Developing Discipline and Mental Strength to See You Through the Tough Times
“No mud, no lotus.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Discomfort. Sweat. Getting dirty. Roughing it. Exhaustion. Frugality. When did these words take on a bad connotation – things to be avoided at all cost?
Luxury. Easy Living. Excess. These are the things that people are pursuing with damaging results to their health and happiness. It’s no exaggeration that, for some people, missing their morning latte can ruin their whole day.
As Thich Nhat Hanh noted, without slogging through the mud, you can’t find the happiness of the lotus. He also said something else that I think is very profound, “When you learn how to suffer, you suffer less.” Isn’t it true that when you know how to do something, it’s easier to do it…even if it’s enduring through challenging times in life?
So the question is: how do you go about developing discipline and mental strength? Waiting for a challenge and hoping you survive isn’t a good option. That’s like trying to run a marathon after being a couch potato for years. You’re going to get hurt. It would be advantageous to start developing discipline, more grit and mental toughness right now. Then you’ll be better prepared for whatever comes.
I’ve been enjoying a book by Joe De Sena called “Spartan Fit! 30 Days. Transform Your Mind. Transform Your Body. Commit to Grit.” It refers to Seneca, a Stoic philosopher, who was one of the wealthiest men in ancient Rome, yet he spoke out against the corrupting influence of wealth and leisure. He practiced a series of mental exercises to ensure he would never become dependent on his wealth. Every month he spent a few days living in poverty until he became content with only the necessities of life…the clothes on his back and the food for his next meal. He said:
“In times of immunity from care the soul should toughen itself for occasions of greater stress…In times of peace a soldier performs maneuvers in order that he may be equal to the strains of war. If you would not have a man flinch when the crisis comes, train him before it comes.”
Our physical strength only grows as we push ourselves and challenge what we think we can do. Run a little bit farther…Lift a heavier weight…Hold the position a little longer. It only makes sense that we can prepare our minds and spirit to handle hardship and challenges, too.
Make a practice of looking for ways to challenge your mind with mental obstacles in the same way you challenge your body with physical obstacles. Here are some ways that you can begin developing discipline and mental strength.
Start every day on the right foot. Find a routine that allows you to set a positive and productive mindset. For me that’s making my bed. It’s an immediate win!
Prepare your mind and spirit through a practice of journaling, meditation, prayer, or motivation mantra.
Reinforce your values and personal boundaries as you review situations that didn’t have the desired outcome and consider how you’d handle it differently in the future.
Avoid negativity and distractions, like checking emails or listening to the news, until you’ve set your intentions for the day.
View all movement as exercise and training. Your mental health depends on your physical health. It’s time to take control and make time! When you have the mindset that you’re constantly in training, you’ll look for opportunities like taking the stairs, parking at the furthest spot in the lot, and so forth.
Recognize “resistance” as a force within you that you can control. When you see a resistant attitude as an enemy you can defeat, you’re not judging yourself any longer by thinking there’s something wrong with you. You can see that it’s simply a wrong attitude, and you have the power to change your thinking.
When reflecting back, almost everyone agrees that their happiest times are during the pursuit/work/action that got them to a particularly triumphant moment. I would love to partner with you as you push your boundaries to excel. Please feel free to schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation. I’m happy to meet in-person, by phone or via Skype.