It’s not even the end of March, and already 2009 has been a year of significant challenges. It seems that everyone I know is facing a sizable “test” of some sort – physical, emotional, or economic threats. These trials can certainly shake our foundations, ignite our fears, and inflict pain and hardship on our daily lives.
Yet there is a “Gift to the Grind,” if we are willing to allow and recognize it. Individually and together, we are becoming stronger.
Increasing your strength – physically, mentally, emotionally, morally, or spiritually – is a predictable process. Sure, the “tests” will be different for all of us, and may arise unexpected (or even unwelcomed). But, we can count on the fact that we will always face struggles, experience set backs, be humbled, recover, and be strengthened as a result.
“Getting stronger” is about growth. Over time and through deliberate effort, we develop the ability to withstand greater demands and handle them with more certainty and ease.
How do you build muscles? It’s a simple, two step process. You must first use the muscle beyond its current capacity. Then, give it some time to recover. Both steps, training and recovery, are essential to growth. In fact, it is a fool proof plan. Once the muscle is pushed beyond its current limits and given the opportunity to recover, it will regain its previous capacity … and then some. It will be better, stronger, and more resilient than it was before the work out.
This phenomenon is called super-compensation. Not only will the muscle compensate for the increased workload, but it will super-compensate, going beyond the previous mark. The reason for this is that your body, in order to protect itself, is anticipating the likelihood of another test. It wants to be ready for that challenge, so it recovers beyond the previous level of capability.
This approach to training works to increase not only your physical strength, but also your mental, emotional, and spiritual capabilities. In order to grow in any of these areas you must deliberately expend a taxing, beyond-the-limit effort. You must be off balance in a direction you choose and exert yourself fully – often to the point of failure. Then, once you have “broken down” your muscle (or your belief of what is possible), you need to experience a “recovery period” to rest, rebuild strength, and allow new patterns of thinking and action to take hold.
Training (fatigue), Recovery, and Supercompensation –
All three phases are necessary.
As I look at the snapshot of today’s circumstances, I see a lot of fatigue and considerable pain. Many of our systems are broken – physical systems, environmental systems, economic systems, and cognitive systems (systems of thought). These personal and universal systemic challenges require a new commitment to understand them and transform our approach so that we can handle them successfully.
By consistently taxing our physical or mental powers to the point of failure, we tell the body (or the mind) that there is a requirement for more resources – strength, stamina, or capability. Then, through the required period of recovery, we experience growth beyond our former ability. We will become better, day by day, if we accept the challenges, apply ourselves, and grow.
If you feel as though you have reached a “plateau” in your ability, and that you are not getting stronger, you need to add some resistance. Try something harder. Tackle more difficult challenges – or more complicated concepts. Stretch your thinking. Stretch you body. Stretch your talents to their breaking point.
Then, allow the time to recover and grow.
We’ve become a “quick fix” culture, so I realize the approach I am advocating may be unpopular. Many of us want instant gratification and the postponement of discipline, hardship, and pain. But the approach that has proven most successful (and will ultimately allow us to transcend these circumstances) is one of daily discipline. Ultimately, gratification results from consistent and persistent effort.
Make the tough choices. Apply yourself to the challenges by giving all your physical and mental effort. It is only when those resources are exhausted, and you take the time to rest and recover, that you will become stronger, smarter, and more capable. And that’s a true satisfaction that is far superior to the false promise of a quick fix.
What is the thing that you desperately need to do? Do it now. Do it with all your strength. Spend yourself completely, and prepare to be super-compensated.
Wishing you strength,