The deep rhythmic pounding of boots hitting the pavement of the English country lanes broke the morning silence. The cool, damp air hung low between the high hedge rows on either side of the road. The warm breath of the men in front of me broke that damp air, as did the steam from their now-sweating bodies.
This was the first of our four Commando tests. Nine miles in ninety minutes, with my rifle and twenty-one pounds in my belt kit. We were speed-marching as a troop, in perfect step.
My shins felt like they were exploding with every pounding step, and my belt kit began to shift uncomfortably on my hips. Now the weight was also digging into my shoulder unevenly. My rifle was tight into my right side and my other arm pumped and swung into that damp air.
It was eight months of training and being physically and mentally destroyed countless times that had brought me to this point. Over the next three days I would have to complete the next three commando tests. These subsequent three turned out to be significantly harder than the pain I was currently feeling. I could have come up with every excuse to quit, but those thoughts hadn’t tempted my thought process. I was so close to the end now my goal was in grasp.
There were times early on in training where the end goal seemed so far away and out of reach. Because the end goal was so far away at that time, it was easier for the infection of quitting seep into my thinking. At times I had felt its disastrous effects take a hold of me and try and bring me down. But, I knew it would have started to affect those I was working with. I had to be honest with myself and proactive to fight it. If I didn’t start combating it early on with a determined mindset, I wouldn’t have been able to get to the point in training I was at now.
Over the course of training, that inner determination was measured and tested by the second or minutes ahead of me, or by individual footsteps over hours. During the physical beastings we endured or the harsh weather and lack of sleep and food, I let my body become automatic and follow my mind towards the goals that I had set in front of me. The end goal was always in my mind, always at the forefront.
At times when it felt like everything was against me, I just kept repeating to myself “this wont last forever” “someone else has been here before and succeeded”, “there’s only an hour left, I can do anything for an hour”.
I wanted to complete and succeed with every ounce of my being, and to get on with the career I was looking forward to. Nothing was going to stop me or infect my thought process -- definitely not an uncomfortable strap, a bit of weight, and the pain coursing through my shins.
And like that, the first test was over. I had just completed the first test.
The joy and satisfaction of completing it made all the discomfort I had just been feeling disappear, and made the last ninety minutes feel like a morning stroll. It built my confidence and made me even more hungry for the tests that laid ahead.
Training wasn’t the hardest thing I would end up doing in my career, but it laid the framework and allowed me to achieve and overcome more later on in life.
It has become easier over time to sink into the rhythm of adversity. I have learned to embrace hunger, cold, pain, and being uncomfortable. I have built this ability through repeatedly choosing to accept challenging tasks, and embracing whatever situation I find myself in.
For me, determination means breaking down what would seem like an unachievable task into small, manageable steps. In many ways I have started to enjoy adversity, to accept it, to look for the difficult path, and choose it.
Approach your goals with a determined mindset from the start, no matter how far off your goals may seem. When you start to feel those thoughts of quitting enter your mindset and take a hold of you, recognize those feelings and fight them. The feeling of conquering and overcoming the adversity will motivate and thrust you forward. Keep the hunger and drive you started out with focused towards the end goal.