In my last post I recapped the knee injury I am dealing with from a couple of weeks ago. Well what I really recapped is the fact that I didn’t act like a little bitch about it. Not in the macho sense, I am for sure hurt and it definitely affected me at times. No, more so in the fact that I didn’t let it bring me down in the way adversity would have in the past. I didn’t put myself in a spot where I was wallowing, blaming others or not getting what I could get done. I dealt with what came up and kept on trucking (well crutching is probably more accurate) in the direction I felt I should be heading. Before I get into the meat of what I really want to talk about I just want to touch on that last point. I said “the direction I felt I should be heading” for a reason. I think far too many of us spend too much time acting like we have it figured out. I don’t have shit figured out for anyone but me and this is why I am not absolutely certain about my direction. I could be totally fucked and heading off the deep end. I am doing what I do because as of right now I have some clarity on what is working for me. If that stops working then I will pivot as needed. No path is THE path and I believe there are about a billion + ways to get to the same space. Remember that when you have it all figured out that is probably where it all ends.
After that digression I want to bring some tangible pieces to what I had talked about in my last post. I am proud after this injury as it has dawned on me that all of the shit I have done over the last 2 years has worked. My brain isn’t a mess, I haven’t acted like a total asshole (just a partial one, which is normal) to those that care about me and I have processed all of the other stuff going on through a clear lens rather than one painted with the frustration of my injury and the recovery process. I thought it may be fruitful for those that read to understand how stupidly simple it all is. Remember simple and easy are by no means alike. This shit is hard but it’s like banging a nail with a hammer, we all understand how to do it but without practice we still hit our thumb. So while I can tell you what I did, none of it means anything if you don’t practice it. When I say practice I mean apply intention every single day to what you want to get better at. This is almost more important when shit is good than when it is going astray because when it all hits the fan you have already worked on some of the tools and will find a massive relief when something comes crashing down around you and you don’t come crashing down with it. It is incredibly important that you understand shit will go wrong. Those that seem to have it figured out do not have it easier they still have just as much life as anyone else, the difference is they have cultivated resilience through planning, practice, acceptance and hard work. I know acceptance may not fall in there but it might just be the key to having a more fulfilled life. I can do nothing but accept the knee injury, it happened, it sucks and I can only move forward from here. The only thing not accepting it would do would prolong the recovery as I wouldn’t be in the right headspace which would lead to not putting my best effort in at the rehab, snowballing into a poor mindset that will then attract the wrong energy. Acceptance is never giving up, it is saying ok here is where I am at and asking how you move forward from here? I actually love the term Ed Mylett often uses “blissfully dissatisfied”. I am grateful for where I am but I will work to get better regardless.
So short story long here are the 3 biggest things I think I have done to cultivate mental toughness and resiliency:
- Big Vision, Little Goals
I know you hear lots of great and buzzy terms like “take massive immediate action” and “you have to dream so big it scares you”. While they are sort of true I have this theory I will write on at some point that cliches are just unfinished sentences that sound good. Most of the time they are leaving the tangible meat of the sentence out to feature the fun exciting part. So while I think it is absolutely critical to set a huge vision, when I say huge I mean it should embarrass you to tell other people big, it is only the start. The vision is the destination in the far off distance and just like travelling across the country you cannot just point your car in the direction you are going and hope for the best, you have to set some smaller, much more strategic stops along the way. You have to understand that there may be a detour, you will need gas, to use the washroom and most definitely some coffee. All of these things in my eyes are the smaller goals. They are achievable, bite size chunks that move you one step in the direction you want to be heading and keep you focused on something that won’t overwhelm you in the tough times. I have a 100km run coming up in June and I have never run more than 36km. So obviously I am not capable of the 100km without putting some effort in between now and then. So if the 100km race is my big vision then the small goals would be my weekly long runs, finding the right shoes and especially critical at the moment completing my rehab on this knee injury. Obviously I can’t think about the big vision right now without being overwhelmed as I can’t even walk down my stairs like a normal human at the moment, so I take smaller bites I stay very focused on my physio and the exercises and things I can be doing to get back as quickly and strongly as possible. I know that seems to some like a smaller version as I wanted to give a sound example but if you are doing this for your life I recommend doing it in 5 or 10 year chunks but paint the picture of your whole life. So not just I want 10 million dollars, you will need to be more specific around what you want your health, relationships, mental state, work and personal life to be like. Be very specific in how you lay this out whether it is a vision board, an actual drawing or very detail written few paragraphs. Because from there once you know the vision and you have let it marinate a little bit you can break down all of the things you need to do to get there which will help you determine the daily habits you need to create and the weekly tasks you need to start working on.
