dramatically in a fit of anger or keep it all in. Ask yourself:  how could I respond to this with Strength?

You could draft an email to re-read and edit once you’ve calmed down, talk to HR, or phone your mentor.

If you’re stressed out with debts, you have more choices than either paying everything off at once or avoiding those dreaded student loan letters. Ask yourself: what would the most courageous version of me do about this?

You could speak to a financial advisor, ask for a raise, or renegotiate the size of your installments.

I could go on, but you likely get the point. You always have a choice in how you respond to the inevitable challenges life throws at you. In my Thoughtfully Fit Model, we say that choosing to respond thoughtfully requires Strength.

Will you respond to the challenges in your life with Strength?One-minute-workout

So the next time you feel stuck between a rock and a hard place, engage your core.

  1. Pause. Get curious about the fear or anger-based response you’re having, and observe how tempting it is to act it out.
  2. Think. What other choices could make sense? What about the many shades of grey (no, not that kind!) that lie between the black of self-recrimination and the white of “it’s fine?”
  3. Act. Have the Strength to do whatever your highest self would do…thoughtfully.

Thinking this way takes time to learn, but with practice, it becomes habitual.


Lessons from cyclocross

Being Thoughtfully Fit doesn’t mean you always have to be positive. The goal here is to accept your emotional state, whatever it is, and then notice if your thoughts about it are serving or sabotaging you. This isn’t easy – it takes Strength and deliberate practice.

In my case, I allowed myself to feel the pain of my cyclocross injury and the disappointment of my penultimate performance. But I also reminded myself that I’m brand new to this crazy hard sport of cyclocross, and I’m still in the phase of conscious incompetence.

So I gave myself some grace, and focused my awareness on the fact that I’d had an absolute blast.

And the best part is: the only way is up from here. (As a matter of fact, on my second cyclocross race on October 30, I took 21st place out of 32. Not bad for being the only female—I’d accidentally registered for the Men’s Masters 50+. )

So pass the lemons, and bring on the lemonade!

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