How important is it for us to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone?
We all know resilient people, those whom we look up to and gain inspiration from. Their mental robustness and resilience inspire us. Somehow, they seem to soar despite the adversity and hardship they face. How do they do this?
The reality is that resilient people have made a habit of seeking out new and challenging experiences, routinely finding opportunities to push themselves out of their comfort zone as a way of growing their capacity to be resilient. Finding a challenge and pursuing it with determination and passion is an opportunity to try something new, and to triumph (even in failure).
On the 6th August 2016, my life changed forever. As I reached the top of a difficult ascent in the rugged Snowdonia National Park, a section of cliff collapsed beneath my feet and sent me plummeting towards the ground below.
As I tumbled uncontrollably down the exposed rockface, I came to the heart-breaking conclusion that there was nothing I could do to change the course of events already in motion. The base of the towering cliff was more than 120ft below me and closing fast.
Even if I survived a fall of this magnitude, I would land on the jagged rock fragments of a steep scree slope.
I believed that all hope was lost.
Even if I survived, would I have the mental strength and fortitude to overcome what could be potentially lifelong injuries? I would soon find out…
The days, weeks, and months which followed that day would be the toughest of my life. Ultimately, I survived. But I’d sustained a serious Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and was now paralysed from the chest down without even the faintest hope of recovery. I committed myself to a simple promise – to never be beaten, no matter how overwhelming and tough things might feel.
It would be the power of this mentally robust mindset that would pull me through the darkest moments and, ultimately, to my triumphing over adversity. One question preoccupied me more than most – was this an ability I’d been born with, or had I somehow (and inadvertently) created/developed this sense of resilience somehow?
In the years building up to the climbing accident that changed my life, I’d made a habit of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and, in turn, building my resilience and mental robustness.
Climbing mountains had been one expression of this, as had to pursue selection and training with the Special Forces Reserve – an arduous and taxing process on both mind and body. When life turned upside down, and I suddenly faced the greatest challenge of my life, I knew that being outside of my comfort zone would ultimately make me stronger.
Adversity doesn’t exist to beat or defeat us, it doesn’t choose us, but it does present us with the opportunity to take accountability and ownership for our actions and turn adversity into a positive (even if that ultimate victory seems, initially at least, hard to find).
It’s important to clear one common misconception about those whom we consider mentally robust and resilient – they still feel anxious, have doubts, and would prefer to avoid failure. But importantly, they have learned how to stop these powerful emotions and impulses from overwhelming them.
There will always be times in life when we feel unhappy, angry, or depressed. Unhappiness in the face of loss, for example, is not a mental disorder. There is a season to be sad. Painful things hurt. Allow yourself to feel these emotions.
Mental robustness and resilience are about embracing control over what you can control. At the most basic level, you can always control your attitude. Choose your attitude. Redefine your happiness.
The toughest part of any journey is often the first step. In this case, it may simply be pulling out your pen and writing down what you want your next challenge to be. It doesn’t necessarily need to be physical, or a daring feat of bravery and sacrifice, but it should require genuine determination, effort, and willpower on your part to achieve.
Remember, the path of least resistance is a terrible teacher. If you want to achieve something, invest the time, money, and relationships into achieving it. Even if you fail, it isn’t an endpoint or final destination.
Mentally robust people can derive meaning from failure, and they use adversity and failure alike to strengthen their resolve to be the best version of themselves possible.
So, I want you to take some time to consider how you’re going to further cultivate your mental toughness by pushing yourself out of your current comfort zone.
Genuine happiness is the output of meaningful endeavour – come success or failure.
Start by reaffirming to yourself that you are capable of more than you often give yourself credit for. Be bold. Be courageous. If the scale of the challenge daunts you, then break it down into smaller pieces, and continue breaking them down until each step is easy. Remember, you can do this!
About the Author.
Darren’s first book ‘Strength Through Adversity’ became an instant best-seller on Amazon in the UK and across multiple territories around the globe. His personal story of overcoming adversity and building a resilient mindset is guaranteed to motivate, encourage courageous thinking, and inspire. Instilled with humour, down-to-earth honesty, and a genuine sense for adventure and pushing the limits, Darren cares deeply about connecting with his audience and getting them to think – and act – differently.
Darren’s talks are an infectiously positive call to action that nothing is achieved without a resilient mindset.