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Amanda Allen started drinking when she was 14. While not the victim of any overt trauma, she took on the parenting role for her two younger siblings as they bounced between living at the hotels that their divorced parents owned in Australia. “Nothing was consistent,” she wrote in her autobiography, The Time of My Life. She felt she didn’t belong anywhere, and it slid into self-loathing and thoughts of suicide: “I was weak-willed, fat and just not right in the world.” Drink became an escape from the mounting evidence she built in her head that she was “a fraud and a failure.”
“For many years I just wished I could die.”
She did sense, however, that she had a vein of gold in her: “I’m forever grateful that a glimmer of hope inside of me refused to die.”
This was reinforced by some of her reading: “These books assured me that suffering was ultimately transformative, an essential part of the hero’s (or heroine’s) journey. I believed it.”
She was also frequently taking courses and learning from others. Most of the time, what she learned did not hit the mark for her: “Not that,” she would say, but she persisted.
What brought her the consistency and the chance to build herself up – literally – and prove herself was checking out a CrossFit gym and starting to show up each day. She had always been a talented athlete, but her mental health, inability to persevere, and her nasty inner had prevented her from mining her own gold for long and staying critics at the top.
She became willing to do the “grimy hard yards.” “When I thought I couldn’t go on, I just did the next most important thing: I just kept turning up.” Gradually, she took ownership for everything in her life: “I got well one day at a time, leaving depression further and further behind me: one action, one thought, one meal at a time, one run at a time.” Her workouts were a way for her to find out what she was made of and to keep building on what she called her “bedrock.”
When I interviewed Amanda for my podcast in 2019, she said: “That bedrock is built by acts of integrity and learning to trust your own word and intention…that builds toughness.” This is what struck me more than anything when we spoke – her ever growing desire to take one more step away from her past and toward a stronger future. She described her bedrock of graft as her “greatest strength” and “greater than any obstacle I’ve ever confronted.”
At the age of 41, Amanda won the CrossFit Games and became a bona fide world champion. As remarkably, she went on to win it twice more – three years in a row. Consistency!
“Every 1% of my life is the answer to being well. It’s built a foundation.” The 1% includes everything from what she eats, to what she watches on TV, to what she thinks about. “Even the soap I have in the shower is part of my 1%. It may not appear to have anything to do with depression or being a world champion, but it does.”
She does nothing in her day by accident. Everything is there for a reason and found its way there by trial and error. “I put them there because I failed so greatly. I was in such a state of suicidal depression, and I never want to go back to those places again. Ever.”
She used her past pain as fuel: “For decades I felt like I was a failure. I wonder why we think suffering is such a terrible thing. It is not comfortable but it’s fertile ground for incredible positive change if you choose to use it that way.”
She learned to filter out the negative thoughts: “Most people bang around life not really realizing that thoughts aren’t facts, feelings aren’t facts. I heard it a decade ago and it was revelation to me because I was a slave to my thoughts.” She now sees many unempowering thoughts as lies. “I filter out what is rubbish and what are lies.”
Instead, she focuses on “the thoughts and feelings I have that are driven by my priorities and values for myself.” Clearly, next to none of us is going to win the CrossFit Games: “It’s not for everyone to be a World Champion. Everybody has their purpose and whatever that is for you, you never flinch with it. It doesn’t matter what the context is, the principles are what are powerful.”
Routine and habits have also allowed persistence and consistency: “Every morning is structured…and that gives me freedom to achieve all that I want to be.”
When she describes grit, she believes that “mental toughness is like motivation. You’re not born with mental toughness. We all have capacities within us and it’s up to us to harness them.”
“My demons may be different to you, but the desire to overcome is universal.”
Based on this story alone, to overcome your demons and build your own grit and persistence muscles:
Trust your vein of gold is there.
Choose to believe that your past can be used as fuel now to be who you want to be and that you can go on your own hero’s journey.
Just show up – regardless of how you feel. Then test yourself and see what you’re made of.
Build your bedrock/foundation 1% at a time. Your race, your pace.
With every action/thought/product, ask: “Is this a 1% I want in my life?”
Thoughts and feelings are not facts. Filter out the unempowering ones.
Keep your thoughts and emotions focused on your values, purpose, and priorities
Achieve freedom through positive routines and habits
Never flinch with pursuing your purpose
Before you go, pick at least one of the above ten strategies and put it somewhere top of mind so you take action on it. I added number six to my mission statement because it’s a great reminder that every little thing we do either helps or hinders our bigger cause.
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Matt Anderson International
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