Choose Your Mindset

My personal story of investigating a growth in my brain that was affecting my eyesight is a great example of how controlling your mindset can help relieve unnecessary stress and optimize your performance.

Every day, life throws a whole range of challenges our way. Whether it’s racing in a marathon, competing in your first triathlon, public speaking, or a stressful situation at work.

I want to share with you another tool in my armory that will help you overcome mental barriers and optimize your performance: choosing your mindset and where to focus your attention.

The great news is that you can apply this to business and to life in general. It applies to everything you do. If you read this, it will help you optimize your life: the mental, the physical, and the emotional aspects.

Time to get reading glasses

As I was approaching 50, I started to find that reading my watch was becoming hard. I had to hold it out further from my face to read the time. Then I found it hard to read the newspaper. It was time for glasses.

In October last year, I visited our family optometrist, and she conducted the standard tests, confirming that it was time for glasses and also suggesting more tests for glaucoma. I panicked, immediately thinking I would go blind. She reassured me that if I did have the condition, drops could largely manage it.

More tests – just to be sure

On that visit, she ran me through a barrage of tests and found something odd. My visual field test, which is a subjective measure of central and peripheral vision, or “side vision,” used to diagnose, determine the severity of, and monitor glaucoma, showed some very strange results. She asked me to come back in again in a week and have the test again.

At the time, I thought nothing of it. I was just looking forward to getting my glasses – dark blue and black Prada ones. I was so looking forward to being able to read again.

What did I think?

Was I worried about this strange result? No! I didn’t even think about it. I was preparing to run the Melbourne Marathon in two weeks, and then New York two weeks after that, so I was quite focused on those events.

As I was driving home, I thought about what I should tell my family. What could I tell them? I knew I was getting some awesome glasses and I needed to have another test. I wasn’t stressed about this, so why tell them anything? I decided that since I was not going to think about it until the next appointment, I would make life easier for the family and just tell them the truth.

“I’m getting some cool glasses, and I need one more test just to check a few things out.”

What could I have done?

I could have started down a path of high stress, bad sleep, and sub-optimal performance. All I had to do was get on the Internet and look up “strange results from visual field tests” and my whole world could have gone into chaos. My family could have been disrupted and highly stressed as well.

But I just placed my attention on the positive: that I was finally getting glasses and was going to run a personal best in the Melbourne Marathon in 10 days.

The next tests

Over the next week, I focused on my clients and training for the marathon. When I arrived for my vision field test, I was feeling a little nervous.

At the end of the test, Kathryn leaned over and said in a very calm and caring way that there seemed to be a problem. It wasn’t glaucoma, but it was possibly a cyst or a growth near the pituitary gland where the optic nerve crosses over it.

Really? Two days before my marathon? Just what I needed!

She referred me to my GP, and the referral talked about a possible pituitary macroadenoma. She told me that these are quite rare but can generally be dealt with well. The “C” word did not come up, but I knew what she meant. I could tell by the look in her eyes that something was worrying her.

Mindset: we control it

So again, I had to make the decision about what I would think about, where would I put my attention, and what I would tell my family.

A big decision!

I made the same decision as before. I told Susan I had been referred to my GP for a scan to check something out. I saw my GP on Monday and was booked in for an MRI scan the next day, after the marathon. I knew that they would probably have the results by Wednesday.

There was no need to scare everyone about the possibility that I had a brain tumor or anything strange going on with my eyes.

What use would it serve?

I decided to continue to enjoy good sleep and prepare well for the race. I chose not to upset myself by worrying about something I had zero control over.

On Sunday, I ran my fastest marathon ever, and I had a great day and dinner with the family on Sunday night.

MRI time

On Tuesday, I had my MRI, and the lovely lady who greeted me told me they took two types of scans – non-contrast and contrast – and would only do the contrast if they found something and needed to get a closer look. Then they would inject a dye.

The MRI began. Then the machine stopped. The lady announced in the headphones that they needed to inject the dye.

That is when I thought: “Mmm, this is interesting. What if it’s cancer? I’m only 50. I don’t want to die yet.”

