New York is looking at two feet of blizzard-driven snow. The mayor has warned people to stay inside and issues a no-travel order: Anyone caught driving after the order will face arrest.
As the skies whiten, I pull on two pairs of wool socks and fill my CamelBak with water. It's easy to become dehydrated in freezing weather: you sweat and exhale more water vapor than you realize, even though you may feel fine. I wear two moisture-wicking shirts under a wool quarter-zip and a shell jacket to fight the wind. I wear a headlamp so that cars can see me, and in case I'm stuck out after dark. Gloves, hat, and face mask go on, followed by sunglasses to block the glare.
In my rucksack are my water supply and a 30-pound steel plate that I have named “Doubt.”
Doubt will weigh me down, force me to change my gait, demand that I alter my speed, and make me want to turn back. It will not get any lighter. In fact, it will only become more oppressive, more demanding.
But it will also make me push myself farther than I thought I could go. It will show me that, like pain and discomfort, doubt is just a feeling: nothing more.
I pull on my ruck and I walk into the blizzard.
I trudge slowly, zig-zagging across the new geography created by the storm. Although it's the middle of the day, the skies are lit with winter-gray twilight. It's beautiful.
A mile or so out, and I'm hit by winds along the Hudson River that are so sharp and cold, they force me back for fear of frostbite as numbness starts to swell my fingers. When I go out again, it's to stand and drink beer outside a local bar – a tradition for the first snow of the season – with Doubt on my back. It's 40 blocks away. The next day, I ruck six miles, surveying the blizzard's aftermath. My ankles are hot with tendonitis by the third mile and I keep asking myself "Are you in pain, or are you just uncomfortable?" every time I think about getting in a cab. I know it's just doubt and discomfort, so I press on.
I carry a 30-pound steel plate named Doubt because it is a physical reminder that its emotional counterpart is just a feeling. How I bear it is up to me. I don't fight doubt: I don't deny its power. I acknowledge it, brace myself under its weight, square my shoulders, and move forward. It's not that the discomfort ever gets any "easier," exactly. I push it aside by pushing myself on. It's not something that is easily articulated, but for me, something as simple as hiking the city with a steel plate has meant the evolution from "I can't do that" to "I think I can do that" to "I know I can do that" to "I'm doing that."
If you have the ability to doubt yourself, you have the ability to believe in yourself.
Doubt is really just a negative belief. I think of doubt as a cynic who desperately wants to be proven wrong. Not just once, but every time. To turn it into a physical metaphor provides a much more productive psychological play out of the back-and-forth arguments in my head: If I am moving forward, setting realistic goals, and achieving those goals, then I am winning.
But first I must be moving.
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