Well, it seems Monday has crept up on us again. Like leg day, it always comes around, and few people enjoy it. Indeed, today’s starting off as a stereotypical Monday over here…when I went to make sure this post was ready to publish, I discovered that WordPress had somehow eaten it in the 8 hours since I wrote and saved it. Obviously, I was delighted. I live to rewrite blog posts.
It’s perfect, though, you see, because what I wanted to talk about today was the power of training your mind. I don’t mean that in the Charles Xavier kind of way – although that would be fantastic – but in the sense of creating habits of thought, perspective, and attitude. The thing about life, even though it is beautiful and filled with more blessings than we’ll ever fully recognize, is that it’s not always fun or fair or in our control. And when we are reminded of that persistent fact – when deadlines are pushed up, jobs are lost, hearts are broken, toes are stubbed, bodies are sick, blogs are eaten, goals are missed, and Mondays are Mondays – we have the freedom to choose how to respond. That response starts with our thoughts, and more often that I’d like, that’s the only part of a situation that’s entirely in our control. But that’s just it – our thoughts are the one thing we are always able to influence.
All too many of us put too much of our focus on controlling our bodies, and not nearly enough on controlling our minds. I certainly include myself in that group. The sad part is that these bodies won’t last. Looking good naked is fun, and trying to keep yourself healthy is part of properly stewarding the gift that is your physical body, but even more powerful than your physical fitness is your mental fortitude. In many ways the two are interconnected, but not necessarily. I, for one, am far better at eating well and training regularly than I am at maintaining a positive attitude avoiding catastrophizing situations. While I’m grateful for my physical abilities and plan to keep training as long as I’m able, I know that my mental strength and endurance will outlast my physical fitness and have an even more profound impact on my life.
Just like with training your body, the key to success is to create habits. Often, those habits start small. For many of us, the most crucial thing to practice is a shift in perspective. Instead of seeing Monday as an obligation to drag our tired bodies into the office, we can see it as an opportunity to set new goals for the week, to mark new achievements, and to experience new and unexpected joys. Rather than thinking of all the unpleasant things that might happen and dreading the discomfort that would follow, focus on what kind of positives you want to be able to look back on when Friday afternoon rolls around. When that alarm clock goes off every morning, don’t see it as an interruption to your sleep – think of it as an invitation to embark on another day of adventure. I’ll be the first to admit that this is not easy, especially if you are someone who is naturally more serious, cynical, or prone to anxiety (or all three…poster child for fun, right here). But just like the effort required for physical training, it is worth it. Habits are created by small practices repeated time and again, and habituating your thought patterns is no different. What feels like a momentous effort at first eventually becomes second nature, and one day you’ll realize it’s a Monday morning…and you’re enjoying it.
People who prioritize physical training typically have those that they idolize in terms of fitness – Frank Zane, Kara Goucher, Michael Phelps, or whomever it may be – it’s important to find role models you can look to and emulate. A few of my role models in that regard are Louis Zamperini (whose story is told in Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken), Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place had an incredibly profound impact on my life), Winston Churchill, and the apostle Paul. Find those people whose mental fortitude is worth aspiring to and study them. Discern their habits and figure out how you can apply those same habits, or the principles behind them, into your own life. If you’re interested in something to give you a little push as you get started, I find these two articles (both are quick reads) inspiring and practical: “13 Things Mentally Strong People Avoid” and “12 Quiet Rituals of Enormously Successful Humans.”
This week, I’m challenging all of us – myself included – to put as much effort into training our minds as we do our bodies. See if you can find one mental habit or perspective shift that you can work on this week. Start cultivating a new habit in terms of your perspective or your attitude, and notice what kind of difference you find. You just may surprise yourself. After all, when you’re able to tackle Mondays, there’s really no telling what else you can do.