- Create Immense Accountability
This one is going to seem strange as most people think of those they deem as accountable as people who get a ton of shit done and truly they are those people. The only problem is those people have been practicing accountability for a long time and were taught it at a young age. For us lesser folk we need to game the system, we are not going to come out of the gates absolutely nailing our critical tasks day in and day out. This can be incredibly defeating for most because most people tend to put way too big of items on their list at the start. The person who wants to get their fitness sorted out decides they are going to the gym for 30 minutes a day without thinking of the logistics of driving there and back, weather, unforeseen issues and just how damn sore they are going to be about a week in if they start that way. They are seeing the outcome they want and think that is how they get it. Well that is incredibly backwards when it comes to accountability as it is likely unattainable unless you somehow have the will of a god and if you are looking to get rid of that extra 20lb the likelihood of that is pretty slim.
What needs to happen if you want to cultivate personal accountability is to start incredibly small, so small it is almost frustrating and then not do more than that for a set period of time. The reason this works is because you are no longer letting yourself down and staying in the same self-defeatist cycle you have spent so much time in (I know this because I too have bought many tickets to the same ride in my own head). This can actually be agonizing, it is deciding that you are going to be a writer and then only allowing yourself to write 1 sentence a day for 3 months even if you are completely in the zone. The goal is to always do less than you want to and this works in 2 ways. You will want to come back for more as you haven’t over done it on any given day and more importantly you prove to yourself every single day that you can keep your word to yourself. When we tell ourselves we are going to do something and then actually go do it we create a massive internal belief for those days that will inevitably come that aren’t easy. I recommend at the start setting any small habit and only increasing it a very small amount for at least 75 days. It is important to remember that these things aren’t destinations to be attained, we are proving to ourselves that we are the person that we say we are which helps us create an incredible level of personal accountability. Remember, discipline is what freedom is made of.
- Consistency is the Driver of Intensity
Using the example from above how many of you have gotten all fired up, usually around the end of the year to get in shape? Only to flame out weeks later because you are sore, your girlfriend dumped you or your job got hard. You went all gung ho like some asshole, cranked up the intensity and burned yourself out before you could actually hit lift-off. This is what the majority of people do. They would rather try really hard once and talk about how it wasn’t for them than grind it out even when it isn’t going their way. Grinding is the key to mental toughness. It is the space I am firmly entrenched at the moment with this knee issue. I can’t run, can’t play basketball, it’s -30 Celsius outside and I am getting pretty tired of the indoor bike and my tiny basement workout room with it’s tiny below ground level window. So how do you get to the point where you can grind, well you do step 1 with a ton of intention, then move on to step 2 and you stay in step 2 for about 10x longer than you think you need to be. Consistency can only be developed by well, being consistent. How many people have you seen go really hard at the gym for 2 weeks and have a 6-pack or bulging biceps? How many have you seen hurt themselves and tell you some lame excuse as to why it didn’t work for them? How many times have you been said excuse maker? There is no easy way to consistency but the keys I laid out in step 2 will get you there. A few tangible things I find that help with consistency are: write it down somewhere you see it every day. I have shit written all over my mirror from quotes to goals but the most important thing on there is the habits I am trying to set so I see them every day. Another key is to track. I use an app called Done, it is very simple and kind of fun. The more you get to see your streak the less likely you are to break it. In order to get the outcome you want you first have to be the person that puts the work in consistently, so be the person who shows up every day with intention rather than shows up one day with intensity. The intensity will come with the commitment to consistency.
This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are some other tangible and intangible things I have done to work on resiliency but I feel like these are the things I currently get asked about and see people struggling with the most. I would love to hear from you on some of the things you have done to work on this and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask. These are some of my favorite topics to focus on so I am always happy to help!