The Value of Regularly Testing Yourself
Posted September 16, 2022 by Matthew Romans
We live in a world of relative abundance compared to our ancestors of just a couple of generations ago. Even though we face some uncertainty in regard to inflation, our energy resources, and supply chain, in contrast to what Thomas Hobbes said in Leviathan, life is no longer necessarily "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Our life expectancy, in spite of skyrocketing rates of chronic disease, is also higher than a couple of generations ago, although it has dipped slightly since Covid. People are living longer and have more leisure time than ever before. Life is not nearly as difficult for us as it was for those of the G.I. generation. Modern conveniences are great; believe me, I wouldn't want to live in a world without air conditioning and indoor plumbing. However, this easier life has dulled us and made us less resilient. Now all that we have to do is press a button on our phone and whatever we want (especially food) shows up on our doorstep in mere moments. This can do a number on us psychologically, much like what happens to lottery winners with sudden unearned wealth.
How can we maintain proper perspective, enjoy the good things in life, and still maintain mental toughness? Test yourself. Many of us don't challenge ourselves on a regular basis; we're just trying to get through life the best we can. I suspect that a good number of Americans are content with their current capabilities and don't regularly do difficult things to find out exactly what they're made of. I believe this is a huge mistake. Each one of us is capable of accomplishing great things if we have the right attitude and mindset. Performing tasks that are demanding will help you to stay mentally and physically tough, and will also create a huge sense of accomplishment when they are completed. Nobody wants to find themselves in dangerous or truly adverse circumstances, but if you do hard things when the stakes are low, you will build up the ability to deal with difficulty if that time eventually comes.
What are some ways that you can test yourself?
Practice intermittent fasting. Many of us think we'll starve if we don't eat every few hours. This is utter nonsense. Older generations ate very sporadically, due to a multitude of factors, and managed to not only survive, but thrive. Try a 24 hour fast just for the challenge. I guarantee you will learn something about yourself and you'll come out better on the other side. Stay metaphorically hungry.
Read a challenging book. Step out of your comfort zone a little bit. Sometimes a book's genre or subject might not initially be attractive to you, but as you read further you end up being pleasantly surprised. Other times, it was just as bad as you initially thought, but there is value in sticking it out until the very end. Either way, it might just open up your mind to something new.
Exercise. Pursuing a meaningful metabolic experience is not designed to be fun. It is hard work that involves discomfort and occasional mental anguish. How you mentally approach a Total Results workout makes all the difference in the world. If you go into it with fear and anxiety, it will be a big hurdle to overcome. If you embrace the challenge, realize that the workout will be brief, and give your best effort, it will be incredibly rewarding. I have not experienced too many greater feelings of accomplishment than the one that occurs after an outstanding workout. Doing this every week maintains good habits and keeps you mentally tough.
Take a cold shower. I learned this from reading former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw's book Fortitude. It sounds like a crazy idea, but if you have ever taken a cold shower in the middle of January, you know it's typically an unpleasant experience. When you get up early in the morning and you're still shaking off the cobwebs of sleep, the cold water hits you like a ton of bricks. After the first few minutes, it gets easier. The way I look at it, you're starting the day off by overcoming some adversity. You can then face the rest of your day with confidence.
Sharpen your focus on an important task. Focus seems to be in short supply these days, with the multitude of electronic screens we stare into and the general approval of the concept of multitasking. It's much harder to focus on one thing and do it well rather than have pots going on multiple burners at the same time. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Concentrate on completing one task to the best of your ability and don't worry about anything else until that is done. Lock your phone in a separate drawer or room until you have finished what you started. This is not easy, of course, but the question is how badly do you want it?
To paraphrase author Ryan Holiday, if you can't do something challenging when no one is watching, how will you do it when it truly counts? Regular challenges and personal tests are what keep us moving forward, give us perspective, and keep us humble. If you do these things when the stakes are relatively low, you will be ready when the ante is upped. Find out what you're truly made of, and you will be on the road to knowing yourself and truly finding inner peace.