Question: Before a 400-metre race I am full of anxiety. I feel afraid of becoming too exhausted, even though I know from experience that this fear is baseless. Why am I so anxious?

Sri Chinmoy: You have run 400 metres many, many times and you are still alive. The 400 metres is a most difficult race because it demands both stamina and speed. In most running, you need either speed or stamina. For long-distance you need stamina and for short-distance you need speed. But the 400 metres demands both stamina and speed. So first of all, you should recognise that this is a most difficult race.

But since you have run it many, many times, you know that you are not going to die. The difficulty, in your case, is not actually fear of exhaustion, but a subtle fear that you may not be first, which creates anxiety. You do not actually worry that after 400 metres you are going to collapse and die. That fear would be absolutely baseless. The real fear is that someone is going to beat you.

You have to learn the difference between anxiety and alertness. Anxiety and alertness are two different dynamic energies. With anxiety, you are always worrying about others and comparing yourself to them. But with alertness, you simply want to do the best you can. When the starter is about to fire the gun, you should be alert but not anxious. You should not say, "If he comes in first and I come in last, no harm." No, let him do his best; but you also have to do your best, and this requires alertness.

When you run, try to feel that you are the only runner in the race. Before the gun goes off, do not think of others; think only of yourself — that you are going to run at your own fastest speed. You want to see your capacity. Whether you come in first or last is for God to decide. So you will remain alert, but you will not think of others. In this way there can be no anxiety.