Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hang Tough: Challenge Yourself

So this guy, Troy Espiritu, starts running ultramarathons at 35. The guy’s a podiatrist with 4 kids.  The article in Psychology Today is about getting tough, not so you can run 100 miles, but so you can handle challenges.   We know about the things you’re supposed to do to hang tough:  have a network to rely on, exercise, use reward and challenge yourself.  It’s this last one that caught my eye. 

What does it take you push your limits?  Charles A. Morgan, a psychologist at Yale, believes that tackling challenges makes us tougher.  You have to believe in yourself to tackle new challenges. And succeeding at new challenges makes us more confident.  But the first step is to be willing to give it a shot.  After all, you don’t have to succeed every time, do you?

Why bother?  Of course, whatever does not kill you will make you stronger.  So getting stronger and tougher means getting ready for the inevitable challenges life will bring.  But I think there’s also an element of joy in the process.  As you get stronger you realize you can rise to the challenge.  You realize accomplishing a higher goal is fun and a powerfully liberating experience.  You feel more confident in other things. 

I’m always wary when friends and clients say, when [fill in the blank] happens (usually it’s someone dying or your kid leaving for college or another loss), I’m going to fall apartI won’t be able to take itIt’ll be unbearable…or some variation on this theme.  What I usually want to say is something along the lines of, If you think that way, you’re surely setting yourself up for failure…Few things are that terrible…Come one, you’re tougher than that.

Challenging yourself is a way to inoculate against the inevitable calamity.  You can challenge yourself in any area: social, emotional, spiritual, physical, intellectual, career, hobby.  Your challenges could include, among other things, running a half-marathon, publishing a book and becoming an accomplished yogini.  How would you like to hang tough?

Hoping I don’t lose readers, I’m liking The Climb, Miley Cyrus, for this.

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