Discipline & Impacting lives

The goal isn’t to be better than anyone else, it is to be the best that I can be. It’s about putting the work in, without the fear of consequences or results.

If we embrace the temporary nature of our existence, and how short life really is, then we start appreciating the journey, rather than what lies at the finish line. I think life is beautiful, because it has an end and a time limit, and you never know how or when might be the end of it. It is this beautiful uncertainty where the good things happen. Through the journey of Ironman 70.3, I’ve started to appreciate and value each day, more than what might happen at the finish line. I have started seeing inputs on a per day basis, rather than a long shot, which makes me more productive, active and compassionate. Discipline, for me, is the highest quality of life. Having read Bhagvad Gita, and done extensive research on both Eastern and Western philosophies, a pattern that’s repeated the most is the power of Discipline. Just how Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I feel my best self when I am leading a life that flows effortlessly because I’ve made discipline a habit. I don’t have to ‘control or try’, for a lifestyle that reflects highest quality of life, or the best version of me, is a habit, a second nature to me rather than something I’m aspiring to. It takes days and months, sometimes years to make this a reality, but then it becomes a lifestyle, rather than something on your ‘To-Do List’. Sure, when I started, I wasn’t the person I am today, but it is because of the difference that I’m able to see in myself, that I know what a great personal conquest this has turned out to be.

Another lesson that has come my way, in this journey, is that once you realize and accept that your life is inconsequential in the bigger plan of the cosmos, you stop focusing on the insignificant and petty things. A failed training session or an accident, isn’t the end of your life, you can’t see it that way anyway, for it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Fighting mediocrity is often made to seem a personal conquest, when in fact, it is a matter of impact, impacting others.

The best way to transcend the boundaries of time is to live in a way through which you can impact the most number of people. How I see impact now is to make others’ battles your own, and to fight for the greater good, rather than your own little personal combat. You never exist in isolation, and humans are social creatures that thrive on the feeling of connection, so yes, I’ve come to believe that in order to achieve highest nature of existence, you have to be able to make a significant contribution to others’ lives. If legacy is your goal, and if you want your name to transcend your generation, you should aim at making lasting impressions through everything you do. In a way, this needs to become your discipline.

Once you shift your perception to discipline, you start fighting for reasons bigger than yourself. It is not only your life that you need to succeed in, but you’ve to make others successful through your journey too. It is never about you VS life, but about humanity VS life. “It is but right to wage war against evil oppression. That is the message of the Gita. Perpetration of violence- don’t silently support the infliction of atrocity. “

Be patient, you are never in control, but you have a duty to act, and to act well. If you’ve been following my blog posts, my goal is ‘legacy’, thus, my true goal automatically becomes impacting lives. Through my journey of Ironman, I practiced discipline in a form, I’d never imagined before, and received lessons that make me feel more alive and awakened than before.

Here’s to becoming the best possible versions of ourselves, and leading the highest quality of lives.

Advertisements

Life 101: Ironman training

With each mile, I learn. With each mile, I become a better and a higher version of myself. Being a girl, in India, people can make it really hard to train outdoors, but if your heart’s in it, you innovate and redirect, cause its ultimately about you, and not them.

Training for Ironman is tough, its a certain level of discipline that most people don’t understand, its also very repetitive, and yet one day is never exactly the same as another.

You may think that it gets easier after a certain level of training. I’m starting to realize that that’s not the whole truth. Yes, your stamina might get better, you might get more comfortable with distance, and you might even build tremendous endurance as a result of your training. But what they don’t tell you at the start is, that each day is actually a fresh start- doesn’t matter how many miles you clocked in yesterday or day before, you’ve to show up, and do it all over again, each and every day. To those who think that that’s easy, I’d like you to compare it with the Law of Diminishing Returns. Yes, of course you start with excitement & commitment, but once the mind knows that it has to keep doing the same thing again and again- it takes a lot of mental strength to keep going. It’s the same thing again and again- till one day, you actually reach the finish line, and then it all in hindsight makes incredible sense. How much of it is mental vs physical? Personally for me, it’s 80-20. If I’m feeling good, thinking right, feeding off energy from good thoughts, I normally am able to complete my session even if physically I’m sore, hurt or tired. However, if my body is ready, and my mind isn’t up to it, I’m not able to do anything, literally. Call it mental fatigue, some days you’re just going to feel burnt out, which is worse than anything else I’ve experienced. When it comes to it though, training is where I realized the real value of the term ‘mindfullness’, for you need to present in each moment, each breath, each mile, each ‘now’, otherwise you risk everything. If you think of the future (how much you have to do), it can weigh you down, and if you think of the past (how much you’ve done), your body will beg you to stop as a natural response.

