It was nighttime and the temperature was freezing.
I couldn’t see my hand before my face, save for the headtorch illuminating the way.
I gasped for breath and my head pounded, affected by the high altitude and lack of oxygen.
My body ceased to function as instructed, legs like lead as I dragged them, one step after another, through snow and ice.
Only intermittent tugs on the rope tethering me to my guide and climbing partner stopped me from sitting down in the snow.
To counteract the altitude effects and my growing fatigue, I adopted a local custom, determinedly sucking on coca leaves.
I desperately wanted to give up and turn around. The problem?
We’d just started climbing one of the highest peaks in South America (read on to discover how I fared.)
Such instances are common – whether we face an overwhelming physical challenge, or a protracted mental obstacle, life’s hardships afflict us all.
Perhaps you’ve lost your job or suffered a tough breakup. Maybe you have health issues, or face financial problems.
While such situations are distressing, our common reaction is one of sorrow and self-pity, wallowing in a disempowering victim mindset, perpetuating the very problems we wish to solve.
Fortunately, whatever your physical or psychological burden, we have inner reserves we can exploit to help us prevail.
But how do we overcome such periods of suffering?
By applying the warrior spirit.
The warrior spirit
What is the warrior spirit then?
It’s the adoption of a mental posture that places us in control, ready to resist life’s challenges with warrior poise and determination.
Put simply, the warrior gracefully accepts factors beyond his/her control but fights through discomfort when positive change is possible.
How to train your mindset
As Shakespeare said,
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
In other words, however dire our situation, we shouldn’t assume it’s objectively disastrous.
By treating our problems subjectively, we assume greater control, influencing their outcome.
It places the battle within our mind, where we can triumph.
Use techniques like meditation and mindfulness to gain greater clarity on your situation.
The victim mindset often involves casting blame outwards, regarding ourselves as an injured party.
Placing ourselves at the epicentre of our problems and taking responsibility for our situation is essential.
After all, we’re the sum of our choices.
Don’t like your life? Make better decisions.
Getting honest with yourself is the hardest part of the process, but only when we identify flaws in our mental models can we can implement more constructive behaviours.
After admitting our weaknesses, it’s time to address them.
However, at this stage, inertia often emerges.
We frequently duck and dodge our problems because they’re hard to fix and we default to the path of least resistance.
This is the time for bravery and acting against our automatic emotional reactions.
That means exercising when you don’t want to, applying for jobs when you’re not in the mood, or finally doing those pesky tax returns.
The warrior knows that peace exists on the other side of such suffering.
Love the battle
“A fool is ‘happy’ when his cravings are satisfied. A warrior is happy without reason. That’s what makes happiness the ultimate discipline”― Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior
When trying to model new behaviours and sculpt our character, our ego naturally resists.
The result? Fear.
Overcoming this fear is central to the concept of the warrior spirit.
When we act in spite of our apprehension, we learn that our anxieties are often unwarranted.
Placing ourselves in repetitive instances of discomfort is training for the warrior.
Just as lifting weights first hurts and then strengthens our muscles, so facing down and finally embracing suffering hardens our minds in equal measure.
After practicing the warrior spirit enough, we might even come to enjoy our mini-mind battles.
With sufficient daily practice, we might begin to seek new challenges for the growth and the opportunities they provide.
Now, admission time – this isn’t always easy. Like everyone, I frequently fall prey to a victim mindset when the going gets tough.
I get into funks and mope around more than I care to admit.
It takes work to remind oneself to push forwards into the pain and resume your training.
Each time I do, however, the benefits are evident.
Fortunately, I managed to dig deep and access the warrior spirit on that South American mountain.
I dug deep and tapped a previously untapped well of resilience.
Despite the altitude, cold conditions and gruelling pace, I knew that failure wasn’t an option.
Counting each step towards my goal, my mind became laser-beam focused.
The reward? Summiting 6,088 metres of Huayna Potosi and experiencing the most spectacular sunrise I’ve ever seen.
Many of us endure difficult times in our lives. That’s normal.
The real question is whether we can endure and emerge from the other side stronger.
Do we have an internal mechanism for overcoming our obstacles?
The resilience we can cultivate by adopting the warrior spirit is foundational, providing a powerful force for positive change.