“I envy these people. They are so talented. I wish I could play the piano, write a novel, run a marathon, speak five languages, as they do.”
Most of us have thoughts like this at one point in our lives. We see other successful people around us, and we “wish” we could do what they do, but we don’t want to give it the effort. We keep wishing, rather than making the sacrifice and doing. It is easier to blame mother nature for our lack of talent.
You don’t need talent
However, there is little evidence that talent or intelligence are the main drivers of success. We may deceive ourselves into thinking that these are the most critical factors, but in reality, it is often hard work or other external factors that determine our success. You may be convinced that you are limited by your genes, but this is not always the case. You can achieve great things if you are willing to work hard and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way.
Yes, you may be born with a hard ceiling. However, very few people reach their potential regardless of what their ceiling is. We use the perceived lack of talent as an excuse not to try hard enough.
Many people don’t achieve their potential not because of their physical limitations but because of their lack of mental toughness. When things get tough, we give up. Even though that is precisely the time when we should double down and increase the effort. In Can’t Hurt Me, David Goggins writes that most of us give up when we reach 40% of our limit. Even though the actual number may not be scientifically proved, it illustrates the point. Most of us give up too quickly. We still have so much more in us before we reach our real maximum effort.
You can see this in sports. People tend to look at professional athletes and envy their abilities without realizing that they have worked hard to become the best that they can be. They weren’t born this way. They once were the same helpless babies as the rest of us. They got where they are not by the power of their talent but by the power of their effort. They have endured pain, sacrificed a lot, and trained themselves to be the best that they can be.
I never really enjoyed running. I had trouble with my knees as a child, and I used that as an excuse not to run my whole life. A few days after my fortieth birthday, I was required to run a short distance of about half a mile, and I was exhausted and couldn’t make it without stopping to catch a breath. It was bad. And it was eye-opening. I decided to change that and started to run twice a week so I could stay in shape. I didn’t have any big goals or motivational speeches; I just didn’t want to be the person who can’t run a few steps.
I decided to never stop before achieving my daily goal, even if it meant I would faint from exhaustion (luckily, that never happened). If I said I would run a mile, I would run a mile no matter how painful and then add some more. If I said I would run five miles, I would run five miles even if my legs ached after three miles. To my surprise, if I ran a mile and felt like I couldn’t take a step more, I would still be able to run a second mile and wouldn’t die. It told me not only that many of my limits are self-imposed by my mind, but it also gave me an incredible motivational boost. I knew that I would get better if I kept going through the pain.
I’m sure you will hear the same story from anyone who got significantly better at anything. As the saying goes, “no pain, no gain.”
Get your act together
The problem we in western civilization have in the 21st century is that we feel life should be easy and fun. We have a sense of entitlement that is hurting us. Achieving your goals and overcoming obstacles doesn’t need to be fun and often is not. And that is okay. Becoming better requires getting out of your comfort zone, and that is very rarely fun. It is painful. If all you want is to have fun and avoid pain at any cost, you never get better at anything.
Goggins, who came from a poor background, had an abusive father, and was always picked on during his childhood, illustrates this perfectly when he described his path to the world’s toughest military teams and becoming one of the top endurance athletes. He had to cope with many setbacks and has this advice for you that he calls Goggin’s laws of nature: “You will be made fun of. You will feel insecure… There will be times when you feel alone. Get over it!”
Goggins talks about the accountability mirror. He would look at himself in the mirror while shaving and have a monolog with the person in the mirror. He would be brutally honest with that person. Remind him that his sorry state is on him. He would talk to himself to build a motivation to pick himself up and do something with his life. No one else was around, so he could be raw and wouldn’t hold back. He would berate his image in the mirror for unfulfilled promises and force him to get moving. His thoughts were simple. The only person who is stopping you from becoming great is the person in the mirror. Deal with them.
Go beyond your limits
Your job is to push yourself harder than you think you can go. If you want to improve, you need to get to the point where your mind is protesting. Then do 10% more. That is how you get better. Life is one big mental challenge, and the person you are competing against is yourself.
Don’t let failure keep you from your goals. Everyone fails sometimes, but it’s how you deal with failure that counts. Don’t focus on what you think you deserve or on the fact that you failed and may fail again in the future. Evaluate what went wrong, blame only yourself, and build a plan of what you can do to succeed next time.
You don’t need willpower to get going and keep at it – you need a reason and a mindset. You need to design your environment in a way that doesn’t distract you from your goal and create a routine that will force you to keep going even when you don’t want to.
Don’t rely on motivation. Rely on routine. Get to the mindset that you do what you say you will do. That’s who you are. If you said you would run five miles every day, then put it to your calendar and run five miles every day. No excuses.
The more you do it, the more it will become a part of you. You will get better and better at it, and you will feel more confident as you continue to push your boundaries.
What is your take on the topic? Do you believe that you have reached your limits? In what activities you were able to get beyond what you felt was possible? How do you keep getting better? Is it willpower and motivation or is it something else that pushes you forward?
Photo: alan9187 / Pixabay.com
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