Although after a few episodes of mental fatigue, you start putting things in perspective, and you stop beating yourself down. You start realizing that a failed session isn’t a failed effort in its entirety, but just one failed session (in a way, an opportunity)- the next one doesn’t have to be, and probably won’t be cause now you know you’ve to work harder. This has probably been the most refreshing insight that I’ve lived through. Why? Cause now I know that a bad day or a particular setback, is so temporary in nature, that it can’t hurt me if I don’t allow my mind to dwell there. New day, fresh start- almost like you’re rebooting and restarting every day, and its yours to own. This feeling is really empowering, cause after this realization, not much can affect you, not the petty stuff anyway.

Another aspect of this sport is how personal and introspective it is. Each journey is unique for each athlete and in the challenging moments you tend to find and discover yourself, your grit, your willpower and your own reasons. You’re constantly redefining your limits, challenging what you’re made of and striving to excel- on the risk of sounding cliched, you’re unraveling truths of your life. Having tasted this drug of individualism, it becomes kind of hard to settle for mediocre ways of life- cause this habit of striving to excel transcends to everything you do, every role you play.

Lastly, we aren’t in it for external recognition or laurels, but conquering and winning inner battles is what fuels us. Most endurance athletes will tell you, that although its nice to be acknowledged, we are in the game because we have something to prove to ourselves and have raging, chaotic storms inside our heads, that we try and tame. For me, Ironman is the ultimate test of psychological and emotional strength, its where I get to develop, idealize and philosophize life, to reflect, introspect, and grow. This is my mode of serving this beautiful gift of life, by delivering my very best, exceeding my current expectations and living a meaningful, high quality life.

To end with, one of my favourite essays of all time by Ralph Waldo Emerson called ‘Self Reliance’ (read it here), has the following lines:

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without pre-established harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.

Conquer the inner dialogue

Conquering the inner dialogue is absolutely the most important aspect of endurance training. There’s often a constant struggle sometimes between your body and your mind that makes you want to give in and stop. However, in that moment if you train your mind to replace the ‘can’t-do’ thoughts with what you hoped to achieve at the onset of training and your goals, you can go on for much longer.

I’ve seen that most people in endurance sports start because of either of the two reasons: they have something to prove, mostly to their own-selves (the dropout rate is high when it involves proving something to others), or they have at one or more points in their life have felt victimized by a certain adversity/mishap and aim to regain control of their lives. Once you feel something on a very deep, personal level, you start trying to make every experience in your life match the extremity of what happened, or what you went through. Most people won’t understand what I wrote above, but those who know, really know. In my opinion, it all comes down to seeking control and power in your personal life.

Nietzsche was of the opinion that all men aren’t equal, as it is ultimately a game of power, with people having different levels of ambition and ‘will to power’. I’d like to suggest that while outwardly power and ambition might be a distinguishing factor, the control of the inner consciousness and self-awareness is what truly differentiates men. The more you tap into the inner power, the more empowered and driven you feel in the outside arena. It might seem preachy and idealistic to not let anyone or anything from the outside to affect your internal game, but the ability to bounce back after a certain influence is what matters. We are human and do not exist in isolation, so it is almost impossible to not let the world affect you, but how soon you gain control on your mind after, is the defining factor.

Having said that, I do believe that some of the endurance athletes I’m lucky to have in my life, are also the most loving and caring people I’ve ever come across. There is a certain charm that these people have because of their passion and their commitment to excellence that makes you feel alive in their company. They make it seem like life is a drug, that they’re always high on and breathe. These people have successfully undone their negative conditioning, know how to stop their thoughts from beating their morale down and can overcome life’s disasters with grit and valour.  These qualities demand utmost respect, and just witnessing them for real in my life, keeps me motivated.

Inner dialogue: I can’t. I’m tired. I didn’t sleep well. I was out late. I have a long day ahead. I am not made for this. I didn’t eat much. I’m sore from yesterday. What are the others thinking? Am I looking okay? Are my clothes the right fit? He/she shouldn’t have said or done that or he/she should’ve. I can’t do this. This isn’t for me.

Replaced with: I’m getting better. I’m going to focus on one step at a time. I can. I’m focused. I want to get better than yesterday. I will keep going. I will try. I will focus on me. My only competition is me. My focus is me and my performance. I’m committed to my vision. I have goals, and I’m going to for them.

Honestly, sometimes just saying the right thing, to yourself, at the right time, can change the course of your whole day. Try to control your inner dialogue, kill the outside noise, and you can conquer it all, I’ve learnt that from the best.

This is not only true for just endurance athlete or sports training, but also for life, in general. Most of the times without realizing we’re constantly telling ourselves how we aren’t good enough, inadequate or powerless. How we can’t do certain things or can’t achieve what someone else has achieved etc. Come to think of it, everybody starts at level zero, it’s your drive that takes you places, you gotta decide where you wish to exit life. If you try to proactively control the inner dialogue, you’ll be able to see yourself for who you truly are: loved, powerful, and absolute.