This was a comment made to Lisa Thompson by one of her climbing partners as they were preparing to practice crossing a ladder across a crevasse with crampons strapped to their boots. They were at Mt. Everest base camp preparing to summit. She wrote about this and her other summits in her book, Finding Elevation.
The quote reminded me of a recent bike ride. I rode 24 miles, my regular Fasken route, and it was an uncharacteristically cool 79* (it was our summer “cool front”, bookended by multiple weeks >100*)
My ride was going OK, but I was feeling stiff and tired as I rode around the northern part of Green Tree. I considered skipping the Fasken loop and simply heading back. Even as I approached the point of decision, where Sequoia Dr. heads south from Green Tree Blvd. If I went straight west, I was committing to doing the full Fasken loop. While there were several short-cut options around Fasken, I knew the odds were, I would ride my regular loop without even thinking about it – if, that is, I crossed Holiday Hill Road. If I turned south on Sequoia, I was committed to a quick ride home.
In reality the difference between the two routes was only about 4-5 miles. If I were training for some big ride, I would’ve gone the entire way no matter how I felt, but I wasn’t training. This was just a fitness ride. Whether I rode 19 or 24 made very little difference. At least those were my thoughts as I got nearer to the point of decision.
Why is it so easy to talk ourselves down? Why do persuasive reasons to take the easy way fill our mind so quickly?
But when I got to the intersection of Sequoia and GTB, I kept riding west. Just like that. Without thinking. For all my calculating and analyzing, the decision to ride west to Fasken rather than turn left on Sequoia took a fraction of a second. In fact, there wasn’t much of a decision. I simply didn’t turn left.
For all my fretting and mental arguing, those moments of decisions are usually brief. The blink of an eye.
I’m fully aware this was a small-scale decision made on a moderate-length bike ride with minimal results at stake. I’m not telling this story to point out what a hero I am, but to confess how easily I could’ve decided to give up.
How we live our blink-of-the-eye moments is how we live our lives.
Well, my ride was better the rest of the way, the rest of the morning. I felt better, rode better, and enjoyed myself. The weary stiffness from before vanished. Maybe because I was proud of my decision. I realized the effect of continuing was more than the extra 4-5 miles. It was mental training.
So when I saw the quote in Lisa Thompson’s book, “Never pass up an opportunity to build mental toughness,” I knew that was the point. This time I had chosen mental toughness over relaxing on my way back home.
Not giving up is a powerful feeling that can last a long time. Maybe I should tape a message on my handled bars, choose mental toughness, where I’ll constantly see it. Maybe I should include a checkbox in my run/bike logs for mentally tough choices.
I must add, choosing mental toughness doesn’t always work out well. Sometimes it results in a long, hard, bad day.
But not this time. I was proud of my tiny achievement.
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How about you? When did you last choose mental toughness (no matter how small)? I’d love to know your story.
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“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.”