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How you Move Forward Matters

“Get comfortable being uncomfortable” is a message we hear a lot from coaches. However, if we are working to achieve comfort in discomfort, we also need to create the discipline of discomfort in comfort. This is the balance that accelerates our ambitions to be champions.

In the pursuit of being the first expedition to reach the South Pole long ago, there were two after the prize. Robert Falcon Scott & Ronald Amundson. Both had a dangerous, life threatening journey, with calculated supplies to survive, ahead of them. While equally ambitious and relatively equally equipped, the two leaders differentiated on their discipline to achievement.

Their story is a great example of why we need a system, a plan, and consistency to reach our desired destinations in life. This being comfortable amongst discomfort idea was largely coined in sports to the late sports psychologist Ken Ravizza. It is one of his Ravizza’isms his students heard everyday. Another saying in sports we hear replayed like SportsCenter reruns is, “control the controllables”. This idea of keeping a focus on our internal regulation instead of external environmental factors.

As Scott’s team pursued the South Pole, they did so by trying to get the most out of each and every day. If the weather conditions were poor, they rested and ate. When conditions were good, they pushed as far as they could.

Amundson took a more systematic approach, deciding to only trek twenty miles a day, no matter the conditions of his team or weather. This planned, disciplined and consistent approach led him and his team to conquer Antartica. The other team was led to a cold end of their lives. Their supplies didn’t last with their inconsistent days, mileage and weather.

Let’s look at the lessons we can apply to our mindset in pushing the fine line of control and comfort. The idea of consistent daily goals or more erratic behavior is proven in Amundson’s pursuit. Whether it’s a 20 mile march each day, or the target you need to hit daily, this trains us to handle the discomfort in having an unwavering commitment to our work, no matter is the day is favorable or unfavorable to us. To do this day in and day out, we must be able to take action towards our goals, no matter how we feel. These are keys to developing mental toughness, confidence and movement towards your ambitions.

We also sharpen our mental skills with the discipline of restraint when conditions are well and we feel great. While pushing yourself and your teammates is a good quality; when at the expense of tomorrow’s progress, it comes with higher costs. Being able to rest, when rest is needed, is a skill. A skill that allows us to compete and be consistent tomorrow. Courage is sometimes measured in restraint instead of continuation.

As athletes our mindset and performance benefit from enduring both of these types of discomfort. Executing your daily march builds your confidence in your ability to perform, no matter the conditions, no matter the day. Even in expected adversity you know you can push on. When we resist our desire to push on in secure conditions, it reduces further set-backs or catastrophe when unexpected adversity arrives. Lastly, and a foundational pillar when it comes to mental toughness, taking intentional consistent action teaches you to practice self-regulation in un-regulated environments.

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