Doing Hard Things in the Face of Adversity: How I Found My “Why”

by Savannah Wishart
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Milruck Winter Tough, Ice Bath

ikigai
[ee-kee-guy]

a reason for being; the thing that gets you up in the morning; the source of value in one’s life; something to live for, the joy & goal of living; a life worth living, the happiness & benefit of being alive.

How do you drive yourself forward with intention & direction toward the life of your dreams, each & every day… without running low on fuel? It starts with WHY.

The first time I got really, crystal clear, about my “WHY” was in preparation for my first ruck event.

Rather than dip my toes timidly into lukewarm water with a 4-hour introductory Brave event, I was diving headfirst into an ice-cold 12-hour MILRUCK Winter Tough in the heart of Swedish February.

And, well – if you haven’t been to Sweden in February, here’s a heads up: it’s most definitely the absolute worst time to go, when the entire country heads to Thailand.

So, here I was. Spontaneously signing up for an event I had no formal training for, less than one week before a small group of strangers would begin the night gathered on a train platform at a time when most people were headed to bed. When I hit “register,” I had minimal gear* (moving back and forth between countries every few months is far from an ideal scenario for a vast accumulation of stuff – even that which falls into the category of necessary stuff), and chronic injuries that stubbornly persisted in showing up in the form of knee pain with any high impact movements. Besides that, it was February in Stockholm – the combination of a time and place that I’ve deemed to be the geographical embodiment of misery.

Beneath the Physical challenges, I was in the middle of dealing with the after effects that came with setting my life on fire 16 months prior. While this was the most important decision in my life on the path of freedom, the Winter Tough was taking place in the midst of a life chapter where there were still a significant number of aftershocks working to unsettle the beginnings of fertile growth I had planted in the ashes.

Emotional trauma, physical health concerns, lack of preparation and gear. Limited knowledge of exactly what it was I was getting myself into (despite my attempts to shrink the gap between the known and the unknown with interrogations of past participants, it’s impossible to know what a MILRUCK event will look like until you take a leap and dive in – ideally with a hefty amount of trust in your Physical strength and Mental fortitude). The situation was far from ideal.

There was a healthy amount of fear coursing through my veins that week. Fear that the physical pain would lead to an emotional break down, and I would be at the mercy of my inner demons. And, therefore… the weakest link holding back the team from completing whatever missions were thrown at us.

But instead of succumbing to thoughts that served no purpose and detracted from the necessary focus for my upcoming performance, 

I translated that fear into determination, and any leftover anxiety into anticipation. 

I took the necessary steps to prepare my mental strength; as a result and despite a brief period where I did have a battle with my demons, I finished my first ruck event with flying colors – at least, as colorful as they could be in a monochromatic culture.

How? Easy day. I had a solid “WHY.”

In the weeks leading up to the MILRUCK Winter Tough, I was reading Mark Divine’s The Way of the SEAL. My progress was slow, as it generally is when there are exercises to complete at the end of each chapter (hooyah for self development books that actually ask you to take action steps!). But fortunately, Mark starts the book breaking down the importance of having a “WHY,” and how to create that powerful foundation.

I don’t have the notes from my journal where I broke down my WHY in detail (another side effect of having your belongings scattered across multiple countries), but the gist of it was:

Over the last 16 months, I had experienced what felt like a lifetime of struggles that I did not choose to take on. Despite the adversity I had faced, I was still putting one foot in front of the other. If I was strong enough to make it through challenges that I didn’t want to deal with, how strong would I be when I chose to be in a challenge?

At the core of my WHY, I chose to test my strengths when I willingly and knowingly stepped into the battlefield… instead of letting another unwanted challenge come to me.

Hej, it worked! And it has worked ever since. 

I’m not suggesting that a Ruck event will leave you immune to challenges, but it will create an incredible foundation of strength when those unwanted challenges do come, that you wouldn’t have otherwise. You get a delightful taste of perspective when you’re under a log for most of the night, and the only problem worth your attention is how that log feels digging into your shoulder.

Oh, and one more thing to note. 

There was a secondary WHY that helped me make it through that night. Simply, to maintain a sunny disposition. You know – a smile. 

My teammates didn’t know the details of the challenges I was facing, but I made a point to share that my goal way to keep my smile. And during that time when I faced my demons, I lost it. We were endlessly climbing a steep rocky slope covered in ice with fireman carries, and my knees felt like they were going to rip in half. My smile was long gone, but as I was being carried by a teammate, he asked where my smile went. It disappeared for a couple hours, but after slamming much more ibuprofen than anyone would recommend, I was back in action with smiles and encouragement for all.

There is power in your WHY, and that power is amplified when you share it with others. 

Neither of these two versions of WHY are universal. They are specific to events that have now come and gone; but they served their purpose in the capacity they were meant for. They gave me a deeper, intrinsic motivator to (literally) keep putting one foot in front of the other – especially when my tendons were screaming, and those feet were slipping on solid ice. 

Over the last year, my WHY has developed to be more universal, applying to different arenas of my life. 

My first MILRUCK event was one of the most significant milestones in my life, for a multitude of reasons (more on that in an upcoming post). Learning to develop my WHY has been one of the skills that I’ve been able to build on and apply to other areas of my life. It’s been applicable for other events (including a consecutive Tough + Brave), my professional goals, career development as a coach, storytelling evolution as a journalist, and so much more.

The more challenges I took on over the last year, the more I was able to fine-tune my mission, my ethos, and my WHY behind The Primal Revolution – leading to finally launching my new website in November. 

It is my mission to unravel the layers of the ultimate human experience and explore what it means to be human, living as an example for others to maximize their potential, free from the excess static of modern society – and to share that journey with the world.

Why? Because I believe that the world would be a better place if we were all doing potent work aligned with the life of our wildest dreams, and living at our highest potential. I’ve seen the result of people caught in the web of the system, sick & broken – and I firmly believe that there is a better way to live a life deeply infused in heart-felt experiences and impact on the world. 

I believe we are overdue for a revolution. 

Why are YOU rolling out of bed each morning? 

Stay tuned for a follow-up post where I break down the key elements that form the anatomy of a powerfully intoxicating WHY, and how to find yours. 



*
Thanks very much to my new friends and fellow Ruckers, Bill & Fabian for helping a girl out with gear supply!

Thanks to my brave model, Bill Kurtson, for the perfect ice bath photo!, sich 

Milruck Winter Tough, Ice Bath

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