The Courage Files: Today Is For Quitters

This is an article that I wrote a year ago but which I have pulled out to re-post. May you enjoy it!

We all know the bursting sensation of a new commitment; often euphoric, adrenelin-filled and fueled with the images of new life, new us, new created world in that “future reality” that somehow we connect with at the time the commitment was born. The buzz that accompanies these instances can be addictive.

And we all know what it is like to break that commitment. Unless an ‘act of God’ occurs and we can, without a shadow of a doubt know that we cannot be held responsible, what usually happens is what I would label as ’some kind of fuzziness’.

I’m also not referring to a moment of revelation where you realize that the committment you made was inappropriate in some way and you have the sense or humility to pull out on time.

What I am writing about is the hundreds or thousands of grey-tone moments where you simply quit and then regardless of what you tell yourself, deep down you know the deal.

In reading the book Lance Armstrong’s book “It’s not about the bike”, this is a strong theme. Here is a man who builds an identity on not quitting. This theme reads through the book like a iron grip of conviction; at the most critical points during his races he proves to himself again and again, and to the people that he has to, that he is no quitter.

Right now in my own life, if some of the intentions I have set for the next few months are going to come together, if i am ever going to take certain ideas forward in a way that I believe i could, i am going to need to know a little more strongly that I am not a quitter. My wish is to develop a practice to rise at 4am, to meditate in this magical part of the day, and to start the day filled with the kind of thoughts and energy that I most want to cultivate. But so far I have not managed to do it with any kind of consistency.

One of the methods that Lance Armstrong uses at his most difficult moments is to do something that, if he carries it to completion will give him the faith to “know he is still in the race”… and in this case it is the race against cancer. His action is simply to move.

If I can move, I am not sick

And, regardless of the situation each time he gives his everything to move. As a feeble cancer patient he refused a wheelchair one time and took an hour to walk to know for himself that he was not sick. When he is in remission he gets on his bike and moves. At the hospital he walked around, often against the advice of the nurses and doctors. It is one of his ways of building the psychological strength so he can ’stay in the race’.

I decided to do something a little less arduous than the 4am rise, to give me the conviction in myself that I am seeking to build. To know that I am still in the race. If I achieve this lesser challenge, I may be ready to commit to the 4am rise. That’s why I made the 30-days inspiration-burst commitment two days ago, and so far so good. Each day – write one inspiring thing.

Yet writing today was a challenge. I didn’t manage to get up early and I don’t mean 4 am, I mean even 8am slipped by. I was out dancing last night and when a couple of challenging things happened, I found myself at the end of the day, devoid of inspiration.

But somehow by showing up to this page, just appearing in front of it, staring at this blank canvass, just on day 2, the day of failing to rise early, I feel already a rise in confidence. I have experienced incredible will-power as a young child, and after a long 20-year period of learning the difference between soul-infused will and ego-based will, I am currently working very strongly with this theme. I realise that discipline and will go together. I realise how important small psychological wins can be for people who are in tough circumstances, to build their will and thereby find their inner discipline.

I assume that it is different for each person. When your psychology is threatening to fail you, what are the small ‘low hanging fruit’? Things that you can do that build up the muscle of conviction in your life? What are the practices which energize, by giving yourself a fast reminder of who you are and what you are capable of?

I am left thinking of Lance Armstrong. He discovered that to be a fast cyclist didn’t necessarily imply winning the race. He learnt that winning a race needed more than speed or force alone. It needed a level of mastery in his field. It is this hard-earned understanding that led him to not only beat cancer but to rise afterwards as a better cyclist than before. Only 16 months after being diagnosed cancer-free he rose to win the Tour de France, in the fastest ever time.

What heartens me, is the tough character-building that was needed for him to get there. He does not pretend it has been a fairy tale. He tells it like it is. Through his story, we can re-experience the raw beauty of being faced with choices – in the very dirt-reality-deciding moments. He is a reminder of the anti-dote to cynicism: to believe. But we are not stupid. So to give ourselves small quick wins in terms of proof to ourselves is I think dignifying as we are giving ourselves reason to believe. The faith in our capacity is then not blind. We can experience that ultimate immuniser against tough moments in life-Unshakeable conviction. And not in others or luck but in our own self to stay in the race, whichever that race is for us.

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