The Power of Letting Go

water crossing 2
Photo Credit: Spartan Race @spartanrace

In a Spartan Race, you get one attempt at an obstacle; if you fail, you are not granted a second attempt…you must step aside and do 30 burpees before you can move forward. Needless to say, this can be very difficult. There are no second chances, no redemption, no opportunity for a “re-do.” Once your chance has been taken, it is over. Stepping aside to the “burpee zone” to complete your penalty, your mind can swirl with thoughts: “Where did I go wrong? If only I had one more chance, would I have completed the obstacle? I wish I could try again. I made a mistake. My competition was able to complete this, but I could not. I really messed up…I am a failure.”

It can be easy to surrender to these types of thoughts, allowing yourself to replay the attempt and use the failure to fuel a negative thought train. As your body fatigues during your set of burpees, your mind can lose control in this downward spiral of “what if” and “had I only” scenarios. Reliving your failure, asking questions…distracted from the present moment and replaying the past.

Once you have failed the obstacle, it is failed…there is no going back. Obstacle course racing has taught me the importance of letting go and moving forward. If I stay stuck with replaying the failure scenario in my head, if I continue to focus on something I cannot change, I impact my ability to perform my best in the present moment. If I want to move forward and be successful for the rest of the race, I have to be willing to let go of what I cannot change; I can only control right now, this step, the conscious decision for forward momentum. If I keep my concentration fixated on the failed obstacle behind me, my mind is not clear and open to the possibilities of success that may lay ahead of me on course. By living in the past, my thoughts are weighed down by the negative thoughts, which can become a heavy mental burden to carry as I continue forward on foot. Moving forward, without the weight of my past failures, requires the intentional decision to let go of what cannot be changed.

I am grateful for my experience in OCR and learning to accept the failure, complete my penalty, evaluate for next time, and move on. The decision to move forward and live in the present moment, despite failures, is the key to success in any aspect of life. Reality is simply a string of present moments, on and off of a race course. We cannot always control the failure or event, but how we choose to react and respond is entirely within our control. Certainly, it is important to pause and reflect on the failure, to learn from the mistake for bettering ourselves in the future. But one must pause, reflect, and then let go to move forward.

This scenario is relevant in all areas of my life. While I may not have to complete penalty burpees for failures in work or relationships, there are generally consequences that must be endured. When mistakes happen, when I am wrong, or when things do not go according to plan…I am back on that race course. The burpees or consequence may happen, but my choice to learn from my mistake, persevere, let go of the past, and continue onward in my journey is mine. It is a powerful choice that I get to make, and it ensures that success and contentment are entirely within my own control.

So whether your failure is a missed spear throw, mistake at work, wrongdoing in a relationship, or any other circumstance, remember that you get to choose how you react and respond. The potential of your success depends on how willing you are to let go of the past, live in the present moment, and move forward into the future.

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