It’s guest post time on Office Worker Health. You will remember Cliona’s great article a few months back on how she went from a routine that involved zero exercise to becoming an exercise freak all in the space of a year. Cliona is constantly searching for improvement in all she does and this week she is tackling mental strength head on. Read how she has struggled with this and how important a role this plays in her exercise routine.
For the past few months, I’ve become obsessed with mental strength. I’m not sure why but it suddenly feels like it’s the most important thing I need to master. If I could only acquire high mental strength, then this would mean I could face anything. Mental strength is a wall around me which nothing can penetrate through. Imagine the possibilities of living behind there!
But what was driving this demand for mental strength? I’m not sure exactly. In the gym, it was the ability to feel pain and drive through it. But it’s not just pain you see, it’s all emotions. It’s the ability to feel the emotion but not be the emotion. I might feel tired/sad/angry but it doesn’t mean I am tired/sad/angry. High mental strength to me means you are someone who is not what you feel. You are above your emotions.
I think my obsession with mental strength began somewhere around the time I realised I had little or no mental strength. Around 4 months ago, I joined a personal training group which trains together 3 times per week. What I hadn’t realised when I joined is that the exercise is ‘high intensity interval training’ and that this was insanely tough. But it was okay, I had a technique that I usually pulled out when the going got tough “I’m a total newbie to exercise, I never really exercised before, you’ll have to go easy on me! oopps!”. In the past, I’ve found most Personal Trainers got scared by this as they’re afraid they’re going to injure you so they back off. Exercise phobes take note!! However for the first time, this technique wasn’t flying. To my horror, I realised that this particular trainer looked almost disappointed in me. There is literally NO worse fear to a serial people pleaser than that of disappointing someone. I set about looking to improve my mental strength immediately.
There must be a strategy I can adopt, I thought. There has to be something that people with high mental strength are doing which I’m not. All I needed to do was find out what this missing “thing” was and apply it. I did what all professional procrastinators do and started researching mental strength every time I had something important to do! Visualisation, affirmations, practise being uncomfortable - all pretty bland techniques, that was all I found. But I practised a few of them and asked my personal trainer for some feedback. He scored my mental strength from an initial 2 to a 5.5.
They were working yeah but they really weren't hitting home for me. After one spectacularly crap week, I stumbled upon something which catapulted my mental strength into extremes whilst working out. But brace yourself, this is not good. I started channelling “shit stuff that I felt bad about” and found I could outlast myself every time. Basically, I was reliving my bad stuff and then punishing myself for it. Not only was I giving my negative inner critic a voice but now I was giving it a body too. I started hearing “great job today” a lot more frequently and noted the disappointed eyes had disappeared. I smiled guiltily back and mumbled a thanks. As someone who tries to live an optimistic and positive life, this was definitely not a strategy I was proud of, if only it didn't work so fantastically!
I can choose to look at this one of two ways: A) my underlying motivation responds primarily to negative feedback. Feeding it like this is destructive and if I continue to use this strategy, it could eventually harm my overall wellbeing. Or else B) I’ve just potentially unlocked the key to my motivation.
Right now, I’m going with option B.
How’s your mental strength? Can you relate to Cliona’s story? What do you do to find strength? Leave your comments in the section below., we'd love to hear from you!
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I publish a brand new blog every single Wednesday so be sure to check back regularly. Until next week…..