Do not negotiate with yourself

The words in the title of this post are not mine. They have been said by many people many times before. It was one person saying them one time that made them stick with me. That person was Kobe Bryant.

I wrote about Kobe the day after his death earlier this year. In doing so, I shared four of his direct quotes. One of them has come to mind, word for word, over and over again ever since I shared it.

"Do not negotiate with yourself."

This seemingly ordinary piece of advice has had an extraordinary effect for me. After becoming aware of Kobe's words of wisdom, I became more aware of the moments in which I was negotiating with myself. I stopped negotiating with myself in those moments. Recently, I realized my brain has been trained to stop negotiating with myself in certain situations altogether. It is so much better this way.

For example, I knew I was due to run 17 miles last Sunday. I did not feel like running at all when I woke up. I was slightly dreading it the night before. Even once I got started, the first couple miles were tougher than typical. They were slower than standard. The old me would have battled myself for the rest of the run.

"Don't you think 13 is good enough for today? That's still a great run. Legs don't feel good today. What if you just push the schedule back a week? You can do 6 today and 17 next Sunday. What's wrong with that? Well, you said you were going to do 17 today. But you don't want to push too hard if you don't feel great. You're going to hurt yourself. Forget that. Don't be a *****. 6 could work though. 13 would still be really hard. Just do 13. 13 is fine. But you did say 17..."

The mental battle would persist throughout the run. It would make the run harder and unpleasant. It would occupy my mind from being able to focus on the podcast I was listening to, or my other thoughts, or the nature around me, or nothing at all. At every mile mark, I would think about whether I had gone far enough to stop. All it takes is a split second to quit. Then you're done.

Do not negotiate with yourself. Just do what you set out to do. Do not entertain any other options.

I had some minor urges to negotiate Sunday's run with myself on Saturday night. I noticed at one point saying to someone, "I am supposed to run 17 miles tomorrow". The phrase "supposed to" was a clue which showed that I was considering negotiating with myself. If I was not, I would have simply said "I am going to run 17 miles tomorrow" instead. Still, I did not let the negotiation take place. I did not entertain the notion of doing anything other than what I had planned to do. Once I got started, the concept of not doing what I set out to do was gone entirely.

Could a real injury along the way have changed that? Probably. When Kobe tore his achilles, did he finish the game? No. But he shot the free throws before leaving the court. Some may think that shows a strong body. That shows a strong mind. Unless you physically collapse, it is not your body that is deciding to stop. It is your mind. Do what you set out to do. Do not negotiate with yourself.

I will close this post with a second quote from Kobe. It is the same quote that I used to close the original post that I wrote about him.

“Have a good time. Enjoy life. Life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged. You have to keep moving. You have to keep going. Put one foot in front of the other, smile, and just keep on rolling."

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