Black and White Thinking

1187241_209113155879102_121173054_nAs a habitual ruminator, I often find myself paralyzed to make a decision because I get so focused on analyzing which choice is the “right” choice.

Case in point – I decided last week to get even further out of my comfort zone and register for my first CrossFit competition.  Yes, I have only been CrossFitting for about 3 months, but they offer scaled divisions, which are well within my capabilities.  I had taken 3.5 weeks off from overhead lifting and been working on my mobility (admittedly half-heartedly) and felt my shoulder was much better.  I had resumed regular training the week before and felt okay.  When I went to CrossFit that evening though, it became apparent that my shoulder was NOT better.

The pain was worse than before and accompanied by weakness and limited range of motion.  I tried to clean 55 lbs (which should have been cake for me) and pain shot through my shoulder as soon as I was in the front rack position.  I had to put the bar down immediately.

Talk about discouraged!  I had finally worked up the courage to enter a CrossFit competition (another “is this the right thing to do?” subject I had ruminated over), and only a few hours after registering, I had a major setback in managing my shoulder problem.  Knowing the competition was a little over a week away, I spent a ton of time stretching and icing my shoulder.  For an entire weekend, Icy Hot patches covered the entire left side of my upper body.  I also decided to start seeing a new physical therapist (I was very unimpressed with the first one I had gone to).

The competition is this Saturday.  My shoulder has improved compared to last week’s clean attempt, but remains stiff and sore.  I had my first appointment with my new physical therapist yesterday, and in his words, “Competing on Saturday is probably not a good idea.”  But he didn’t tell me that I COULDN’T compete.

1017429_642926552403697_830402701_nSo, I have been painstakingly analyzing whether to compete or not this weekend.  Last month, I registered to participate in CrossFit for Hope, but had to back out at the last minute because of my shoulder.  I hate the thought of doing that yet again, especially because I have a partner for this competition, so if I back out, she would also have to forfeit if I couldn’t find someone to replace me.  However, I also don’t want to risk making my problem any worse than it already is and possibly putting myself completely out of commission.

Back and forth, back and forth – I keep trying to find the “right” decision.  What is the “right” thing to do?  Is the right thing to follow the physical therapist’s advice?   Or is the right thing to follow through with my commitment and do my best, even if I know I am not 100%?  The main concern is any overhead pressing, and there is very little of that in either event.  What little there is, my partner can do so that I don’t have to.

What I realized is that there is not a “right” decision and a “wrong” one.  There are pros and cons to either decision.  I play it safe with my shoulder, but disappoint myself, feel that I am letting my partner down, and postpone a major CrossFit milestone, or I honor my commitment and possibly exacerbate my shoulder issue and/or perform at a lower level than I know I am capable of.

When I find myself in these trying situations, I tend to seek input from others.  However, I’ve realized that this is really just me being a coward.  I want someone else to tell me what to do so that if things work out poorly and I regret the decision, I can have someone else to blame.  Obviously, when you have a medical issue, seeking a professional opinion is important.  And sometimes it can be helpful to have someone else play devil’s advocate to ensure that you have considered all of the options and consequences, but ultimately, I feel it is critical that I remain accountable for the decisions I make.

This not a life and death decision, but sometimes I let these things grow to such proportions in my mind that they feel that way.  It’s one 5 minute WOD and one 10 minute partner WOD.  This isn’t the CrossFit Games.  It is 15 total minutes of competition.  What’s the worst that could happen?

So…game on 🙂

If you tend to be a black and white thinker like me, I challenge you to reconsider your perspective.  There are very few things in life that are 100% right or 100% wrong.  Chances are that any important decision you are faced with will have advantages and drawbacks regardless of the choice you make.  Only you can decide what risks you are willing to take and what decision will provide you with the greatest value.


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