Permission to be independent
(This article was originally published on Spartan.com.)
Mental obstacles are hard to see, and for that reason, they are often the hardest to overcome. For Agoge 001 finisher Amy Bedwell, the obstacle was a fear of being alone.
Amy considers signing up for an intense endurance event an accomplishment in itself. Despite always being “curious” and “adventurous,” Amy put up barriers between herself and new challenges because she didn’t want to complete them alone. When she got inspired to complete a new event, she would call up everyone she knew, invite them to go with her, and hope that at least one would say yes. If no one volunteered, she wouldn’t go.
Even when some of Amy’s friends did agree to go with her, they sometimes ditched at the last minute.
As a result, Amy felt alone, isolated herself in the crowds, and left the events despondent.
After this happened to her at several events, Amy started to ask herself, “Why couldn’t I have fun at these things? The event was the same, and I participated…the only thing that was different was that I was there alone.” She realized, “I had based my expectations of the event on the people I was going to be with.”
From that moment on, Amy changed her expectations: she signed up for every event expecting to complete it and enjoy it — alone.
Instead of putting up an insuperable barrier by expecting what was not guaranteed, she gave herself permission to be independent and put her hope solely in herself.
She has not been disappointed yet.
Now, Amy approaches every event in the opposite direction. Instead of expecting to meet friends she already had, she expects to meet new people and make new friends.
Instead of feeling alone when her friends didn’t show up, she saw each of the hundreds or thousands of other participants at the events as potential connections.
“Now,” she says, “I can sign up for a race and run it completely by myself. I’ll talk to people on the way, spend a few extra minutes by an obstacle helping someone. I don’t need to sign up with someone else to make it a good time.”
This new bravery allowed Amy to sign up for more and more intense events — one of which was the Winter Agoge. Not only did she love “every minute” of the event and finish it feeling like she “had her two feet under [her],” but she learned a practical skill along the way that she will never forget: land navigation.
When it came time to complete a land navigation challenge at the Agoge, Amy resigned herself early to the role of “quiet person in the back.” However, by the end of the land navigation lecture and a four-hour scavenger hunt in the woods, things started coming together. The “squiggly lines” on the map and the readings of her altimeter “started to mean something.” By the end of the scavenger hunt, Amy was navigating up and down the mountains with confidence.
Now that Amy has completed the Winter Agoge, the Summer Agoge does not seem so scary.
“I was insanely nervous before the Winter [Agoge] because it was a complete unknown,” says Amy. “Now, even though summer is going to be different, it’s not a complete unknown. It makes me want to try bigger things, greater challenges.”
To train for the Summer Agoge, Amy plans to complete several other events she has never attempted: a Spartan Ultra Beast, an Ultra Trifecta in Hawaii, and a 12-Hour Hurricane Heat. Beyond that, Amy’s goals only reach higher…
More than two thousand years ago, the Ancient Stoic Epictetus wrote one line that summarizes the lesson Amy learned:
“Some things are in our control and others not.”
Once we realize the ways in which we are powerless, we can find our true strengths.