Like the other traits of the championship mind-set, faith is vital to dealing with the biggest stuff in your life and becoming the best you. But you can practice faith on a smaller scale as well, and that will get you into the habit of making your faith strong enough to overcome all your challenges. Start by doing something that you've always wanted to do--but not necessarily something that would change the course of your life. Maybe you want to get to level 10 on the elliptical at the gym even though you've never been able to get past level 5. This is a great way to practice faith. First off, ask yourself if you really want it. Be careful if you're walking on busy streets or bike trails, especially if you have noise-cancelling headphones--concentrating on your music doesn't mean you should disregard your surroundings. For safety, you may want to wait until you've reached a good resting place--a shady spot under a tree or a park bench--before pressing play. ACCORDING TO LEGEND, Ernest Hemingway once bragged to a friend that he could write a complete novel in just six words. When the friend offered him $10 to make good on the boast, Hemingway scrawled the following story on a bar napkin: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Even for a writer with a reputation for terse, matter-of-fact prose, these six words are a masterpiece of bare-bones storytelling. The single brief sentence contains a full emotional arc: expectation (baby shoes), followed by heartbreak (never worn), and an attempt at moving on (for sale). Unfortunately, the legend has been debunked--whoever wrote the story, it wasn't Hemingway (and it probably wasn't on a napkin, either). But it's still an impressive feat. Anyone can string together a six-word sentence. But how do you get those words to tell a story? The good news is, you can learn how to eliminate the automatic negative thoughts and replace them with more helpful thoughts that give you a more accurate, fair assessment of any situation. And it's not just positive thinking that ignores reality; Over the years, therapists have identified seven different types of negative thought patterns that keep your mind off-balance. I like to think of these as species of ANTs.
All-or-Nothing ANTs think in absolutes--words like all, always, never, none, nothing, no one, everyone, and every time. I once met a woman who told me she hated the gym so much that she would never exercise. This is an example of all-or-nothing thinking, believing that everything is either all good or all bad. The key to overcoming All-or-Nothing ANTs is to stop thinking in absolute terms. Do you like to dance? I asked her. These forces are not warring opponents but rather complementary aspects of a single force. This single force is the universal energy responsible for building the basic structures of organisms, such as our perception, that are based on bilateral symmetry. This idea comes from ancient knowledge that says that balance is of fundamental importance in all processes of regeneration. We can regenerate our hearing and bring ourselves into balance with training. The task is not to help us handle a hearing deficit better but to restore the underlying order. This is achieved by resolving the experiences that have led to imbalance. Without guidance, the brain is constantly trying to calculate and seeks a starting point from which to calibrate. So our first step in restoring the natural order is to correctly locate the sound source in the listening field. Calibrate: To determine, rectify, or mark the gradations of something; In all learning processes we need to integrate new knowledge into our own world and apply it. Catherine consequently grew up genuinely French, just across the Mediterranean in Perpignan, a small coastal city just north of the border with Spain. Catherine tells me her family would routinely go grocery shopping in Spain. And while the family spoke French, there was a rich admixture of Arabic and Spanish at play, and there was frequent recourse to whichever lexicon served up the most vivid description. Catherine has taught me, too, to pepper conversations in French with the spices of highly-descriptive Arabic and at times Spanish expressions, just as my own family of Ashkenazi Jews passed on liberal recourse to Yiddish for all the same reasons.
