Essay: On Thought-Stopping
(2015) As a non-professional ice hockey goalie (I covered the ‘non’ part with my thumb and it gave me a sense of accomplishment for a moment), I feel my success was hindered by my own mind. For a brief moment I was able to overcome it, but I think I learned how to recognize it in others.
In anything I’ve ever done I try to take in as much information as possible. What was born from being a hockey goalie ultimately led to my downfall. Allow me to explain: I had to become extremely perceptive as to who was on the ice, when, and in what portion of the ice to actively predict what could happen next. Many times it was all about playing the percentages.
But with the skill of being perceptive came negative thoughts. What if this situation didn’t pan out the way I predicted? That was where I unraveled. I lacked the ability – or perhaps time – to learn how to shut those thoughts out, and my career advanced no further than a blistering one college hockey game. I had been filtered out of the ice hockey pool of players.
Trading a team sport for an individualistic team sport (and gaining a few years of learning) I managed to squash negative thoughts in crit races to win points sprints. I relished the opportunity to shut the voice up inside that screamed for me to stop henceforth. It was beautiful and fulfilling to finally reach a point where I could command my thoughts in sport.
As the years go on, I seem to struggle to enter into those dark places again. At times I can be observed freewheeling across the finish line of a race moments after the group passed through. I had already given in to “Why continue to agonize when the race is over?” The negative thoughts had returned to their stubborn ways.
So when people like Danny MacAskill put out videos, I can only sit back and watch with awe as they consider lines that do not allow for negative thoughts. Where he sees hundreds of tricks in this video, many of us see hundreds of ways to get injured. I don’t believe there’s even room for one negative thought. It could upset his balance.
Few times I’ve observed people in their element that have made my palms sweat. Alex Honnold of The North Face, a man who climbs without any form of rope or harness, is certainly one. Danny MacAskill is another. It’s watching videos of these two in their elements that make me wonder what I could be capable of if I managed to shut my negative thoughts out. I’m not saying I’ll pull a manual down the corner of a building and throw in a back flip over a housing gap for ‘just a little flare.’ But perhaps I could revisit those hard areas again next season.