“Suffering & Mental Toughness” By Brian Chontosh

Major Brian Chontosh is a retired US Marine Corps Officer who is an overall badass.  With his credentials and honors in the field, he is also a CFL1 staff member and has one hell of a mindset of suffering and mental toughness. This is a series he wrote on mental toughness via his Instagram account (@tosh.crookedbutterly) check it out below, then go give him a follow for any other great content he may post in the future. We personally love the message he delivers here, enjoy:

Suffering & Mental Toughness (part 1)

My vocabulary safeguards a few words for very specific instance. In general, people tend to use certain words much too liberally and ultimately dilute the identity of their meaning. Examples include: inspire, love, hate, hero, promise… and as I dig into this commentary on ‘mental toughness’; suffering.

It makes it so much more palatable to say “I quit because I was suffering” vs “I gave up.” It also makes it easier to quit when you’re confused into thinking you are suffering. An extension of this thought pattern ends up being “I’ve developed mental toughness because I have suffered.”

Suffering has become a sexy common-place word to embellish an amount of effort and mask degrees of weakness. What really needs to be said, “I was extended so far beyond my physical & psychological capacity that I capitulated. I quit where I was weak.”

Mental Toughness pushes us into our weaknesses and creates opportunity. Whether it is simply enduring, tolerating, contributing, succeeding, or thriving is dependent on your grit [another interesting conversation]. Mental Toughness is committed engagement to not suffer. Or suffer less. Or suffer better.
The act of Suffering has no intrinsic value towards good. In fact, I suspect Suffering tends towards destruction. It is how you engage it that presents its potential towards positive development.

In training (myself and others) I refuse attempting to induce Suffering. I prefer to explore punishment. Punishment with purpose.

Suffering & Mental Toughness (part 2)

Mental Toughness is the deliberateness to accept or resist influence, not the acclimatization to it.

In any given moment it is to refuse suffering. Mental toughness comes from awareness and accepting a discomfort. Then, in those moments, taking action (intellectually, emotionally, or physically) in earnest attempts towards success. It is the processing and self revelation afterwards that might take the odds towards suggestion of personal growth.

Exceptional Hardship is an opportunity to showcase development of one’s physical & psychological capacities. Facing adversity is where we have the greatest potential to develop mental toughness. Pass or Fail. It is developed by being ‘present’ – complicit and intentional on attempting success.

Simply because I was super cold and quit doesn’t make me tougher. In the future, I may be able to tolerate the temperature due to preconditioning, but it does not demand that I am tougher. Surviving does not suppose growth.

It is in the struggle where we pay tax. The intentionality of effort to resist is what hardens. Regardless of the measure, regardless of the outcome, we must make meaning with the experience for it to have any worth.

I strive to find opportunities to pay the tax.

Suffering & Mental Toughness (part 3)

Characterizing ‘grit’ in the context of mental toughness – a conditioned stubbornness to refuse weakness.

We each have our weaknesses (there is even such a thing as collective weakness). We all have been weak during moments of hardship. Grit does not suggest that you aren’t allowed these moments, but it mandates that you have intentionality towards refusing them. For how long is determined by your character.

I’ve witnessed individuals psychologically expire because a hardship at hand was beyond their capability to manage. They quit, becoming zombies to the experience and survived due nothing of their own accord. The task at hand exploited a weakness beyond their stubbornness. They may grow and develop or they may not; there is no entitlement towards a growth process just because the event.

I’ve quit at things far short of Exceptional Hardships. It is not an easy thing to say. But it is truth. I refuse to suggest I’ve suffered to make that fact more palatable or excuse myself from an obligation to be better. And I adamantly refuse to use it as a veil of perception. I’ve never Suffered.

Grit develops through engagement with circumstance and an authentic recollection of events. It is not as much about anything physical, but rather psychological. It is through reflection & meaning making, through commitment towards personal melioration. In this regard, I can aggressively disagree with “Once a quitter, always a quitter;” something I used to regard as inviolate. It was a hollow adolescent mantra that compelled me. I have matured; stronger for having quit and consumed with dissolving associated weakness.

I will continue to safeguard the word Suffering; eschewing it out of respect for those that have genuinely Suffered. Even more so I refuse to allow it becoming a point of self-pity or as an attempt to rationalize fractures in my ‘grit’ composition.

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