What do Gwen Jorgensen, Lionel Sanders, Shalane Flanagan, LeBron James, and Serena Williams all have in common? Your first thought is, more than likely, that these individuals are professional athletes and that they are superhuman with insane amounts of talent. I would agree with you on two out of three of these characteristics…they’re talented professional athletes. However, I would argue until I’m blue in the face that they are NOT superhuman. Describing highly successful athletes in this manner not only creates a barrier of an “us and them” variation but it also discounts all of the hard work these individuals have put into their craft. Talent likely got them interested in their current profession (we tend to like what we’re initially good at) but it wasn’t talent that got them the rest of the way…it was hard work.
In the military there is a saying that fits well when we look at highly successful people: Every last one of them “embrace the suck” at some point during each day of their lives in order to be the best. Whether it’s exercising to the point of sheer exhaustion (maybe even vomiting), making drastic lifestyle changes in the form of diet, sleep, socializing, etc., or just the seemingly simple act of holding themselves accountable, these are all forms of “suck”. If there is one thing that separates “them versus us”, it is their willingness to talk themselves into experiencing painful things in order to make progress. We average folk, in my opinion, are much more likely to talk ourselves out of it. In essence, we aren’t willing to “embrace the suck”. Like this guy…
(Photo Credit: Michelob Ultra Commercial Workout Face #9)
What science has shown us through countless cognitive, cognitive-behavioral, and neurology studies is that human beings have the capacity to change their thoughts and through the practice of cognitive restructuring (changing the way we think) we can eventually change the structures of their brains. For better or worse, changing the way we think is a controllable, tangible behavior; it can either improve our lives or leave us in shambles. Therefore, if we want to be the best versions of ourselves, one major step towards that is adjusting our acceptance of and willingness to take on things in life that make us uncomfortable.
So at this point we can all ask ourselves three questions:
- Am I happy with complacency?
- Do I want to get better?
- Do I want to get worse?
I have a feeling that all of you reading this can easily scratch #3 off of the list. Go ahead and do that. Now, take a few moments to really consider questions 1 and 2. Let your mind explore these two options in as much depth as you can. Now, only scratch #1 off if you’re willing to get uncomfortable. If you’re willing to “embrace the suck” because that’s the only way we truly get better. We need to be willing to hurt, try new things, get up at 4am, eat that kale instead of that bowl of ice cream, etc., etc., etc., if we want to achieve our goals.
Here’s a not-so-subliminal message:
Only read on if you’ve chosen #2…
- Take a step away from your computer, phone, or tablet for a moment and do a wall sit (i.e., sitting with your back against the wall, legs bent at 90 degrees, without assistance from a chair or anything else).
- Sit there until you start thinking about reasons to stop.
- Note as many of these reasons/excuses as possible as you push yourself past the point that you would have typically given up.
- Push yourself to your LIMIT
- Once you’ve had enough, rest
- Come back to your computer, phone, or tablet and right down all the excuses your mind was telling you in order to convince you to stop.
- Now, create a list next to each excuse that opposes it. Basically, what you want to continue rather than why you want to stop.
- Reflect on these lists
- Try to memorize a few main counter points and put those in your tool box for the next time you are faced with a challenge.
Until next time…