Be Unbreakable Part 2 – Mastering the Discomfort Zone
In the last article, we saw an introduction to the concept of mental strength and set the ball rolling to start out on this life-changing adventure.
So, now we are self-aware and have a journal that is helping us understand ourselves better and better each day. We have also started observing people around us and picking up pointers along the way.
Here, we go deep into the territory with an advanced set of concepts to ace this game.
We all love action movies and action heroes. Well, at least most of us. There are two things that stand out in any action movie for me. The first one is the phase between their ordinary self and the super hero self.
This is the most difficult phase when they are forced to come to terms with their past, their newfound powers, confront their demons and finally emerge as the superhero. This is also, when they are literally forced out of their comfort zone.
There is a second scene that sticks to me. Don't remember the movie. Here the action hero is hurt and very badly at that and zap…. his wound starts closing up as if by magic, and in a few minutes he is all healed and raring to go.
Imagine, if in real life, we could become so strong that our emotional wounds would similarly close up by themselves, as if by magic, and we are ready to take on life stronger and better. After all, don’t we all wish to be the superhero of our lives.
The biggest barrier in the journey to be mentally strong, is that cozy comfort zone. That spot where the mind feels comfortable. And numb. A routine, habits, life-situations that are less than optimal but you are so used to them that they have become second nature.
This is such a good place to start. The whole philosophy behind exercise is ‘no pain, no gain’. When you are exercising, the mind is ready for all kinds of discomforts knowing it to be part of the process. And slowly but steadily, along with the body the mind starts expanding on its capabilities. Start running, hit the gym. Better still start playing a sport and give adventure sports a try.
All the adventure sports only look scary from afar. There is a technique to everything. So, once we conquer our initial fear, it becomes quite manageable. And the high of self-conquest, nothing quite beats it! Be warned though! It can be hugely addictive.This was what I learnt during my business school days on a 10 day adventure retreat which was a compulsory part of the curriculum. Challenge yourself and surprise yourself.
What we want is strength, so believe in yourselves. Make your nerves strong. What we want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel, inside which dwells a mind of the same material as that of which the thunderbolt is made.— Swami Vivekananda
2. Yoga and meditation
Yoga brings about a sense of harmony and balance in the body-mind complex. Physical and mental health are tended to simultaneously. Meditation helps to deepen the connection between the inner self and the cosmic self. As one meditates firstly focus and attention improve.There are also specific pranayama exercises such as anuloma -viloma which can improve the blood supply to the brain.
Slowly we learn to watch our thoughts and eventually gain mastery over them. There are stories of Saints and Masters who have performed the most incredible feats made possible by the mastery they had gained over the mind. So too with sportsmen. A lot of champion basketball players swear by yoga.
So the benefits are both tangible and esoteric.
3. Start doing something uncomfortable everyday
Don’t we all love the rags to riches story where the young lad/gal from a small town with very little money with a heart full of dreams and a head full of ideas strikes it big and becomes a success story. He she must have faced a lot of uncomfortable situations and decisions. This is why goal setting comes early on in the process. The goal must have meant more than the butterflies in the stomach and the rest is history.
Make a list of all your fears and start conquering them one by one starting with the smallest. To illustrate, if you shy away from social interactions , start talking to one new person everyday. If you are used to a certain level of comfort for eg. you just can’t imagine having a cold water bath, definitely take one. Push your limits and discover yourself anew.
4. Challenge yourself with small goals
Goals are an imperative. In a gym, muscles are built by exposing to consistently increasing weights. Similarly, if you are looking at building those mental muscles create challenges and goals. Have 5 simple goals (will brush with my left hand), 4 medium level goals ( will jog for 20 minutes) and 1 difficult goal every day (can't give this one as it has be YOUR goal) all of them subset of your one chief goal- the biggie. Bring the confidence from accomplishing the simple goals to the difficult ones.
5. Stop the Blame Game
Blame game and comfort zone. What is the connection. When we blame, we are shifting the ball out of our court, twiddling our thumbs and settling back into our comfortable couch. It is not my place to change. Back to comfort zone.
Instead, when we choose to take responsibility, we take back our power and control. Of course, we can’t change everything. But in every negative situation there will be aspects that we can change – our reactions, behaviours, actions, small things like our body language and many others if only we choose to.
6. Never Give Up
One of the key components of mental strength is the refusal to give up on life, hope, optimism and continue to do what is required. What a lot we can learn from Malathi Holla in this regard.
This is the story of a normal girl child, who at the tender age of 1, in the year 1959 developed a sudden severe fever that was to change her life forever. It left her paralysed neck down. Two years of treatment helped her to regain upper body strength. Finally, her parents were left with no choice other than to leave her at an orthopaedic center where there would be other kids with similar disabilities and she would also receive treatment.
She stayed there for 15 years by which time she had undergone close to 32 surgeries. But thankfully sports came to her rescue. Once out of the center, she took to sports and trained hard, without a coach at that. All her efforts paid off as she initially found herself participating in para-competitions and soon had made the cut to represent India and also win at the Paralympics . Today she holds more than 400 medals and has won the coveted Arjuna and Padma Shri award.
Confidence is not sold in a bazaar. It needs to come from within. My self-confidence is not paralysed.— Malathi Holla
But the work that brings her the most joy, is her work at the Mathru Foundation, set up by her to help differently abled children , currently numbering 300. Here kids join at the age of 12 and are provided with education and medical support apart from food and housing. They can leave on completing their education. She has also written her autobiography 'A different spirit’ and is a motivational speaker, a bank employee and a part-time para athlete.
These are just the facts. Now read between the lines. The struggles, heartbreaks, commitment, grit, perseverance, hard work and extreme confidence in self. She must have met people who wrote her off, showed her pity, laughed at her dreams, mocked her abilities…but her self-belief must have been greater than the sum of all these put together.
She could have blamed fate, her parents, her Doctor, her circumstances, her body, God and everyone and everything. Instead she chose to take control of what she could and make the best of it.
This is an option available to all of us. Always.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 sowspeaks