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Mental Calluses

“You have to build calluses on your brain just like how you build calluses on your hands. Callus your mind through pain and suffering.”

David Goggins

When I first started kayaking seriously, I would rarely finish a session without having sore hands. The friction between my hands and the paddle would build up until it rubbed the skin away, leaving painful sores. Other kayakers would try different techniques to prevent this, but I found the only thing that worked was to let my hands harden naturally.

Over time, calluses built up, protecting my hands and enabling me to paddle without any pain. However, as I pushed myself to paddle longer distances, my hands would become sore again. Each time I tried to go further, it took time for the calluses to become stronger and enable me to go further and further.

But pushing myself to go further didn’t just put calluses on my hands. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was also putting calluses on my mind.

It was through kayaking that I learned how the brain tries to protect the body. Whenever I pushed myself to kayak further, it pushed my body into discomfort. In these moments, my mind would try to use every trick in the book to get me to stop, to prevent me from stepping too far outside my comfort zone.

Sometimes, I successfully ignored my brains complaints and pushed on. The more often I did this, the less my mind complained and the better I got at ignoring its complaints. By pushing through when I most wanted to quit, I was building calluses on my mind.

I read once that the average person thinks 2,000 – 3,000 thoughts per hour. With so much going on in our minds, doubts are inevitably going to crop up unless we learn to control our thoughts.

I’ve personally found physical training provides the best environment to learn how to manage your thoughts. However, there are many other ways to put calluses on your mind. Any activity where you can regularly seek out situations that push you outside your comfort zone will work. Then when you most want to quit, you must push on.

You should start with a small step into the unknown to prove to yourself you are capable of overcoming what you thought you could not. Then it’s time to knuckle down and tackle the source of your more significant fears head-on.

Every time you take a step forward when your mind is telling you to stop will make your brain stronger, ready to take on your next challenge.

Good luck!