How to Kick the Habit While Setting Your Heart on Fire.

Flipping the Switch

“Listen to your heart. If the heart grows weary and uninspired, stop. If the heart remains impassioned and burning with desire, go.” ~ Dean Karnazes

It has been almost four years since I “flipped the switch” and went for my very first so-called run. (if you can classify 5 minutes of continuous movement, walking for another 15 min, while trying to manage whining body grasping for air and begging for mercy as running). Sounds inspiring, does it?

Remaining in awe of the people I had got to climb one of the Himalaya summits at 20,000 feet just a few weeks back, with a tender body and a sober mind, I went for my second … and before I knew it I created a life changing habit — a mindset leap that reorganized and reprioritized my life forever. Back then, I didn’t know that skills I got to foster through running, would help me as much, if not more, off the road as they have done on it.

Today, fully recovered from yet another knee surgery, having run three half marathons, one full marathon and climbed another 19,500 feet summit back in Nepal and conquering most recently 19,974 feet summit in Bolivia over the course of 18 months, planning to run additional 200km+ over the next nine months and to climb Kilimanjaro in November, I ask myself “Why does any of this matter?” apart satisfying my own passion and a need for feeling alive.

Well, working out, especially if it makes you compete, but only with yourself — pushing your own limits and breaking your own records — isn’t just about well-being, although it has immense health benefits. It’s certainly not just about vanity, although “looking good” concepts inspire many. What happens during workout regime either at the gym, on the trail or up the hills, makes us more resilient outside of that environment. The truth, as cliché as it may sound, is: while working on our physical strength, we are shaping Life “Cross Fit”, too.

These are my lessons to date from my journey from “25lbs heavier, 25 times lazier, and 25 new excuses each morning” to “50 Deeds of Love” — participating in fifty (50) variously challenging events over the course of the next 10 years while raising money to benefit the people of Nepal:

· Pushing beyond comfort zone ALWAYS feels scary and uncomfortable.

· Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable prepares you for anything life tosses at you: either a tough conversation or a tight deadline — they don’t look so problematic or intimidating anymore.

· Body quits faster than your Mind: pushing through discomfort, and repetitively saying “yes” when your body wants to resign stretches the capacity for a self-regulation in the face of difficulty.

· Mind is the “judger and chooser” and it always plays a never-ending calculation game.

· Fear of potential failure has the loudest voice in your head and makes you want to resign before you even start.

· The only way to deal with pain is to practice it. Getting acquainted with its sensation makes you feel less surprised when it comes.

· You are your worst enemy and best ally at the same time.

· Your thoughts will try to convince you to believe in any threat as if it was real. Distinguishing between apparent risk and the real one allows you to stay as rational as possible with what is left.

· In a culture where comfort and safety are predominant, physical activity offers a rare opportunity to practice suffering on demand.

· Sweating your ass off strengthens your mind and gives you focus along with determination in other areas of your life. It clears obstacles, encourages free will and frees you up from limiting beliefs: that you are not worthy, not good enough, not strong and capable enough.

· Pushing through your own limits is courage. Pulling back is a regret.

Breaking old habits, leaving behind negative patterns and quieting loud inner voices is always challenging at first, as there always seems to be “something” getting between us and our desires to keep our resolutions alive. And just with the first sign of struggle our goals appear to be melting away. So, we give up, we quit. And what is even worse, we beat up and penalize ourselves for being inconsistent while murmuring the “it will never work out for me” mantra. And then the way “we are” starts reinforcing our reality.

There is good news for you. Any habit, regardless of its complexity, is malleable. The most hooked alcoholics become sober. The dysfunctional organizations transform themselves. Chain smokers — quit. Drug-addicts — get clean. The secret lies in reassessing our life as a whole, and to finding evocative reasons to kick non-serving behaviors. The ones that will take us by surprise and will captivate us to create life’s revolution.

Perhaps choosing “Yourself” to be the reason worth fighting for — not the others, their expectations of us nor calendar pages, dates and events flipping over. Choosing “Yourself” deliberately and fiercely to stay alert to the triggers that drive our habits’ routines, and replace them with alternatives, to accept the hard that follows as an absolutely natural part of the process, to acknowledge an intrinsic satisfaction with each milestone; to regain self-control and to become self-conscious enough.

So, as you set yourself to balance all aspects of your personal journey, which are unstoppably shifting you will encounter challenges, joys, and tragedies along the way. A well-composed recipe for Life, I guess, calls for integration, and sense of harmony. A common thread that keeps it all together — perhaps stimulating the power of physical activity which will galvanize your willpower, boost your confidence and sharpen your focus to follow the direction of your own path to a fulfilled life.

If it worked for me, it can work for You.

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