青年園地︰Growth Does Not Come From Comfort

Andy Lee

 

 

I’m running a 10k this weekend, followed by a half marathon 5 weeks later. I have a whole host of unhelpful beliefs around running, which can be neatly summarised into one short phrase – I hate running.

 

 

 

 

I’ve been like this for years. Even though I’ve collected numerous finisher medals for running events, my attitude towards them has pretty much stayed the same – I hate running. I find it hard work. I don’t enjoy it. Some of my friends find it relaxing. It’s the time to help them think, reflect, and recharge, especially when they get in the zone.

 

 

This zone sounds like a myth to me. It eludes me every time. Nowhere to be found. All I feel is shortness of breath in my lungs, the ache in my arms, stiffness in my neck, and tight hip flexors.

 

 

But I do it anyway. It’s pretty unlikely that I’ll wake up and think to myself “I quite fancy running a 10k today”. And because I’m honest enough to admit that to myself, I find another way to win.

 

 

When I say win, I’m talking about not surrendering to the unreliable pull of my emotions, and to put a mechanism in place that actually serves me in the long run (pun intended). More on this mechanism later.

 

 

So when it comes to exercise, I prefer lifting weights than doing HIIT (high-intensity interval training), and I’d rather do HIIT than long-distance running. But I do long-distance running because of its overall benefits of strengthening my heart and improving my cardiovascular system.

 

 

I know it’s good for me even though it doesn’t feel good to me. Understanding this is the key to growth and development.

 

 

There’s a constant battle going on inside our heads, fighting between staying comfortable and growing. These two goals are at odds with each other because there is an unconscious tendency for us to remain within our safety zone. Feeling safe is almost synonymous with feeling comfortable in this context.

 

 

However, growth always requires some level of strain and struggle. It is the exercising of this mental muscle if you will, that builds resilience over the long term and moves you into a new level of performance.

 

 

So although there are obvious health benefits to regular exercise, and in my case, mixing up my routine with long-distance running, the main reason I do it is to normalise my feelings of discomfort and reinforce the belief that I can, and I will do something that is good for me even if it makes me really uncomfortable.

 

 

I want to build my discipline. When I push myself physically, I am taking control of my actions and embracing the power we all have – the power of choice.

 

 

This brings me to the mechanism I mentioned earlier. A way to get things done that you’ve decided are good for you and unaffected by your fluctuating emotions.

 

 

This is the very simple idea of making a decision to take action in advance, instead of the heat of the moment. Plan in advance. Days, weeks, months, even years in advance if you have to. I booked the upcoming running events as soon as they opened up the application process, which was more than 6 months before the scheduled event. It’s done, booked and paid for. It’s in the diary and I put it in my countdown app on my phone. I’m doing it. I’ve committed.

 

 

Fast forward to today. My app says 3 days until the 10k and 31 days until the half-marathon. I’ll be honest. The feeling is the same. I’m not looking forward to it. I haven’t trained properly. Although I’m in pretty good shape, I’m not in good running shape. I can’t guarantee a fast time.

 

 

But I can guarantee that I’ll be showing up. It doesn’t matter that I’m going to wake up Sunday morning and would rather have a lie-in, or have a chill day drinking coffee and reading. Because I made a decision in advance months ago, I’ll be getting up, putting on my gear and making my way to the start line.

 

 

In doing so,I’m further conditioning my mind to not be served by my emotions, but to build the resilience necessary to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone, so that I may continue to grow.

 

 

And while the process of the struggle itself doesn’t always feel great (be thinking of me as my lungs feel like they’re about to explode), the sense of pride and achievement I’m going to feel at the end more than makes up for it. Yes, it really is ok to feel proud of yourself from time to time. And that feeling will be the fuel that builds towards a disciplined, resilient, and growth-focused mindset. Key ingredients for reaching your potential.