Problems Are Really Opportunities In Disguise

My Problem…or Opportunity??

The next problem you face, shift your mindset, and view it as an opportunity. Go ahead…I dare ya!

Let me explain…My personality can be a little extreme at times. I don’t like fears getting the best of me. In general, I don’t like being defeated by anything. Obviously I am not indestructible, so circumstances often do challenge and defeat me. For example, all of my life I have been afraid of heights and for some reason, being attacked by a wild animal. Wild animals range from geese to bears. Basically, I am afraid of wildlife. Wow…I feel a lot better having revealed my secret shame!

My plan this summer was to defeat both in one shot…by climbing a mountain in Alberta, Canada; which was probably filled with bears, wolves, and who knows what other kind of monsters (at least that’s what I told myself!). We had our trip booked long in advance, but during the months preceding the trip, beginning in April, my left knee started to become painful. However, being the “tough” guy that I am, I ignored the pain, only to have the pain worsen with each passing day. Finally, after seeing a doctor, I was informed that I most likely had a torn meniscus, and would be wise to rest until I could have an MRI in late October.

Well that wasn’t going to happen! I had a mountain to climb! I am a very stubborn person, and when I make my mind up to do something, I most always see it through. This was going to be no different.

When we arrived in Banff, Alberta on August 7th, I was in excruciating pain. In fact, it was the most painful day I had experienced since the knee problem began months prior! No kidding! I needed assistance just to slowly walk around town on a flat sidewalk. I even needed to find respite a few times in the cold Banff River to alleviate the tremendous pain in my knee. Basically put, I was a mess. I should have been lying on a coach somewhere with a giant icepack resting on my knee – certainly not in the Rocky Mountains contemplating climbing my first-ever mountain!

However, in a somewhat cruel twist, Sulphur Mountain, the mountain I intended to climb, is directly beside the Banff River. As I soaked my knees in the river, I stared up at the mountain. I had come all this way to climb the mountain, but my knees begged for mercy. This was a problem. Or… was it an opportunity in disguise?

There are two options if you wish to summit Sulphur Mountain – you can pay $64 to ride the gondola and chill, or you can hike the trail for free. As I stood at the base of the mountain, I stared at a 7,486 foot problem. Mountains are often used as metaphors for problems, and at that very moment, I could definitely see why!

I wasn’t going to pay $64, so I really only had one option – I was going to summit the mountain by climbing the thing! Honestly though, the deciding factor in why I chose to climb wasn’t really about the money, but instead, I needed to create a powerful real-life story that I could share with others about overcoming problems and obstacles, and the incredible feeling of victory that awaits on the other side of the battle.

Climbing Sulphur Mountain would eventually reveal itself to be the most difficult and painful physical challenge I had ever experienced in my life. On tripadvisor, the trail is only described as a “moderate” hike, but climbing uphill for two hours with a torn knee elevated my mental toughness and determination to a level that I didn’t know I had. Each step was painful. Really painful. The only reason I succeeded is because I relentlessly imagined crossing the finish line. Over and over. The finish line. Because the problem was so big – 7,486 feet – the feeling of victory was unforgettable, and worth every step of agony.

I will never forget the feeling of taking my final step, looking out over the Rocky Mountains, reaching my arms out, and taking in the incredible feeling of accomplishment. Had I quit and told myself the problem was too big for me to handle, or made an easy excuse telling myself my knees couldn’t handle the pressure, I would have never have known the incredible feeling of victory. I would never have known what I am capable of. Instead, quitting or not trying would have only confirmed to me that I am not able to defeat major problems or setbacks alone. Each problem you encounter really is that pivotal…the problem can either STRENGTHEN YOU, OR WEAKEN YOU.

Defeating the problem of Sulphur Mountain instilled within me a confidence that I am able to fight AND WIN any battle in my life. It gave me a feeling of victory that I will never forget. The battle wasn’t easy. With each step of the climb, I had to fight with everything within me not to turn around and give up. But, I am stronger because of the fight. The problem of the mountain was an opportunity for my confidence, inner strength, and physical and mental toughness to increase. Thank you problem, thank you Sulphur Mountain, I am stronger now because of you!

Conclusion

On the OTHER SIDE of every problem is a stronger you. However, the only path to the other side IS TO FIGHT, no matter how much pain you are in, or how big the problem is. As I found out, the bigger the problem, the sweeter the victory.

However, on the SAME SIDE of every problem is a WEAKER you. If you don’t challenge the problem, but instead quit or don’t even try to defeat it, you will only confirm to yourself that you are weak and incapable.

Use your next problem as an opportunity. The problem you face is only wearing a mask…shift your mindset, be EXCITED about your next problem, because on the other side of the problem is GREATNESS.

 

 

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Mental Toughness Training

As a teacher, one of the biggest tragedies I see students consistently make is that they give up too easily. In fact, many students give up after failing just once! I am confident that if you are able to triumph and persevere through setbacks and difficulties, you can easily separate yourself from your peers. Why? Because when your friends and peers are quitting, you will be breaking new barriers. The tool you need to develop is mental toughness..

I purposefully train my mental toughness often. It isn’t fun, but when I am able to complete tasks that others won’t, I will be able to accomplish what others can’t. There lies the separation of excellence and mediocrity…

When your peers are daydreaming in class, your mental toughness will be locked-in to absorb all of the information being taught. Yes, we teachers try to make all lessons fun and engaging, but sometimes we miss the mark – I admit, the lesson could be boring! It is incredibly important to LIVE-OUT your words. It’s been said that you shouldn’t judge a person by their words, but instead, you should judge them by what they do. So when I suggest to you that you should train your mental toughness by engaging in tasks that aren’t fun, I will do the same to prove my point.

