If you’ve ever had somebody compliment you on being strong minded, you will likely remember the person who said it to you. On the flipside, if you’ve ever been insulted by being called “weak minded”, you would not only remember the face of the person who said it, but also where you were and what you were doing at the time. This is of no surprise for the negative memories stick with us longer than the positive. This is especially true when your very character is brought into question from others.
When I trained to be a firefighter, I did not naturally possess the biggest muscles of the crew. In fact, I was probably the smallest guy. Because of this I found the physical training tougher than the average recruit and so I had to push through many self limiting barriers that kept nudging to me “You can’t do this”.
What I didn’t realize at the time was while I was training my body to be more robust and durable, drill after drill, my (learned) ability to dig deep and push through the hard times was the first thing to be forced into “levelling up”. This destroyed my perception of how you actually become good at something. I thought it was simply “practice makes perfect”. But this is only true when your mind is strong enough to persist when practicing itself is not a straightforward path.
This shift in growth priority was vital because even if I suddenly had access to genius level scientists and otherworldly body enhancing serum to suddenly look like Captain America, I would still have to deal with the very fragile boy from within me that didn’t know how to handle operating under duress.
I made a decision that I would not let the self imposed barriers get in my way. Sometimes I would have to make that decision 10 times in an evening. For a good amount of time, I still felt like I was just a boy wearing a man’s uniform, but with each successful drill, procedure and rep, I could take pride in the knowledge that the physical strength and manual skills I was fostering over time was largely because of the focus on being strong minded first before anything else.
You might be in a much different circumstance than what I was. Mine was a work related problem where I was desperate to prove that I was “physically” strong to others. I wanted to fit in and for my weaknesses to hurry up and go away so I could be unnoticed again. When you are a young 20 year old man, proving yourself in these ways comes with great urgency to bolster your image. You crave the admiration and status that comes with the triumphs you embark on that hopefully are respected and noticed by others.
What I totally failed to see back then was when I was finally reaping some congratulations and pats on the back from my superiors for passing various stages of training, I believe they were actually proud of me for persisting through my individual hangups about myself to reach my goal of being the best firefighter I could be.
My trainers and instructors, after all, are just human like me, and most of them probably recognized a small part of themselves when observing my fails again and again, but still crossed that finish line.
If you are in a struggle right now, consider for a moment how your actions and attitudes today will be reflected upon in 5, 10, 15, 30 years? Will it be disappointing to confront because you chose to give up too soon, too easily? Or will you seek that inner (and maybe even outer) congratulations, with the down payment of today, by gritting your way through to the next finish line, whatever that might be.
Ask yourself something. Are you strong minded?