When you are a card-carrying over-thinker like me, you have expectations for every situation. Having thought through so many possible outcomes, I often feel a deja vu-like sense when a new experience follows along like I thought it would. Sometimes these assumptions can lead to a false sense of security. This weekend, I ran the Spartan Beast in Indiana (sorry, Spartan, you can call it “Chicago” Beast all you like, but that close to Indianapolis and in the Eastern Time Zone – it’s not Chicago!) as part of our “management retreat” for the 1DOS Foundation.

We set out to challenge ourselves and make ourselves better leaders for the foundation team by running new races, new challenges, driving to be our absolute best. Well, mission accomplished! We ran this course last year; an ATV park, with 4 different terrain types. Flat fields, wooded areas, granite bluffs and rises, and dunes of sand/pea gravel are all contained within the one site. Last year, heavy rains beforehand had us concerned about another Chicago Spartan mud bath – but the sand/gravel mix held up very well and we loved the course. With that said, we had some preconceived notions going in about how this weekend would go.

I can safely say that while our expectations were close to right, we underestimated just how amazing it would be. While our time this year vs. last was almost identical, the course felt tougher this year. Marked as a mile longer, plus the uphill (first) barb wire crawl on a pea gravel dune, the second sandbag carry. And with 11 obstacles in the last mile, a high level of back-loading even for Spartan, the finish was a grind! While the challenge was tough, that’s what we were looking for. We wanted to set the bar and go achieve it. This is a springboard, a jumping off point for next year’s retreat (which is already in planning stages). Knowing what we need to work on from this race, we will focus there for 2020.

One big takeaway from the race is not to let assumptions and expectations rule my thinking. This was true of this race; we thought we knew what it would be, but of course Spartan threw some curves at us. That is their thing, after all. Beyond that, though, if you assume you know what is going to happen, you can be unprepared for life’s challenges. Even this blog is not ending up as what I originally envisioned! If something like this can be fluid, what about your job, your friendships…

The Universe Wins Again

Call it life, call it the universe – whatever name you use, it has a way of catching up. Your brain likes to tell you what you can’t do. When this happens, your brain is channeling your fears, and fear is a liar. Whether it’s saying you can’t finish this race, or you aren’t good enough for that person, you can’t get the new job – whatever it is, your brain can be a dirty little liar. I’ve said this before, but listen to your body – don’t always listen to your brain.

There is a Woody Allen quote: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” The universe, like Spartan, is going to throw curve balls; it will change your expectations and redirect you each and every day. Controlling expectations is about mentality; the best endurance athletes have the mental strength to push through and get every ounce from their physical. The best business people react quickly to changing landscapes and respond to those curves.

We spend a lot of time training our bodies, but often neglect to train our minds for success at the same time. A good training plan changes exercises and structure to keep your muscles developing. The same is true for our brains! Challenge yourself, your mindset. Find a new hobby, try a different exercise, get outside your box and really test your mental side. Don’t get me wrong, the universe will still win – that’s what it does.

But you may find that what you thought you wanted all along? All those expectations you had? That wasn’t what you should have been looking for in the first place. The universe was just taking it’s time telling you how to get there. When you think back you will realize – there were signs.