Do you remember the last time you felt alive? Truly alive, not just existing. When your vision was sharp and the air you inhaled cooled your lungs like wintergreen. What were you doing? Were you repeating the events of yesterday? Surely not. I’m willing to bet that you were teetering on the edge of your comfort zone. That place where a personal breakthrough is waiting to be unleashed.
Maybe you were applying for a job you felt unqualified for? Then you got the call: you’re hired. Or you asked someone out on a date that you felt was out of your league, and they said yes. These are moments that can be incredibly nerve-racking; but they always take place right before a personal transformation. They may be uncomfortable – but they are essential for growth.
One of the key characteristics that separate ordinary behavior from extraordinary is the willingness to fail. To fail means to bring ourselves to the edge of what we think we can handle – and go a step further. It’s no wonder that when someone offers us an easier alternative – we’re quick to jump at the opportunity. Because why work hard when we can take the path of least resistance?
But here lies the caveat. There’s no secret path to Get Rich Quick – sorry Herbalife. To get anything worthwhile requires time and sacrifice. Even if we were able to have everything we wanted tomorrow – we wouldn’t approach it with the same gusto had we had to claw and scratch our way to get there.
In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini brings up the concept of hazing in college fraternities. He wondered why the activities that took place during Hell Week always consisted of extreme initiation challenges? Couldn’t pledges do less glamorous community service instead?
His question led him to a study from 1959 done by researchers Elliot Aronson and Judson Mills. They found that “college women who had to endure a severely embarrassing initiation ceremony in order to gain access to a sex discussion group convinced themselves that their new group and its discussions were extremely valuable…” This further confirmed their hypothesis that ” persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with minimum effort.”
We see this play out time and time again. People who win the lottery tend to go broke within a few years. Kids from wealthy households have a track record of being reckless with their spending. When something isn’t earned – it is more likely to be squandered.
When we have it easy – we become complacent. The mundane and safe become routine. No longer do we seek risk – leading to life-changing reward. Instead, we tell ourselves “this isn’t so bad.” We allow our reptilian brain to take over – talking us out of being our best selves. This is why we become uncomfortable – we are engaging in a tug of war between the old brain and our rational mind. We’re pulling information from a source (old brain) that’s rarely needed today.
Push yourself. Do the things that may be unpleasant at the moment, but in the long run, they will get you where you want to go. Whether it be training for a marathon, writing every day to finish your manuscript, building a marketing strategy for your startup, or whatever steps you need to take to reach your goals. It’s going to be hard, you will get uncomfortable and it’s going to be worth it.
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