Right now, I am blogging from my gym in Winnipeg. It’s 11:30 PM. I arrived at 8:45. I am currently on a mission to complete 1000 pull-ups in 10 hours. Oh yeah…I am completing this mission THROUGHOUT the entire night. I am not leaving here until 7 AM. Why did I choose to do this at night? Simple…it takes more mental toughness to complete the task.

 

Here is  my journey…

I have found some time in my workout to blog my progress. I have scheduled myself to complete 100 pull-ups every hour for 10 hours. I have currently completed 250 pull-ups in the first 90 minutes, so I have an hour.

How am I feeling? It’s human nature to focus on the negative…I am worried that my hands are starting to blister and are becoming extremely painful. I am worried I won’t be able to finish. I am reminded of a past world-record holder, David Goggins, who completed 4030 pull-ups in 17 hours – he had 3rd degree burns on his hands and had to stop in one of his first attempts. I don’t want that. I am fighting negativity right now.

However, my mental toughness, which I have consistently trained for years, is beginning to defeat my negativity. I am getting energized because I know that when most are getting ready for bed, I am still grinding. Overcoming challenges, huge challenges, will increase positivity and renew your mindset! I guarantee it!

Update…it’s 12:42 AM. Progress is being made: I have completed 400 pull-ups. My hands are still sore, but the pain isn’t progressing. Why? Instead of focusing on the negative, I searched for a solution: I googled a CrossFit technique for how to grip the bar properly to avoid blisters and rips. Bring on the remaining 600!

Update 2… it’s 3:19 AM. I have stopped at 676 pull-ups – kind of a weird number I know, but my body and mind needs a break. I’m not going to lie, it was a struggle to get through the 500’s and 600’s. I wanted to go home. The thought of doing another 500 pull-ups AND staying here for another five hours is beginning to torment my mind.

However, I have two choices: to remain mentally tough, keep going, and become more confident having defeated a huge challenge, or go home, get comfortable, and sleep only to wake up feeling frustrated and weak because I didn’t stick through with the challenge. The thought of the finish line is keeping me going. I don’t want to waste 676! 324 more and I am home baby!

Update 3…it’s now 4:48 AM, and I am beginning to slow down. I was doing sets of five pull-ups, now I am doing sets of 2 or 3. I am at 850 pull-ups now! The frustration I was feeling earlier is completely gone. All I see now is the finish line. It’s amazing the power that grinding through mental and physical exhaustion can have on your mindset. The feeling of accomplishment is going to be awesome!

Update 4…its exactly 6:00 AM. One hour to go to meet my deadline, and I have completed 950 pull-ups. I have a huge problem though…my right elbow is beginning to seize when I flex it. I can’t physically do anymore pull-ups right now. My plan is to rest another 20 to 30 minutes and see if somehow I can pull off the last 50. I am determined to be mentally tough, but not at the price of sacrificing the physical health of my body. I need to be smart here.

Update 5…it is 3:44 PM!! I finished all 1000 pull-ups by the time the clock struck 7 AM. What an unbelievable feeling of accomplishment. I went straight home, and fell asleep for 6 hours. My body is sore and aching. My hands are blistered up, and it’s very painful and difficult to bend my right elbow. Not a problem though, as these aches are temporary…the feeling of achievement is going to last a lifetime. The trade is well worth it.

As I reflect on those crazy ten hours of both mental and physical exhaustion, I cannot help but think of the intense struggle that I experienced. Between about 2 AM and 4AM, the urge to quit was incredibly real and powerful. I honestly felt I was going to stop. Probably more so than physically, the struggle was incredibly intense mentally. My mind was pleading with my body to stop and drive home to the comfort of my bed.

How did I get through the struggle? Two things: I focused on the joy and celebration of meeting the end-goal of 1000 push-ups, AND I spoke positively to myself all night..”You can do this!” “Go to the bar and do 5 more!” “You are more powerful than your feelings.” I refused to let negativity enter my mind…but that is a lesson for another time.

The next time I encounter a problem or a boring task that I’d rather not do, I can simply pull from my experience of 1000 pull-ups to guide me through to success and completion. For example, I really dislike marking assignments and preparing report cards. Both can become very tedious and boring. Next time I need to mark assignments or prepare report cards though, I am going to remember standing underneath a pull-up bar for 10 hours – if I can complete 10 overnight hours of physical and mental exhaustion of pulling my body over a bar 1000 times, certainly I can grade assignments for two hours! The confidence that I have earned through incredibly hard work will lead me to achieve greater success in other areas of my life later on. Now that I know I am capable of great things, minor challenges or annoyances will be easy to defeat.

You want to have an extremely successful school year? You want to achieve higher grades than you have ever achieved before? Then you need to train your mental toughness! Don’t worry though, it isn’t necessary to do so in such an extreme way as staying up all night at a gym and completing 1000 pull-ups; but you can study for an hour every night, can’t you? You can tell your friends you won’t be going to the party this time. You can review notes during your lunch-break and spares. You can workout when your friends are playing video games.

When you diligently practice mental toughness you will be ready for the boring lesson. You will be ready to study for hours in preparation for a major exam. You will be ready to complete your shift at work with diligence because you have been strengthening and conditioning your mind to stay mentally tough. Your peers? They will be quitting. They will be going to parties. They will stop when their mind tells them it isn’t fun anymore.

You tell me who is going to have the more successful school year: the student who quits when times get difficult, or the student who perseveres through challenges. I think it’s pretty obvious.

As you can see, the joy of triumph was worth the pain and agony…

                        

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