“It’s a lot more than mind over matter. It takes relentless self-discipline to schedule suffering into your day, every day.”
― David Goggins, Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds
He’s right. Pain is a gift. It’s in painful circumstances that we grow. In difficulty, we build resilience for the inevitable storms that we will face. And in suffering, we learn that we are capable of so much more than we ever thought possible. Resilience is a muscle and there is a process to build it.
The law is immutable and it applies to business, relationships, health, and spirituality. You never know when the hard times will come. There will be storms. We need to prepare for them.
Hard Times Are Guaranteed
We find ourselves today in the midst of one of the stormy times.
We all have our stories of how this time has challenged us. I have my own. Everybody I talk with does.
What has carried me through the present challenging environment is having a reservoir of resilience to draw from. It gets filled through intentional work every day. You don’t need to be an elite warrior-athlete like David Goggins to benefit from filling your own reservoir with resilience.
The Embodiment of Resilience
David Goggins is the master of resilience. The stories are legendary. Overcoming an abusive father as a youth, obesity, and self-loathing as a young man, Goggins went on to achieve the impossible. Over and over. Becoming a Navy SEAL, becoming the Guinness World Record holder for doing 4,030 pull-ups in 17 hours, multiple ultra-marathon victories, and other incredible physical and mental feats.
Personal resilience has become his brand. He has achieved unparalleled athletic heights. But his goals are not my goals. They’re probably not yours either. His philosophy of embracing pain and suffering can apply to any goals no matter who you are.
How Do You Build Resilience?
I wanted to share some practical ways I have learned to intentionally embrace the pain. My performance in business and in life has improved as a result.
Each of these principles led to growth and some unintended benefits.
These principles have changed the way I view difficult situations and people.
You can apply these techniques to your own life too. Regardless of your circumstances.
#1. Do Something Difficult Every Day
We humans are experts at rationalization. We can always come up with reasons why we should do the undesirable activity tomorrow. And then tomorrow becomes the next day.
I’m no different. If I see a name on my call list I don’t want to call, I can come up with a thousand reasons why I should do it another time.
I have learned to recognize this desire was my sign that I needed to make the call right now. I feel too tired to work out. I’ve had a long day. Long week. Long month, etc. I deserve a drink before dinner. No! Instead, it’s a sign to go outside and run. As my awareness has grown, I’ve learned that I needed to do the things I hate.
It’s painful to realize how often we lie to ourselves. But it is empowering. And it does start to fuel you.
Pretty soon, I was not doing one difficult thing every day. I was doing lots of them. To be honest with you, I don’t feel like writing this piece right now. I am using that internal resistance to fuel me to keep writing.
One test I particularly like (meaning hate) is taking cold showers. It might sound like I’m really going off the rails with this assertion. How could this possibly apply to business? But taking ice-cold showers has done a number of things for me. It’s invigorating. It promotes mental clarity. And I’d check off one difficult thing to do that day right at the start.
#2. Journal Your Thoughts and Reflections Every Day
Journalling started out for me in the previous category. It was difficult. I hated the idea of my private thoughts being written down somewhere that someone else could see them.
I still feel uneasy about it sometimes but I’ve learned to appreciate the discomfort that it causes me. Consistency in journaling has demonstrated to me how valuable it is to write down my honest thoughts and assessments of myself, others, and my circumstances. I have almost two years of detailed written journals now. I don’t miss a day anymore.
When I started journaling, I thought accountability was the main point. I felt like it would increase my accountability to myself. And it has. I can see very clearly the days that I have accomplished what I have set out to accomplish and the days when I miss the mark. I take some time at the beginning of the day to lay it out and then some time in the end to reflect. It does support a more accountable life. But it does much more than that.
I believe that one of the greatest benefits has been becoming more aware of my thoughts and feelings. I would have scoffed at the value of feeling awareness two years ago but now know that it’s crucial to my efforts to move forward in business and in life. I discovered that I was lying to myself all day long on a variety of topics.
Was I giving all of my effort to the most important activities? Was I favoring calling certain people because the conversations were easier and more enjoyable? Would I be better served by doing something else? Were my assumptions false?
I have been able to get real about these things through openly and honestly writing down my thoughts and assessments every day
#3. Relentlessly Avoid Distractions
There are a zillion of them. That’s probably a lowball estimate. One of mine was watching the news. I would get sucked into whatever the national, political, or financial events were of a particular day. It was a devastating waste of time for me.
