I was once in a relationship with someone who sought opportunities for us to push beyond our physical and mental limitations.
If it was cold, he made it colder. If our environment was hot, he would find a way to turn our space into a blazing inferno. If we were hungry, he’d dare us to see how long we could go without food. If tired from triathlon training, we would train longer.
We took the stairs instead of the elevator.
Rather than driving, we walked to and from the market, the post office, the gym, and restaurants we frequented.
I cannot remember a single time that either of us used a shopping cart. Instead, we carried hand baskets, filling them to the brim in order to build upper body strength.
Daily I reflect upon and appreciate his encouragement of me living on the edge of my comfort zone. I will forever value the inner strength and resilience built from participating in intermittent voluntary discomfort.
Still today, even if in just some small way, I seek to increase my level of fortitude by consciously choosing at least one area to push beyond comfortability. When my focus is health and physicality, I may stretch the hours between meals longer than is comfortable. I may attempt a new activity or move into a handstand, which usually causes me to feel a bit anxious.
If mental fortitude is the focus of the day, I may pick up a book that seems daunting or that is not from a category of interest––almost always I discover some token of wisdom that is valuable and worth having been read.
When I choose to enhance emotional strength, I might enroll in unfiltered truth-telling despite potential risks of backlash. I may openly express my vulnerabilities to another person, or group of people.
Spiritually, I build strength by letting go. I do my best to surrender to the unknown even when my very human nature wants to think it knows what is best for me.
There is a need for us to be strong, resilient, and adaptable in a world where comfort from modern-day conveniences is the name of the game. Challenges are a part of life, and most of us are not impervious to the effects of trials. Yet, with fortitude we are more likely to navigate struggles with ease and grace, and can better manage our emotional setbacks. Without fortitude, we become too soft and unable to cope.
This does not mean ease, grace, pleasure, gentleness, flow, and comfortability are not just as important to foster. They are. But my point here is that fortitude prepares us for difficult times, and contrast enriches our lives, making our time here more adventurous and exciting.
This week, I invite you to consider the areas of your life in which you could be stronger. Can you go without eating sugary snacks rather than giving into a craving? Can you exercise for thirty minutes instead of choosing to watch an evening TV show? Can you leave your cell phone at home while you venture out for a few hours, or turn off your air conditioner to live temporarily without climate control?
In whatever ways you might be living the uber cushy life, I encourage you to dip your toe in some discomfort. Stretch beyond your limits, and know I am doing this right along side you. As you do, you may notice two immediate benefits:
1. The experience of contrast will invoke deeper levels of gratitude, enjoyment, and appreciation for creature comforts.
2. You will likely sense feelings of deep satisfaction, accomplishment and self-worth that are unique to stretching beyond your own boundaries.
Give it a try and if you feel inclined, please share your experience with me and others on Facebook!