Suck it up; feed the rat

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Those immortal words spoken by the legendary Eleanor Roosevelt are ones that have lingered in my mind since I heard them. I am both inspired and perplexed by this simple quote.

Fear is something we as humans generally have a love/hate relationship with. We love the adrenaline rush, but at the same time hate the actual notion of being scared. We avoid what scares us because it makes us uncomfortable. It yanks us out of our comfort zones, thrusts us unwillingly into the unknown and forces us to do something different and challenges us to deal with it.

While I don’t think literally scaring yourself Halloween-style every day is good, I do believe there is something to be said for making yourself uncomfortable on purpose. This phenomenon has a name. It’s called “feeding the rat.” This may sound like an odd phrase to be associated with fear, but it actually makes sense if you think about it.

A rat lives inside each of us. It stays quiet most of the time, silently slinking around, virtually unnoticed. But every now and again it gets hungry. Then it begins to eat away at us, nagging on our deepest desires and picking at our hopes and dreams. It’s keeping us from doing things that we really want to do. It’s keeping us from doing things that we can do but think we can’t. That rat isn’t going to go away until it’s fed. And it isn’t going to be fed until you reach down deep, muster up some guts (and cheese) and scare yourself silly.

Athletes aren’t very good at feeding the rat. Or, I should say, I am not very good at feeding the rat. That’s because it often requires making mistakes, looking really stupid, and -- gulp -- failure. Most athletes fear all of the latter. However, taking risks and failing are all part of the great and terrible athletic process, and, sooner or later, we have to learn that it makes us better. So every once in a while, we have to suck it up and feed our rats. They’ll be satisfied and so will we.

Zone is where the heart is -- For years, physicists have been trying to solve the conundrum of the space/time continuum. I think we’ve already done it. At least athletes have.

There is a place where space and time do meet and the two melt together, creating this fourth dimension world. It’s a very delicate place that can only be manifested under the right circumstances and can vanish in an instant. When you’re in it, you’re flying. You’re on top of the world and nothing can bring you down. It’s called “the zone.”

It’s you in your element. It’s experiencing your passion, living, breathing and being it. You let it radiate from you, pulse through your veins and explode. It’s being in the zone that produces the most impressive feats.

Marathons, centuries, championships, are all masterpieces of the zone. Once you’ve been in the zone, you’ll never want out, and you’ll do whatever it takes to get back in. You can go forever in your zone, in this vacuum of ecstasy where you and your element become one. Stay in the zone, and you’ll never lose heart.

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