My job as a financial advisor does require me to be well informed as to what is going on in current events and markets. One can’t really be effective serving clients with blinders on as to what is happening since so many things can affect financial markets. But the amount of time needed to be well-informed was much less than what I actually spent.
One way to know if something is a distraction is by asking yourself if it would ever show up on the list of difficult things.
We distract ourselves from difficult things. We don’t distract ourselves to do difficult things.
It doesn’t matter what the distractions are. Maybe it’s online shopping for some. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. Whatever it is, we win when we eliminate distractions. To accomplish remarkable things and to be accountable, we just don’t have time for them.
This principle also applies to free time or downtime. It’s the ‘being present’ that people talk about. I have started to put my phone notifications on ‘do not disturb’ during the time with friends and family. It’s too easy for me to get sucked into work emails or some other task. Then the work becomes the distraction and it makes my time with friends and family worthless.
#4. Move Beyond Competitiveness
A lot of people are going to call BS on this one at first blush. Maybe even David Goggins himself might have some choice words (his language is more colorful than mine). After all, many of his accomplishments seem purely competitive on the surface. Gaining elite special forces slots, winning ultra marathons, and Guinness World Records are by definition competitive. I think it does fit within his philosophy though so allow me to explain.
I’ve found that beating someone else isn’t a great motivator. I want to do as well as I possibly can. My inner motivation comes from comparing me to me. Being a better version of myself every day. Not worrying about others or comparing myself to them. The amazing thing that happens is that the more I do this, I do start to separate from others and end up beating them. The difference is in the focus. Is this semantics? I don’t think so.
The reason that I have found going beyond competitiveness powerful is that it ignites the creative part within me. Competitiveness is rooted in a scarcity mindset. There’s only one number one after all. Creation leads to abundance. I am free to be happy about others’ success because I know that their success doesn’t hinder my own. It’s very freeing to become your own standard rather than to hold to someone else’s.
#5. Distrust Emotions
I used to believe that I needed to control my emotions better. My natural inclination is to be fiery and get angry easily. It seemed like it just went with the territory of being passionate about my beliefs. Getting frustrated easily will guarantee strained relationships and make accomplishing any goal more difficult. I thought that part of the maturation process meant that I had to control my emotions better.
I now know that’s not true. Controlling one’s emotions really just means suppressing or denying them and, for me, leads to its own set of problems. We are emotional beings and it’s just not possible to change that. We have emotional reactions to people and life circumstances. It’s part of what makes us human.
David Goggins, in his book, Can’t Hurt Me, talks frequently about using emotions to fuel that fire to keep going. He doesn’t bury the emotions but confronts himself with those feelings in honesty to challenge himself to go further.
It’s important that we notice our emotions. I just have learned not to trust them. I am always right about my feelings. Why? Because feelings are based on my perceptions and beliefs. I see and perceive things in a certain way and then emotionally react. The reason that we shouldn’t trust those feelings is that the actual facts are likely very different than what we see. For more on this idea, read Pathological Positivity by Dr. Paul Jenkins.
I’ll use an example that hits home for me. I’m naturally not very patient. Let’s say I text or email a friend and it takes them a couple of days to respond. I may perceive that they’re ignoring me and get upset. The facts are probably very different. Maybe their spouse got sick, they were traveling, or dealing with extra burdens at that moment. My emotions steer me in the wrong direction which is why I’ve learned not to trust them.
This is a lot to chew on.
What I chose to do is just to start with one area.
I add new improvements bit by bit. They have dramatically sped up my personal and business growth.
I’m able to get more done and stay on course even when faced with extreme pressure or unpleasant situations. I can face things now that would have caused me to crumble or meltdown in the past.
There is also a freedom in giving other people space to be themselves and focusing the high standards on yourself and no one else. I can enjoy other people more when I don’t try to apply my own standards to them.
Lastly, it has built a more resilient me. One that can better weather the storm.
I’d love to hear what practices you have used to build resilience. What have I missed? I’d like to try some of your techniques.
Let me know in the comments or reach out to me.
Brent Rupnow is a Certified Financial Planner and Certified Exit Planning Advisor in Southern California. Here is a link to his other articles.