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 optimise 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 share with you another tool in my armoury that will help you overcome mental barriers and optimise your performance – choosing your mindset and where to focus your attention.

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

Time to get reading glasses

As I was approaching 50 I started to find 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 test 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

In that visit she ran me thru a barrage of tests and found something strange. 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 am 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 Fields tests” and my whole world could have gone into chaos. My family could have been disrupted and highly stressed also.

But I just placed my attention onto the positive that I am finally getting glasses and I am 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 was not Glaucoma but it possibly a cyst or a growth near the pituitary gland where the optic nerve crosses over the gland.

Really? Two days before my Marathon? Just what I need!

She referred me to my GP and the referral talked about a possible pituitary macroadenoma. She told me 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 I 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 scaring everyone about the possibility that I had a brain tumour 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 had a great day and dinner with the family on Sunday night.

MRI time

On the Tuesday I had my MRI. The lovely lady who greeting 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 is 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 pick my HR within a few beats normally 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 to the roof I wondered what would I do if it 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 our kids all in movies. It was like 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 answer 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 did not 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 and my trip to New Year in two weeks time. 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 tumour in the Brain? I would have to wait a few days before I would find out.

As a coach I considered what would I 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 or impact on.”

Who do I tell?

That same choice presented itself again. Do 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 have a brain tumour?

I waited. The best thing is that I made that choice and then I did not think about it once more. I did not lose sleep. I did not get stressed. I had the mindset that I could not change the situation. There was zero benefit to my family or me in focussing attention on something that may not be a problem.

On Wednesday morning I got the call from my GP’s office and I held my breath. I knew as soon 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 was not cancer. We decided not to tell the kids until I had seen the surgeon. He clarified it was a pituitary tumour not cancer and he would remove it thru my nose. We locked it in for after my return from the New York Marathon.

Moral of the story

Everyday we make choices about what we think about.

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

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

Andre Obradovic is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, Triathlon Australia Development Coach, ICF Leadership PPC Level Coach, A Primal Health Coach, a Certified Low Carb Healthy Fat Coach and Certified Personal Trainer. He is a passionate triathlete and marathoner in the 50-54 age group.  He also is a registered member of Fitness Industry in Australia and works at 3 gyms.

You can find more information about my coaching programs here