It’s All in Your Head

It’s funny how mentally preparing for something makes whatever the task at hand that much easier.

For example: conditioning for football. Whenever I knew we had a tough day of conditioning I would always think to myself, “You have to do this, there is no way out of it. It’s gonna suck but just give it your best, you’ll be fine.” I would try to over-estimate the number of reps we had to do with the shy hope we would end well before that. Maybe the exaggeration is what made it easier.

I was visiting a friend in Munich and planned to go see my girlfriend in Hamburg a few days later. If you’re a geography nut, you’ll know that Munich is at the very south of Germany, while Hamburg sits at the opposite end of the country in the north. My options for transportation were a short flight, and eight hour train ride, or a 12-hour bus ride. I took the bus ride. Before you call me an idiot it only cost me five euro – the obvious choice on a college budget. Anyway, the night before I left Munich I did my best to mentally prepare for the long trek the following morning. I got myself a bunch of snacks and gave myself the pep-talk in my head “Only 12 hours on a bus? Piece of cake.” Surprisingly enough the next day flew by. Even without wifi and no book to read the time passed with ease. Okay, the first five hours of the ride I was stuck at the very back row crammed in the middle of five people but as passengers got off at stops along the way and more room opened up, the ride became rather easy.  I owe that easiness to mental preparation.

But, the same way mentally preparing for something works, not mentally preparing can take it’s toll.

I was driving home from Cleveland back to Chicago.  It’s about a five and a half hour drive though I almost always seem make it in a little under five hours.  Anyway, I left Cleveland around 2 P.M. and found myself just shy of South Bend at 5:30 – right on course. It had been a long couple weeks in Cleveland and home is exactly what I needed. I had only hit one rest stop so far and planned to save whatever was in the tank until I got home. Driving a perfect 79mph West on I-80 I saw red tail lights up ahead. Oh no. I had forgotten about the construction going on around the University of Notre Dame. As I brought the car to a halt I began estimating the remaining time including traffic. I was never too good at math, but if my calculations served me right, I should only be in traffic for a good 30 minutes, 45 at the most.

Two and a half hours later I exited traffic. The unexpected, unprepared-for delay was agonizing to sit through.  The ETA on the navigation system crept up minute-by-minute.  It was mocking me.  I couldn’t believe it was nearly 8 PM when I finally cleared traffic – I should’ve been home by now!

Not being able to mentally prepare myself for an extra two hours of driving seemed worse than it actually was.  Honestly, I feel that the 12-hour bus ride was easier than the seven-and-a-half hour drive; and I owe that to mental preparation.

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