Creating Mental Fortitude

This summer, I started doing a daily yoga practice. The physical and mental health benefits have surprised me. I’ve pushed myself to do things I never thought possible before. The other morning while I was on my mat, Gia in “cat pose” next to me, my instructor said something that challenged me. 


“The mind will give up long before the body does,” Adriene said. “Keep pushing forward. You’ve got this. You’ve got what it takes.”


Adriene’s wise words apply to much more than just the yoga mat. How often do we get into our own heads and throw in the towel just before we accomplish something? How often do we psych ourselves out and tell ourselves we can’t do it? By acknowledging the challenges we face and striving to push just a little more, whether it’s a physical challenge, making a dream reality, or overcoming emotional and mental walls, we can create a mental fortitude to help us succeed. 


A Matter of Perspective


A few days after I did my very first handstand, I went out for a summer bike ride. There are some steep hills on my favorite route, but rather than change course to avoid them, I force myself to scale them every single time I go out. There’s one in particular that my mind loves to get bent out of shape about, telling me it’s too hard, too steep, or will hurt. (And yep, it does.)


But that day, I did something different when I came to that hill. Because there was no traffic, I kept my eyes in front of my bike wheel rather than on the hill and told myself the ground was flat. I ensured my posture was correct on the bike, changed gears as needed, and, with that shift in perspective, scaled that hill in no time. In fact, it felt easy. What a powerful lesson to focus on the step right in front of me rather than the whole hill. 


That bike ride was a long out and back through the wheat fields and the forests. After a while, I started telling myself that I was tired. I even said it out loud a few times. I remembered Adriene’s words and chose to distract my mind while my legs continued pedaling. That day, I achieved a personal record (so far) at 42 miles. If I had given up when my mind told me I was tired, I would have quit after three miles. 


Digging Deep


CyclistThere are definitely times when our bodies are tired and need to rest. Giving yourself grace and time to rest and recharge is essential in those cases. Rest is doing something, and it gives you the strength to push through the next time you come up against a challenge. 


But I’ve come to realize that there are times I think that I’m tired when my body isn’t. Sometimes it’s mental and emotional exhaustion which, yes, requires that I rest and recharge my mind and spirit. But sometimes it’s not.


Some days taking a shower feels overwhelming, much less cooking dinner, going to work, and answering emails. Those days require that I dig deep, and I mean deep, to overcome my mind’s resistance and to do those things one at a time. Even though sometimes the most “basic” things might feel insurmountable, remember that you have it in you to do them. You have the mental fortitude. Take them one thing at a time and focus on accomplishing that one thing. Dig deep. You have it in you. And if you don’t have it today, try again tomorrow. You can do this. Remember, you are not alone.


Pushing forward through those difficult moments and overcoming challenges one at a time helps us build mental fortitude. When we make it a practice to go a little further each time, pursuing progress rather than perfection, we build mental muscles and muscle memory. When challenging things come, that mental fortitude that we’ve built up can help us dig deep and race up that hill.


© 2023 Lainey La Shay

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