12/16/2014 05:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Strength of Mind in Motion


An hour into my Bikram Yoga class, sweat literally pumping out of pores I didn't know I had, our instructor -- the epitome of positivity, I might add, gave us a strange and daunting invitation: "Recruit Bengal tiger strength, and use mind over matter" in order to lock our legs in pose.

Have I ever contemplated a Bengal tiger? Have I ever seen a Bengal tiger? Have you? Maybe the woman on the next mat over, the one who pulled off an unassisted, no-need-for-a-wall head stand to warm up has. But me? Not exactly.

So there I was, stalking the deepest ranges of my mind, hoping to conjure some loose idea of Bengal tiger strength when something odd happened. I found it. No, I didn't find a tiger, or even the notion of a tiger. I found something else, more like a reservoir of inner power that welled up and guided my physical action in that moment of excursion and discomfort.

The actual execution of the strength I needed was already inside me. I just had to tap it.

We all have this well of strength and power inside of us. For some, it lives close to the surface. For others, it's buried deep. But believe me, it's there. Are we listening to it? Are we giving it a chance to talk?

The topic of strength is popular in the western world. From the time we're little children, we're surrounded with messages like no pain, no gain, go big or go home, or my personal least favorite, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. The messages of strength are fast and furious -- big muscles, ripped abs, toned backsides and so on.

What we rarely hear is that strength is a deeply subjective and personal experience. Does my Bikram Yoga example compare to the story of a breast cancer survivor, or the victim of domestic violence who finally walks away? No -- but my point isn't to weigh or compare strength to strength. It's to shed light on the fact that we all have the capacity to be strong, whether we know it or not.

I've been studying people and myself for more than 15 years. My deepest curiosity lies in understanding why and how we become motivated to change, improve our lives, or reach beyond ourselves. I've even interviewed people to find out how they gained strength over time. And of everything I've heard, one theme repeats again and again:

Nearly every person says that just before they actively chose to be strong -- from tiny daily actions, to major life decisions -- they felt an element of intolerable discomfort.

Before they were strong, they were driven by moments of anguish that they just couldn't "take any longer." The degree of unpleasant emotions fueled them to take action. They decided to DO something. In choosing strength, they exacted control over the things they could control, and surrendered to the things beyond their control in that moment.

Whether you call them small things or baby steps, when we acknowledge the ways that we're strong in our daily lives, we expand the meaning of strength, and set true change in motion.

Every day, we make dozens of choices that rely on inner strength -- and we don't even know it. The more we work from this inner place, the more strength can perpetuate in our lives.

Inner strength needs to be lived, embodied and honed. Meanwhile, our ability to develop inner strength is at the heart of all positive change. So how do we create momentum by actively tapping our inner strength, especially if the idea of even possessing inner strength is news to us?

When strength wins in the mind, it wins in the body. Inner strength literally becomes action. What we think becomes what we do, which eventually becomes who we are.

Congratulations -- you're stronger than you know! And you're way stronger than you acknowledge. So admit it -- you're strong! Our world simply doesn't celebrate small wins. Without messages that reinforce our strengths, we start shrugging them off as "plain old me" traits.

It's time to change our view of strength.

Here's my invitation: from now until the clock strikes midnight on the New Year, write down, at least once a day, something you think, feel, or do that is strong. However you define strength is okay by me. Maybe it will have to do with what you eat, or how you handle end-of-year stress, in-laws, office parties and the glut known as holiday season.

Whatever it is -- no matter how small or inconsequential it seems -- make note. And share it below in the comments section so others can celebrate and share with you. And tweet it early and often, #GetMindInMotion.

Let's celebrate our strength. Together, we'll expand what it means and how we recognize it in our lives.

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