Putting the 'mental' in mental toughness

As I sit here stewing in my own inflammatory markers after yesterday's workout, a thought occurred to me.

Prompted by the stiffness working itself into my hamstrings and hip muscles like the whip-hand of an ice-demon, I remembered how different "gym people" react to a post-workout thrashing than the normals.

Discomfort isn't always uncomfortable.

Don't try and explain this to the regular folks. Most of them do NOT enjoy any feelings of even minor unpleasantness.

After years of patient study, it's become clear that this factor may be the one thing that separates the lifers from the couch potatoes who show up at the gym from January 2nd to January 15th every new year.

Lifers being those old horses that persist at it for decades.

What keeps them showing up is a positive relationship with discomfort.

There's a mind-flip that happens when you get hooked on any kind of tough athletic performance.

Lifers eat it up where normals flee and complain and make excuses. Feeling sore and exhausted after a rewarding workout is like birthday cake.

Reframing your discomfort thermostat from "this sucks" to "I love this" brings all sorts of benefits. It really is a kind of superpower.

And not only for your body.

What prompted me to write this has nothing to do with athleticism.

You've got to be a persistent em-effer to put your body through the wringer on the regular, come back for more, and call that a good time.

And that's exactly what you've got to do with the mental discomfort that comes from patiently thinking your way through a difficult argument, complex idea, or moral puzzle.

You know that most people can't even be alone with their own thoughts for 30 seconds without diving for the phone?

I can't blame them. If I had to listen to a rusty rattling machine sounding like a 30 year old air conditioner coughing away in a Florida window, I'd run and hide too.

Use it or lose it, amigo.

I notice this big time when I switch from scrolling the "online junk" to workign through a real book. It might look like I'm doing the same thing, but the inner experience is totally different.

If you want your mind to stop making a death-rattle, try using that sucker once in awhile.

Thinking is the polar opposite of impulsive sensation-seeking. That makes it the definition of uncomfortable.

Normals are content to float through life like a dry leaf on a hot wind, going wherever the air takes them.

The thinking person stands back from the flow of sensations and asks "why?"

Why should I do this?

Why shouldn't I do that?

What are we doing this when it is brain-dead stupid? (Happens often in the corporate world and government jobs.)

And so forth.

Asking why is going to be uncomfortable.

It's tough enough to stand against the herd when you know they're wrong.

But peer pressure is not the half of it.

What's even harder is to get comfy in solitude the way a lifter gets comfy turning red under a heavy bar.

Hannah Arendt, a connoisseur of thinking, warned us not to confuse solitude with loneliness. Solitude, she wrote, is when a person can be content with his own thoughts. Loneliness is a distance from other people.

Now solitude, THAT is uncomfortable. Just you try to go 24 hours without looking at your distraction machine.

Can you do it?

How comfortable can you get with being uncomfortable?

Be good & take it easy.

Matt Perryman

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