Even Lance Armstrong gives up

A couple weeks ago there was a piece in the paper about mental toughness and how certain endurance athletes can mentally push their bodies to extreme physical limits. This got me thinking - how can we improve mental toughness?  

The people in this world who we think of as ‘mentally tough’ seem to have the ability to hold on for longer periods than most. Lance Armstrong for example, is considered to be one of the best cyclist of all time and is known as being mentally strong. But while he was mentally tough he would have ‘given up’ plenty of times in his career. We all give up, it’s just that some people can hold off on ‘giving up’ for longer. One of the reasons Lance won so many races was he held on to a high level of intensity for just a little bit longer than his competition.  

So what about you? Can you improve your mental toughness? Well the good news is you can. A good way to start improving is to learn to put targets in front of yourself in your everyday life. For example let’s say you drink way too much coffee, perhaps around 8 cups a day, and you know you want to reduce this. First you need to set a target and time frame, for example you could aim to have just 6 cups a day for the next week. The good thing about this target and time frame is that it isn’t unrealistic, while it could be a challenge you do think it is possible.  

Over the next week there will be times where you will want those extra cups of coffee but as you learn to resist them you are learning a new level of mental toughness. Make sure you mentally reward the behavior you use when you resist those extra cups, this way you will be learning the behavior patterns that create success and mental growth. Once you have completed this week you will have made a small improvement in mental toughness. Now it’s time to reset your target and timeframe.  

Think about how you can add this tool into different areas of your lifestyle. Over time you will become mentally stronger which will open up possibilities that you would have never thought would happen. Who knows where this will take you?


Go on, do it!

The alarm goes off but it doesn’t really matter because my eyes haven’t closed all night. My mind has been filled with doubt and it feels like it has been played through a broken tape player that repeats over and over again. I think to myself ‘surely this can’t be good for me’.  

I slowly creep out of the hard hotel bed and head to the kitchen for the meal I had been planning accurately for months in advance. Mum and dad are there eating their tomato’s on toast. Mum looks at me and knows that this morning isn’t the day to be her normal chirpy self. ‘How did you sleep?’ my Dad asks,  ‘I got there’ my distant answer sets the mood and they both pretend to be reading whatever is in front of them.  

After eating I go back to my room and pack for the my day. Questions keep coming up in my head as I check over my list; ‘what if I fail?’, ‘What will I tell people if it all goes wrong’, ‘What if I crumble like I did last time?’. I consciously try to snap out of this and tell myself ‘you can do it’ but this is a battle that is hard to defeat. After packing, my feet slowly walk to the bathroom and I look at the large square mirror. The long hard look ends with a big deep breath, ‘this is it’ I think to myself.    

I do all the preparation that has been carefully planned to create success and now I head to the place where everything will be revealed. I’m trying to fool them by putting on a strong posture that seems so unnatural. I set myself to start, my body is shaking, my mouth dries up but then all of a sudden a switch turns on and I’m ready. This is my test, this is my time! The starter gun goes off and the race begins.  

Nerves are a funny thing. They are such a hard thing to experience but at the same time they are a great indicator that you are challenging yourself to grow as a person. When was the last time you were nervous? If it was a long time ago maybe it’s time for you to create something that makes you feel this way. Don’t be afraid, embrace them, they are good for you.  


My small bad decisions

Something has changed about me lately, it’s based around my busy traveling habits. Because I like to eat healthy, which can be tough at airports, and I hate paying the inflated airport prices for food I use to always pack as much food as possible for the trips. This has always worked well for me. But around this time a year ago I forgot to pack my food. When I was hungry at the airport I decided to have Burger King. I have to admit that I did enjoy this meal, so much so that on the return flight home I decided to have it again.  

I have to let you know that I never buy fast foods when I’m in Christchurch. Macdonalds, KFC and Burger King have made no profit from my stomach. But for some reason over the last year I’ve created this rule in my head that states “when I’m at an airport traveling, I’m allowed to have fast food”. I’ve justified to myself that because I’m going through the stress of traveling I’m allowed to eat these types of foods. I woke up to behavior on a trip that I did last week. I discovered that I had created this unhealthy rule and by giving myself justification around it and it became a habit. Rule states: When I’m at an airport I can eat as much fast food as I want!  

The point of this piece isn’t to pick on fast foods, I choose not to eat them myself but I think they are fine in moderation. The point is - have you created some little unhealthy rules for yourself? Are there times when you justify unhealthy habits just because it is habit? Something like: every time you go to the movies you have to have a large popcorn and coke, because that’s “what you do” at the movies.  

Have a look at your life and try to identify the times when you have little unhealthy rules and see if you can replace them with a healthier option. When you identify these times ask yourself one of these questions; Can I make the portion size smaller? can I choose a healthier but still enjoyable option? or can I go without this? These questions will help to start winning on the smaller decisions that make big change.  

I know I’m going back to packing food for when I’m traveling, it’s just better for me.