My heart started pumping, and I could tell it was racing at about 120 BPM (I can usually pick my HR within a few beats due to all my HR training when I run). I was worried. The nurse came into the room and did the injection. She asked if I was okay. The tone in her voice had changed a lot.

The machine started again, and as I looked up at the roof, I wondered what I would do if the nurse came back with the dreaded response: “You have cancer.”

Life seemed to go into slow motion. I started seeing my childhood, my army time, and the birth of my kids like they were all in movies. It was as though I was in another world. 

Did I want to have treatment? Would I just go without? Was this meant to be? I didn’t find any answers lying there alone on the bench with this massive machine taking pictures of my brain.

The machine stopped and the staff came in and helped me up. The whole mood in the room had changed. It seemed like they didn’t want to look me in the face, and I think that shocked me even more. What the hell did they find?

They asked if I had an appointment with my GP before my trip to New York in two weeks. They promised to rush the results.

What could I have done?

This time, the situation was a bit more drastic. They had found something strange in my brain – something that was not meant to be there. It had been affecting my eyes. Had all those years of high stress, mobile phone use, and lack of sleep caused me to have a tumor in my brain? I would have to wait a few days before finding out.

As a coach, I considered what I would say to one of my clients in this situation. I would show empathy and be kind. Then I thought back to my mantra:

“You can only control the way you react to something. You can change your mental state by the way you think, and you can shift your focus onto resourceful things, not things that you have no control over or impact on.”

Who should I tell?

That same choice presented itself again. Should I upset the whole family and tell them the MRI found something? Or, should I wait to get a call from my GP in 48 hours to tell me I had a brain tumor?

I waited. The best thing is that I made that choice and then didn’t think about it again. I didn’t lose sleep. I didn’t get stressed. I had the mindset that I could not change the situation. There was zero benefits to my family or me in focusing attention on something that might not have been a problem.

On Wednesday morning, I got a call from my GP’s office and I held my breath. I knew as soon as the receptionist spoke that everything was fine. She was happy and I could picture her smiling. She said, “Mr. Obradovic, everything is fine, it is not cancer.”

I burst into tears, standing out in the sun on our deck on a beautiful day. I thanked her for her call.

Then I found Susan and told her I would need to see a neurosurgeon and get the growth removed, but it wasn’t cancer. We decided not to tell the kids until I had seen the surgeon. He clarified that it was a pituitary tumor, not cancer, and that he would remove it through my nose. We locked it in for after my return from the New York marathon.

Moral of the story

Every day, we make choices about what we think about.

  • We decide where we put our attention, so we can take control of how we feel.
  • Developing strategies that allow you to focus your attention on things that are important to you and that keep your mind on task is critical to optimized performance.
  • Developing your self-awareness in terms of how you react to different situations can help you handle difficult issues at work and in life.
  • Deep thought and reflection allow us to reconsider the environment moment to moment and make choices that may be different from our automatic response.

If you would like to talk to me about your health needs, please book a free coaching session.

About the Author

Andre Obradovic

Andre Obradovic is an ICF Leadership PPC Level Coach, A Primal Health Coach, a Certified Low Carb Healthy Fat Coach, & a Certified Personal Trainer. Andre is also a Founding member of the Dr. Phil Maffetone MAF certified Coach. He is an Ambassador for the Noakes Foundation, and a regular subject matter expert lecturer for the Nutrition Network (a part of the Noakes Foundation) Andre has completed 16 x 70.3 Ironmans and in 2017 he competed in the 70.3 Ironman World Championships. He has completed 18 Marathons and over 30 Half Marathons. Andre currently focuses his athletic competition on Track and Field with the occasional Marathon.

5 comments on “Choose Your Mindset”

  1. Great story Andre. I have for a long time now tried to live by the mantra that you can't control everything in your life but you can control how you feel and ready to them. Sometimes I am successful in this and sometimes not. I don't know how I would have gone in your situation.

  2. Thanks Andre. I've been down the "stewing on it" path too many times. I try to avoid that these days but some habits are hard to break. Really pleased it worked out for you. I'm enjoying your feeds. Keep them up

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