What does it take to finish a marathon? Some coaches say it takes physical stamina; others, continuous practice; still others say you need mental durability. If you notice, talent in sports is of little consequence, unless it is complemented with stamina. As my brother used to tell me, like any other sport, life is less about how you begin and more about how you finish. This
requires a kind of mental stamina that comes from training your mind through listening, reading, writing and studying.
We may have heard about training our bodies to be healthy through diets and exercise, but how often have we heard about training our minds? Gordon MacDonald, a well-known pastor, says that thinking is best done with a mind that is trained as the body is trained. A strong and healthy mind is one that is independent and self-reliant. The best kind of thinking is done in the context of reverence to God, similar to what Solomon did when he used proverbs and songs to describe things in life that are taken for granted.
A recent acquaintance of mine shared his experience of training his mind. Holger Horn is a German national who was very young when he decided he would live his life outside Germany. As a successful businessman, Holger has set up a martial-arts school and international martial-arts headquarters (traditional karate-do and traditional taekwondo beside other styles) and a scuba diving center in Bohol. He involves himself in increasing community awareness in the protection of aquatic resources in Bohol. According to him, his stability is a result of his efforts to train his mind through years of daily meditation. He begins and ends his days with meditation, focusing not on his thoughts, but on his breathing. He trains his martial-arts students to have the mindset of a sponge—letting go of their unnecessary thoughts to focus on the martial-arts movements and their specific accompanying mandatory breathing techniques. His philosophy is that of a great karate master—not only seen in how he teaches, but in how he behaves outside his school.
Holger emphasizes the importance of “mind over matter”, and that the mental strength developed and accumulated through martial arts could then be translated into all aspects of life (school, job, business, hobby, family). In his own words, “Having the techniques ‘perfected’ in my mind, it is then my willpower to let my body execute what my mind wants me to do. This visual impression will greatly minimize actual physical training and allows me to go far beyond the performance average.”
MacDonald says the first step in training our minds is to listen to other people. Listening to others allows us to become more empathetic and teaches us to ask the right questions. In asking, we not only learn, but we encourage and love. Thus, listening to both critics and mentors helps organize our minds.
A key step in training our mind is to read, an act that I have recently learned to appreciate. In all my business travels, I always try to bring a book or buy one at the airport. Admittedly, I was never an avid reader when I was a student. I read my first novel when I was already in college. While in the Army, I would read books by Frederick Forsythe, Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy. As a lawyer, I began reading novels by John Grisham. In recent years, aside from the biographies of world leaders, I have been reading John Maxwell, Charles Swindoll, Joel Osteen, Joshua Harris and other Christian authors.
Writing is another way to train our minds. The apostle Paul was very successful in writing several books while he was in prison. Faith and fate brought him to inspire others by spreading God’s Word. Disciplined studying is the final step in training our mind. Having a spiritual center allows us to take on whatever life has to give. Gary Galvez, Michael Ray Aquino and Avelino Razon have one thing in common: it took prison time for them to read and study the Bible. During their trying moments, they separated the important from the trivial and developed their spiritual dimension. In most cases, it will take a life-changing event to drive us to start our spiritual studying.
Once listening, reading, writing and studying are done continuously, then we can establish a routine. Business leaders can easily turn adversities into opportunities for growth if they have trained their minds to be focused. Running a successful business is not measured by the amount of failures one has, but by how leaders respond to them. A trained mind, just like a trained body, will ultimately have bumps along the road called life. Following Holger’s mind training, meditation is the critical ingredient that will allow the mind to absorb what it has heard, read, wrote and studied.
In the words of Charles Swindoll, a renewed mind occurs “when Jesus Christ truly takes charge of our minds, bringing our every thought captive to Him”. As a result, we reach spiritual fulfillment, when no bump can take us off course to our path. After all, our lives are not sprints; they are marathons.
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