This Is Why You Should Do Hard Things
When was the last time you made a commitment to doing something but didn’t do it? For most of us, this happens on a regular basis. It could be something small, like getting the dishes done before bedtime. Or something big, like running ten miles. Though these 2 things are at different ends of the difficulty spectrum, they still require effort to complete. Much of what we need to do in life requires effort. It’s what it means to be productive.
Yet whether it’s getting the dishes done, running those ten miles, showing up on time for work, or simply pledging to be a kinder person to someone in your life, sometimes we just can’t seem to do it. The neuroscientists might say that rooted deep within our brain is a survival mechanism that wants us to conserve energy and effort. Ten thousand years ago it would have been stupid to run ten miles unless you were hunting food or escaping a predator. We conserved energy whenever we could. We had to or we didn’t survive.
That’s not really a problem for us now, yet that primitive voice still speaks to us. “Stay under the warm covers.” “You can skip the run today.” “The dishes can wait.” And on and on. We go along, doing what we need to do to get by yet somehow we know there’s something more there that can be accessed. Something heroic that we just might be capable of. We’re enamored by the ultra-athletes and stories of people with unthinkable grit and courage who do impossible things. We see them as so different than us. But they aren’t.
When we make a decision to do something, then actually do it – that’s when we grow. That’s how we change. When you’re about to walk past those dishes in the sink, and the voice in your head tells you it’s OK to do them tomorrow – that’s your moment to turn the tables. When you’re thinking about joining the exercise class and the voice tells you a little more time on the couch with your coffee is all that you need, that’s your moment. When you’ve decided that you’re going to take that run tomorrow, and the time comes to do it, and the voice in your head says you can wait till tomorrow, but you just go do it anyway, that’s growth. That’s change. Do that every day.
When we surmount challenges – small or large, we’re not just getting something done – the dishes, a run, paying bills etc., we’re also taking control of the voice in your head that says “it can wait.” The voice that keeps you stuck right where you are.
Exercise is a great way to make a habit out of overcoming defeating self-talk. Exercise is, by nature, difficult. Many of us do it because we know it’s good for our bodies, we look and feel better etc. We feel good after a workout, we sleep better, we eat better. But the most important piece of all of this is that we just successfully silenced the voice of doubt. And when we do this on a regular basis, when we make it a practice, at least in my experience, the voice gets quieter and quieter. Mindfulness teaches us that we have the capacity to distance ourselves from our thoughts. In this way, we bring mindful self-awareness to exercise when we refuse to embody that voice of doubt, instead simply moving forward and doing our workout. More about this in another post.
Great athletes have learned this secret. They know they grow – physically and mentally, through challenge. So when they don’t have a challenge right in their midst, they go look for one, knowing they can create another growth opportunity, another repetition of silencing the inner voice of doubt. Another step towards mastery and self-confidence. This is growth.
So when you’re going about your day today, look for challenges, large or small. Start small if you need to – make your bed today or take a longer walk than usual. Build into bigger challenges – make the walk a jog. Make the 3 mile run a 4 mile run. Create opportunities for the voice of doubt to appear, then take pleasure in shutting it down.
You can use our Reset Bracelet as a tool to help you with this process.
After a while, the “hard” things won’t even seem hard anymore. That word will stop existing for you.