When I was a child, I watched and admired super heroes. Think of Batman, Superman, Ironman, Spiderman. I remember watching the Spiderman movie about five times. I was fascinated by the fact that Spiderman was bitten by a spider and developed super powers. Every child, at some point, wishes for super powers.
In the real world though, the most inspiring “superheroes” are real people that have been through the hardest times and bounced back to the top. It is through physical difficulties that the body becomes stronger. Think of the weightlifter. It is through the repetition of lifting heavier and heavier weights that make muscles grow. There is no way to shortcut this process. The lifter has to go through the pain of training to improve his physical condition.
It is through this same process that one develops mental toughness. It is through the struggles. Through the pain, often of defeat or a traumatic event, that develops this ability to perform when the difficulties of life set in.
What happens when humans go through hardships and suffering? They develop character and mental toughness. Difficulties in life make the mind stronger. Persistence is the most valuable trait a successful person can have.
“Don’t ask for an easy life, ask for the strength to endure a tough one.” -Bruce Lee
Real Life Superheroes
Let’s start with Niki Lauda, who was a Formula One racer. During one race in 1976, he wrecked his car and it burst into flames. Niki, who was trapped in the car, suffered significant burns over his face and head. He returned to racing only 6 weeks later. He went on to win the championship in 1977 and has served as an advisor to Ferrari since th
While surfing with family and friends in 2003, a young Bethany Hamilton was bitten by a Tiger Shark. Losing her left arm, and almost her life, she recovered and returned to surfing only 1 month later. She has since won championships as a professional surfer, performed stunts in the movie documenting her shark attack (Soul Surfer), and has been in multiple TV shows and movies. She is happily married and made headlines when she gave birth to her son.
Michelle Salt, an aspiring professional snowboarder was in a serious motorcycle accident in 2011. She, too, almost lost her life. In the process, she did lose her right leg. This is what some would consider a career ending injury. After spending 7 days on life support, and 5 months in the hospital, she made an unbelievable comeback. Stronger than ever, she competed in the 2014 Sochi Paralympics and went on to pursue fitness modelling.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” -Helen Keller
Helen Keller experienced an illness at 19 months old that rendered her deaf and blind. She spent 25 years learning to speak so that others could understand her. She mastered several methods of communication, including braille, touch-lip reading, and typing. She became determined to attend college. Her grit and drive impressed a Stanford Oil executive, who paid her tuition to Radcliffe College where she became the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
She became an outspoken advocate for people who are blind and for the disabled. She received many honours throughout her life and she helped to found the ACLU.
I believe that we should even be grateful about struggles in our life because struggles build mental toughness.
Mental toughness can be thought of in terms of grit and consistency. It is about not letting life and adversity get in the way of achieving your goals. It is the difference between excelling and mediocrity. Just like the weightlifter’s muscles, it is not something you are born with. It is not even something that you have to develop at a young age. You can begin building mental toughness now. The key is consistency in small and consistent actions. Get out of your comfort zone. Be committed to making things happen. Start small and work up to bigger and better.
“The key to mental toughness is applying consistently the traits of self motivation, positive attitude, emotional self control, calmness under fire, and being energetic and ready for action. Consistency is important. Through applying these traits day in and day out, you will be able to reach new heights in whatever endeavors you seek whether it be a sport, playing a musical instrument, coding a computer application or writing a novel.” -Mike Martel
Often when I go through struggles I remember what Zig Ziglar often said in his lectures, that we should get excited about difficulties in our life because that develops character, character develops persistence, persistence develops performance.
All our real life superheroes could have stopped, gotten depressed and blamed their bad luck for their circumstances. But what did they do? They got back on their bike (or race car or surfing board) and continued with their life.
Consistently, day after day. Through their trials and suffering. Through their actions, they not only continued, but they thrived. They became champions and inspired million of people.
“What does not kill me, makes me stronger.” Friedrich Nietzsche