When I find myself coasting, when things are going too well and I’m not sweating, stretching, a little anxious, or unsure how I’m going to achieve something, I start to itch. My comfort zone makes me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because I know that if I’m comfortable, I’m probably not growing, not getting better, and not doing everything I can with a that’s life too short to simply seek comfort. After all, you can’t coast uphill.
That’s why I love a good challenge. In fact, the bigger the challenge, the more excited I get. If something is challenging, causes me to push myself past my limits, and seems just a little crazy—I’m going to be the first one in line to try it. I like hard stuff. I like taking on tasks that will help me grow as a person.
Why I Recommend Doing Hard Stuff
Several years back, when I felt that I was drifting into a comfort zone and was becoming complacent with my daily routine, I decided to shake things up just a little bit. I invited a Navy SEAL to move in with me and my family and live with us for a month to transform my fitness routine under the condition I would do whatever he said, whenever he said it. My time with this Navy SEAL not only transformed my body, but my mind became stronger than it has ever been. Leaving me with the desire to do even harder stuff so I could give more to my business and family. There is no better feeling than knowing you can conquer a challenging obstacle, especially when you are confident enough to know that is only the tip of your potential.
My journal and blog of the experience became a book, Living With A SEAL: 31 Days Training With The Toughest Man On The Planet, which became a New York Times and LA Times Best Seller. Why would so many people want to read about some guy they don’t know—me—doing hard stuff? I think it’s because a lot of us realize we’re more complacent comfort-seekers than we should be, and we wonder if we’re capable of more.
The truth is, we’re all capable of more, much more than we ever imagine.
You Don’t Know Yourself Unless You Challenge Yourself
Many successful businessmen and women are addicted to adrenaline and high-risk adventures. So am I. But my outrageous pursuits are more about improving in every area of my daily life. I surround myself with the best people in the world who aren’t afraid to push me hard.
I had to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Comfort zones kill progress.
I had to change the patterns in my daily life and not just chase every big and outrageous experience for the thrill factor. Want to know what really gets me excited? When I see others develop the desire to do hard stuff, which is why at the beginning of this year, I posted a hard fitness challenge to everyone who follows me on social media.
We do hard stuff for “Fitlanthropy”!
Fitness + Philanthropy = Fitlanthropy
My two biggest passions have always been fitness and philanthropy, so it’s only natural that I call my fans and group members “Fitlanthropists.” The excitement surrounding the #2017ofEverything challenge proves that a lot of people hate comfort zones like I do. Many people want to push themselves to do hard stuff and reach new goals while also doing some good in the world. The challenge is inside a free but private Facebook™ Group and consists of exercises based on the number 2017, my goal is to raise people’s self-expectations as well as bring a new charity to light each month. My philosophy is, “You do it, I donate.” For every finisher, I donate money on their behalf to the charity of the month.
In January, myself and a few other members donated to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. In February, we focused on the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, and in March, on the Special Olympics. And that’s just where we’re getting started. Ultimately, “hard stuff” helps people get past the number one thing that’s holding people back: self-imposed limitations.
For those wanting to push past their mental-blocks and reach their potential, I have five pieces of advice that worked for me:
1. Immerse Yourself with the Best
Finding someone to push you past your limits is critical to success. In my case, I found a trainer to live with me for a month.
The person you choose to help you has to be someone who’s been successful in the area in which you are seeking help. The closer you get to people doing what you want to do, the faster you’ll get results.
2. Take on More Than You Think Is Possible
There’s no glory, or growth, in an easy challenge. To push past your limits, you have to try progressively harder tasks, especially ones that scare you just a little. If you aren’t challenging yourself and making those challenges harder and harder, you won’t excel past what you can already do.
3. Create Habits That Create Consistency
The only thing that separates world class athletes and champions from those who make the league minimum is how consistent their results are. To get consistent results, you have to take consistent actions.
Do something every day that challenges you.
Push yourself even when you don’t want to because this will create habits and automatic actions. Soon you’ll realize you’re no longer relying on willpower to get things done, but practiced habits.
4. When You Think You’re Done, You’re Just Getting Started
I learned from working with a SEAL that when your mind tells you you’re done, you’ve actually only hit 40 percent of your potential. This requires you to get uncomfortable with where you are, figure out your baseline, and push past it. The truth is, you have more capabilities than you realize. If you haven’t found success yet, it could be because you haven’t gotten past the mental blocks—which keep you stuck in your comfort zone—you’ve put up over the years.
My most recent adventure in which I immersed myself outside of my comfort zone was living with monks at a monastery in near-complete silence and solitude. This pushed me as much out of my comfort zone as living with a SEAL. Sometimes you just have to do things.
5. Surround Yourself with People Who Support You
One of the reasons I created the Facebook Group was to give people a support network where they can find group accountability. I’ve learned that few people achieve any level of success completely on their own. Having the right people around you to cheer you on and keep you motivated can sometimes mean the difference between success and failure. In my case, my wife, Sara, has been a huge support in my adventures and challenges as I build my “life resume.”
I’ve had a lot experiences, but really, no experience is necessary to push yourself past what you think you can do. If you haven’t done something yet and you want to do it, start now.
Jesse Itzler is the NYT Bestselling author of Living With A SEAL: 31 Days Training With The Toughest Man on the Planet.
Cofounded Marquis Jet, the world’s largest prepaid private jet card company in 2001, which we sold to Berkshire Hathaway/NetJets.
Helped pioneer the coconut water craze with Zico coconut water, which we sold to Coca-Cola in 2013.
Co-owner of Atlanta Hawks NBA team, married to Spanx founder Sara Blakely and raise our 4 children in Atlanta, GA
Photo credit: Influencive
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