I came across this great technique for testing your mental strength a few weeks ago.  It comes from Dr. Rob Bell (the sports psychologist, not the well-known pastor).

The challenge is simply to stand under a cold shower for 30 seconds.

Sounds easy doesn’t it?

We’re reaching the end of winter here in Melbourne, but I thought that I would give it a try anyway.

I’m normally the first up in my family (although my three year old son Logan sometimes beats me), so at 6:30 one morning, I tried Dr. Bell’s idea.

It was almost a big mistake, as I had to suppress loud yelps of surprise so that I didn’t wake the rest of the family.

However, I used the rest of the time to check my thought processes during the experience.

They included:

  • 30 seconds is a long period of time
  • I can do this
  • Will it help if I put my head under the stream of water? I was reasoning that my hair would offset the cold.  For the record, it didn’t.
  • When will this end?
  • and finally, why does it take so long for the hot water to take effect after you’ve turned it on?

I made it through the 30 seconds and I’m glad that I did as I learned a couple of things.

  • It will be easier the next time.
  • I could have been more resourceful in my thought processes.  Focusing on the length of time and the cold itself, rather than the experience of making it through such a simple challenge didn’t really help me much.

I would challenge you to try the cold shower test and see how you respond.  Each of our responses tell us something about our mental strength.

Will you come out of it proud of your achievement or just glad that it’s over?

Will you yell and scream throughout the entire experience?

Will you make it through the 30 seconds?

Will you come up with a range of excuses not to do it at all?

Throughout life, there are a range of experiences that will test our mental strength.  They could be work, family, faith, health or fitness issues.

People who are successful, find a way to engage with these challenges, meeting them head-on with discipline, optimism and enthusiasm.

What about you?

Do you avoid the hard things of life or find a way to grit your teeth and make it through?

Do you feel defeated before you even start, or are you confident in your abilities?

Do you keep pushing on, even when those around you have given up?

I believe that mental strength is a skill that can be developed, so don’t beat yourself up if you struggle in this area.

Just be encouraged to push yourself a bit harder next time, to watch your thinking and to feel good about your progress.

Dr. Bell ends his post with a great quote from William James that wraps up this idea really well,

Do something everyday for no other reason than you would rather not do it, so that when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test.

Try the cold shower test and feel free to leave a comment with what you’ve learned from the experience.

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