Mental toughness and progress.

There were a lot of things that I was going to write about, but I’ve decided to keep away from some arguments.  One was a discussion started on Scott Semple’s amazing blog.   It has been continued over at Blake Herrington’s blog.  The discussion revolves around climbing sponsorship, spray, and really the state of climbing media.  I was going to jump in, but I’m just going to let it go.  For sure I have some views on this topic, but I don’t know enough so I’m going to stay out of it.

I was also going to comment on Bono’s Op-ed in the New York Times this past weekend.  I definitely have some strong ideas about this topic, but I’m not feeling particularly political this morning, perhaps I’ll come back to it when its no longer relevant.

I was preparing to write about these topics last night, but decided that I was entirely worked from yesterday’s workout so I went to bed.   Thankfully, when I got up this morning I decided to write about something a bit more relevant to the supposed scope of this blog.  Luckily, as I was doing some reading last night, today’s topic came to me.

Will Gadd has been doing a series on his blog detailing his thoughts on training.  The last two entries have been on mental training, which inspired my last post.  Since that post, I’ve gone looking for some of these books.  Finances, and my short attention span lead to me getting one book on mental training.  I foundDan Millman’s book “The Warrior Athlete”.   I’m trying to read through this slowly, take in the parts I can use, as well as sort through them in a way that will help me actually implement them.

I came across this section last night before I laid my head down, and I’ve read through it a couple time this morning and its starting to make some sense to me.  The start of the book lays out principles, which are reflected in nature, for developing your mind and body to achieve your goals.  Principle one is “Nonresistance” and is pretty easy to wrap your head around so I’ll skip over it.  Principle two is “Accommodation”, is where I’m at right now, and it lays out a map for training our minds and bodies.  There are six steps to this principle.

  1. “Athletics, like life, develops what it demands”  Development is directly related to the demands placed on the body or mind
  2. Demand requires motive
  3. Motivation requires meaning.  If your motivation isn’t there, or perhaps isn’t pure, your training will lag or slip and you won’t push your self as hard as you need to.  Your motivation must correspond with your values.
  4. The demands you place on your self must build progressively and overload what your capable of in order to make progress
  5. Along with that overload you must develop a tolerance for failure
  6. Tolerance of failure will point you to reality, giving you a much better idea of where you are truly.  This tolerance sets you up to learn the right way.  Developing patience for the process.

That’s some big stuff.  This is how he ties up these points:

“Training, then, is a process of development through gradually increasing demand.  If realistic, gradual demands are made on the body, the body will develop.  If equally sensible demands are made for mental and emotional development, then development will take place in these centers too”

There it is!  By, stepping outside of our comfort zone, systematically taking slightly bigger bites than you think you can chew, then your comfort zone will expand.  Putting you closer to your goals.  One of the great things about this process is that it feeds it self.  As Mark Twight put it, “Success breads ambition”.

All that being said, I think the most important above point has to deal with failure.  I’ve failed ALOT this past summer and once this fall so far and each time I come out of the mountains with a bit more knowledge and a lot more stoke.  If you can’t a) learn to deal with failure, and b) learn to fail.  Then you’ll drop out and go off to do something else.  This is a lesson that I wish I had learned long ago.  However, I can only work with what I’ve got, and now that I’m finding learning this stuff, I’m going to jump in head first and work on applying these lessons.

Dan Millman wraps this up by pointing out this important information.

“…We are always wondering “Can I become good at this?” “Will I be able to accomplish my goal?” “Will I find success?”

Such questions only create tension and weaken our motivation.  Be resolute then.  Trust in natural law at least as much as you trust your own mental noise.

Once you recognize the inevitability of this principle of accommodation, YOU become responsible, because YOU know that your success depends upon the demands you are willing to make on yourself” (emphasis mine)

I love that part, because it puts the responsibility for your success on you.  This goes back to your motivation.  Where is it coming from.  Some of my biggest “failures” were the result of my motivation being in the wrong place.  We are only going to make the progress we want to make when we are willing to place the demand on ourselves.  If we’re climbing, running, working for other people because their adoration is more important to us than our feelings about ourselves then any success will ultimately ring hollow.

I know that this stuff comes off as new agey, and sounds like Tony Robbins is screaming in your ear.  But I think its spot on, and reflects places I’ve been previously.


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