When I was a young girl, my main mode of transportation, independent from Mom and Dad, was my bicycle. My best friend lived a mile away. Many of my other friends lived even farther. I rode my bike to their homes countless times. The routes I took to get there were lovely. I could get to any of my destinations by going down one of two hills and then following a number of straight roads. Speeding down those hills was always a thrill. They were fast and effortless. At the end of a full day of play, however, the ride home proved tiring. Near the end of each trip, the very hills that were so much fun earlier now felt insurmountable.
On tough days, I made up my mind before I got there that I couldn’t do it. And before long, I dismounted the bike and pushed it up the hill. Yet on good days, I knew I could do anything. I would pump myself up about twenty-five yards in advance, then power my way through until I reached the summit. Either way, I always got home. My success was directly related to my expectations.
At one point, I decided never to walk the hill again. It wasn’t easy. I knew I needed to choose beforehand not to give up. I developed a personal mantra akin to “I can do this. I’m strong.” Then, just before I reached the base of the designated hill, I chanted my mantra and pumped my bicycle pedals. Once at the top, I hooted and hollered to celebrate my success.
When that hill became manageable, I challenged myself to make it up faster. After reaching each new target, I became more confident. Until one day, I took a different route altogether and encountered a steeper hill. Puffed with pride, I started the climb and promptly failed. The trial run ended in defeat and a long walk home. Distraught, I told myself it was too hard, I was too weak, and I could never do it. And as long as I thought that way, I couldn’t.
For whatever reason, I decided to try once more. On that occasion, I approached the hill in time to see a boy on his bike ascend all the way up, nonstop. I was astonished and encouraged. The boy never saw me, but by watching his success, I was inspired to try again. His presence made a world of difference. My mantra was back. I recited it wholeheartedly and pedaled my way to the top. Yahoo! I had done it. I continued home with an enormous smile spread across my face.
I learned that day that whether or not I conquered the hill was up to me. The way to achieve that, I reasoned, was to embrace resilient practice, surround myself with positive influences, and to adopt resolute thinking.
When faced with similar challenges I believe you, too, can apply these three principles.
1. Embracing resilient practice improves your skills, strengthens your mental and physical capacities, and provides opportunities to measure growth. Whether riding a bike up an incline, running a distance race, or learning an academic or hands-on trade, practice is crucial. It moves you forward. Keep it up.
2. Surrounding yourself with the right kind of influences creates an atmosphere ripe for self-improvement. The boy on the bike inspired me. Having a personal cheerleader or watching another person set and achieve a goal encourages you to establish and reach your own. Choose your environment wisely. Be a cheerleader to others. There are enough negative influences in the world. Make yours positive.
3. Adopting resolute thinking prepares your mind before the trial. When you decide ahead of time to give it your best, you have won half the battle. Choose a mantra. Repeat it over and over again. The story you tell yourself matters. Tell a good one.
QUESTION: Can you identify a situation you are struggling with right now? What story are you telling yourself about it? How have your thoughts and/or imaginations helped or hindered your progress?
CHALLENGE: Identify one area in your life in which you could use a personal cheerleader. Develop an encouraging mantra that you, a loved one, or a trusted friend can chant during the hard times.
Edited by Sharon Brown and Nollie Haws
Image from Unsplash via PicMonkey