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How do strong people become stronger?

When you google search “how to become a strong person” you get around 151,000,000 results, it is all there; techniques ranging from finding your source of motivation to positive thinking and working on self-pity to reaching a balance between emotions and logic, every step is well explained and analyzed.

Day in day out, in my field of work, I meet strong self made individuals; managers, executives and CEOs who have managed to built, over the years, a good reputation, an outstanding resume and, some even, huge industries and multinational companies.

The common denominator between all these individuals who have managed to become strong without googling it is; perseverance. They never stop for nothing, ever so dedicated and fierce, somehow they managed to become their own coach and cheerleader.

Two years ago, I have set a health and fitness goal for myself and have motivated myself enough to become a regular at a gym nearby my office, I was so dedicated and motivated that each time I walked in, I walked out injured! I decided to hire a personal trainer thinking I was doing things wrongly and after my first session, the trainer looked at me and said: “Now, you have to rest, take time to recover before we can continue”. Huh!…recovery? What does that mean?! I thought it was all about perseverance and giving it your best shot. The word “recovery” was new to me, the idea of resting was downright traumatizing!

“Physiologic improvement of your body can only occur during the rest period.”
Amine Dib.

According to Amine Dib, fitness expert and personal trainer “During recovery period, the cardiovascular system and the muscular system build to greater levels to compensate for the stress that you have applied during exercise. It is resting that makes you stronger, because it is resting that allows the muscles you have broken down during daily training to heal and get stronger.”

I forced myself to rest and when I came back, I came back stronger than before.

Neuroscientists through the concept of neuroplasticity have proven the brain to be a muscle and not an organ, meaning that it is not set in its way of being and is always susceptible to improvement, each experience and/or repeated action can influence and/or shape the neurological and spatial constitution of our brain.

Strong people persevere, they know how to motivate themselves, they are constantly on the move and the idea of slowing down scares them. By disregarding proper recovery time, aren’t we plateauing in strength?

If the brain is a muscle, to become mentally and psychologically stronger, shouldn’t we be resting as well. Instead of constantly challenging ourselves and rising up to challenges all around us maybe to become stronger, we should follow the same “recovery” system and simply take a break!

Take a seat and I’ll be with you shortly.

While watching Nemer Bou Nassar; a famous Lebanese stand up comedian perform last month, one concept he joked about took me aback. He highlighted the reality of Lebanese residing in Lebanon and their oscillation between “wanting change” and the “unwillingness to do it”.

Remarkably he pictured Lebanon as this huge waiting room, where everyone is simply waiting. And as it happens, it’s true! Right then and there, phrases I hear often and must I admit, I have used very often, came flashing back at me; “ma3ley boukra byetghayar el wade3” {it’s ok, this won’t last too long} or “ntorlak ba3ed chewy w byemche el hal” {wait a bit longer and everything will be fine} “ma men zamen heik w ba3dna 3aychin” {it has always been this way and we have survived so far}

These phrases and many others like them became a part of our programming, engraved in our way of assimilating our circumstances, falsely believing they are filled with hope whereas it seems they might as well be our source of deterioration.

What gives us hope might as well be what is holding us back.

Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked 'Oh, you aren't even ripe yet! I don't need any sour grapes.' Aesop's fables, numbered 15 in the Perry Index.

Rather than admitting his failure to reach the grapes, the fox rationalizes that they are not really desirable. This fable illustrates the state of cognitive dissonance. Instead of admitting the ugly truth, we twist, turn and fool ourselves in believing we are exactly where we want to be, and we have control over the situation.

Are we all suffering from cognitive dissonance?

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is explained as a mental stress experienced from holding contradictory beliefs, being constantly confronted by new information that conflicts with our existing beliefs and/or perform actions that contradict with our beliefs, ideas, or values. Does that sound familiar?

“Excessive or prolonged stress can lead to illness and physical and emotional exhaustion. Taken to extremes, stress can be a killer.”Mental health foundation.

According to the mental health foundation, mental stress not only causes mental and physical complications but it also puts the mind on a constant alert mode, in a fight or flight stress response, and if you have ever driven in Lebanon you would experience that hands on! Drivers are either fleeing or fighting, survival of the fittest.

Leon Festinger explained that humans strive for internal consistency, it gives them peace of mind. An individual who experiences inconsistency (dissonance) tends to become psychologically uncomfortable and is driven unconsciously to reduce this dissonance; therefore, creating a different reality for himself, lowering his expectations, shifting his goals and aspirations and by that extending his stay “in waiting”.

Is "Fear" our biggest motivator?

Fear of loss is a bigger motivator than the possibility of gain. Have we been doing this all wrong?

I was reading today a very interesting research done by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1979, which led both of them later on to win the Nobel Prize in economics and are still to this date, the only two non-economists that have been awarded this prize.

In the study, Kahnemann and Tversky presented facts to participants; these facts were phrased in two different manners leading to the same results. One manner described what is there to lose in case of an event happening and the other described what is there to gain from that event happening. What they discovered was fascinating; most people found the indicators of loss far more motivational than the promise of gain. This led to the conclusion that most people will do far more to avoid losing something they already have than they will to get something they don’t have.

As a motivational coach, I find that information overwhelming, as we usually post motivational quotes of an inspiring future and the promise of happiness, health and wealth at the end of the struggle and we get paid to do so.

How sustainable are the results we are getting or have we been doing this the wrong way?

I often wonder why the promise of health never stopped anymore from smoking or the promise of a fit and healthy body never stopped anyone from eating junk food and in the workplace, the promise of building efficient and strong interpersonal relationships never really motivated employees to go the extra mile and raise their likability levels maybe by simply smiling more to their co-workers everyday.

People spend more time saving money when they feel the need to or look for discounts than to find ways to earn more money.

Is fear our biggest motivator?

Instead of inspiring for health should we be promoting the fear of death and despair and instead of promises of a better future should we paint a depressing image of it, so scary that it will actually motivating people away from it towards adopting the right ways.

Maybe they were right in the past went they went on performing pay check cuts to motivate employees rather than presenting incentives such as; employee of the month and bonuses.

Studies have shown that around 75% of people are motivated “away” from something rather than “towards” something else. That fact is probably the reason why entrepreneurs, inventors and millionaires are but few of the population; they are the 25% who follow the dream and believe the promise, they are not motivated by the fear loss and look towards maintaining their current situation. Their mind functions the opposite and gets all the motivation it needs from the promise of gain and them achieving their goals.

They don’t relate to the tangible but find solace in the fall as much as in the rise, so which one are you?