At a time like this it pays to have a back-up plan and I can think of none better than the one in the mirror. Learning to rely and depend on your self is the best safety net one can build. Unfortunately in our modern age of convenience and comfort few of us have been pushed to the limit of our mental and physical endurance. We have no idea what we are capable of, or how much we can endure. We have been brought up in an atmosphere of entitlement and shortcuts. Everywhere we look; we see ads promoting easy and quick paths to long-term goals. It doesn’t take long though to discover that life isn’t easy and the road to success is often paved with failure and hardship. I think for many of us victory eludes our grasp because we haven’t learned how to lose.
That’s right, before you can be a winner you have to know what it’s like to lose, and lose big. There’s a saying I often quote, “Only when we have lost everything are we free to accomplish anything.” Its truth at its finest and cuts right to the heart of the issue. You see it in sports today, athletes who are so used to winning and having the whole world thrown at their feet that when defeat and hardship come they fall apart. They break under pressure. They’ve never been truly tested. Neither have most of us. Americans are spoiled there’s no way around it. Once we were a nation of frontiersman, revolutionists, and pioneers. Every day was a challenge and test of not just willpower but survival itself. That mentality of self-reliance birthed a nation that refused to quit. We triumphed when others said we would fail. Unfortunately I think we have been on top for so long that as a culture we have forgotten our roots. We don’t know what true risk is. We play it safe and take few chances, yes we lose little this way but we gain little too.
There was a time not long ago, when a person’s fate was carved out of the earth; by their own two hands. We built our own houses, grew our own food, made our own clothes and used our own two feet for transportation. While I don’t promote going back to the age before electricity and the internet, as I enjoy those things myself there is something to be admired in the ability to provide for yourself. I do think it’s time we all learn a little thing called self-reliance. We need to condition and train ourselves to overcome and persevere when things look bleak. We need to build up some faith in ourselves and our own abilities. Too many of us are looking outwards for salvation and deliverance when we should be looking in.
Fortunately Self reliance, like many things can be built and made. Like a muscle it is something that can be exercised and grown and in the muscles is as good a place as any to begin. Short of joining the military and going to war there is little practical opportunity today for most people to truly test themselves. Hazardous occupations are growing rarer by the day and adventure is increasingly becoming the province of the wealthy and elite. For those of us in the trenches of everyday life, we can choose to take part in one of the many obstacle races each month across the country. These races mimic many of the stresses and courses used by the nation’s military to condition recruits during basic training. These races are both physically punishing and mentally taxing to participants. Besides the obligatory medal finishers also receive something much more priceless and useful; confidence.
Obstacle racing and the training leading up to them are great ways to cultivate faith in one’s own abilities. When forced to rely on the strength of your own flesh and blood and your mind’s willingness to push it further, you find just what you are capable of. Learning to tolerate pain and physical discomfort should be a mandatory skill. So much of the difficulties we face as adults are mental, having never truly hurt, bled, and sweated to achieve something we have no frame of reference to compare things to. We have no measuring stick to hardship. We think every set back is catastrophic, and every disappointment final. There’s no defining moment to give us courage, and remind us of what we can do. Never having accomplished anything truly taxing we expect that results should be easy and instant. We’ve become weak for lack of a better word. Our obesity rates and overall poor health in this nation are just the physical illustrations of a larger lack of mental resolve and toughness.
Today we should take it upon ourselves to start growing stronger. We need to start pushing ourselves. We need to find out what we’re made of and explore the limit of our capability. Simply put I think we need to start torturing ourselves and cracking down. It’s so easy to set goals and make resolutions when there’s no danger of reprisal of punishment if we fail. How much more dedicated would we be to loosing weight if it truly was life our death? For some it really is, but even so they still find ways to give up and make excuses. If we as a culture are not even willing to fight for our own health how can we be taken seriously in the world? We don’t even take our own goals seriously yet balk when others laugh and poke fun at our dreams. It’s time that we stop accepting excuses, namely our own. We need to turn off the TV, open the front door, and get out there and sweat a little, ache a little, and if necessary bleed a little. Exercise and training is the simplest way I can show a person to build confidence and self –reliance. For those with the discipline and heart to keep with it, exercise provides a never-ending string of victories and accomplishments.