I tell you this as preamble to the main point: Catherine is as genuine a claimant to the pleasures and benefits of a Mediterranean diet as one could hope to find. She called either side of the Mediterranean Sea home. The family's culinary traditions reflected that. My wife learned her prodigious culinary skills a bit from her mother, and largely from her aunt, Danielle. Danielle is, to this day, an accomplished psychotherapist living in Switzerland, but Catherine and I have long lamented her want of a restaurant. We've eaten the fare of some excellent chefs around the world and find few who could hop to out-cook Danielle. If you don't really want it, then you're never going to be able to muster enough faith to achieve it. But if you do want it, then go about getting it. The odds probably don't seem great, right? I mean, you've never gotten past level 5, and level 10 is way harder than level 5. And if you tell your friends that you're shooting for level 10, you know at least a few of them are going to tell you that they think you're not cut out for it. And your body is definitely going to fight you on this one, making even getting to level 6 seem like climbing Mount Everest. But you want this, remember? You really want it, or you wouldn't have put your faith in it in the first place. Well, now you need to go all in with your faith. You need to keep believing that the odds against you are beatable even though it seems as though the odds are completely against you. According to Narrative Magazine, which features an entire section dedicated to these tiny works of literature, a six-word story should provide a movement of conflict, action, and resolution that gives the sense of a complete story transpiring in a moment's reading. Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short. Easier said than done! Crafting a six-word story is a brain-stretching challenge, even for professional writers.
In the anthology Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, many give it their best shot, from the novelist Dave Eggers (Fifteen years since last professional haircut) to the journalist and filmmaker Nora Ephron (Secret to life: marry an Italian) to Late Show host Stephen Colbert (Well, I thought it was funny). When it comes to crafting your own tiny tale, consider drawing from experiences in your own life: a memory, a fear, a dream, a funny or challenging moment. Or you could invent something brand-new. If you're feeling stuck, start by writing a list of words you like, images that interest you, or an outline of events you'd like to include. You probably won't write the perfect story on your first try, but as the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire famously said (in six words! Give yourself the freedom to experiment and even to write sentences that are just plain bad. Oh, I love to dance, she replied. How about taking a walk on the beach? I like that too, she said. When I told her that dancing and walking on the beach are forms of exercise, she gave me a puzzled look. She had always equated exercise with the gym. When she realized that any type of physical activity qualified as exercise, she said, Maybe I don't hate to exercise; Questioning the ANTs helps to send them packing. This ANT can't see anything good! Its beady eyes zoom in on mistakes and problems, and it fills your head with failure, frustration, sadness, and fear. As we discussed earlier, the brain is wired for negativity, and this ANT can take virtually any positive experience and taint it with negativity. When we learn, we build on our experience and our own findings. Only from there can we record new things. Therefore we must proceed in training and developing our listening field in clear, comprehensible steps. It's like that time in school when we learned mathematics.
We didn't start immediately with multiplication and square roots but rather with the numbers 1 to 10, then we moved on to larger numbers and more and more complex calculations. We know from brain research of the existence of mirror neurons. So, when we see or experience something outside of ourselves what we see or experience reflects back inside of us. These special nerve cells can be stimulated for a lifetime and are capable of making new experiences that can be called up at any time. In each process of perception--acoustic, visual, and kinesthetic--mirror neurons are involved in imitating an action. This becomes clearest when the body imitates the action it sees. And when you get to level 10--whatever your version of level 10 might be--you'll have mastered a trait that you can call on to win even the toughest championships. We all face situations in our lives where all of our instincts are telling us to give up. You've been trying to fix a relationship, and nothing seems to be getting any better. You've been working on a project for months, and you aren't making any progress with it. You're trying to improve your health, but you keep surrendering to temptation or there are a lot of days where you can't get off the couch. That's when you hear the voice in your head that says, This just isn't gonna happen. You start to convince yourself that the best decision is to cut your losses. You gave it your best shot, you think, but it simply wasn't meant to be. Maybe you just don't have it in you, or maybe the circumstances are working against you. Whatever the reason, you're not going to get to that goal. Writing a six-word story is a great way to give your brain a workout and expand your creativity. Best of all, you can do it anywhere: commuting to work or waiting in line at the grocery store, on the beach or at the bar, alone or with friends. Writing is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent elimination. THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL begins at Springer Mountain in Georgia, then moves north, crossing fourteen states, eight national forests, and six national parks before ending at the peak of Mount Katahdin in Maine.