Every now and then we need to break with the constraints of convention and challenge what we believe is possible. While the outcome will never be certain and the process difficult, stepping outside of our comfort zone to pursue our goals and dreams can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
A few years ago, I collapsed on a run one afternoon. I knew something was very wrong. After multiple tests by my doctor, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by deer ticks. The symptoms resembled severe arthritis and joint pain throughout my entire body. It took a significant physical toll and left me a shadow of my former self.
As I began to slowly recover, I had to find a way to prove to myself that I was cured, that the old me was still there. I needed a goal. Something big. But what?
Before Lyme disease, I had begun running long distance events, so it seemed only logical to start there. A Google search one night and some clicking around the internet uncovered a relatively new and somewhat unknown series of extreme ultramarathons known as the Triple Crown of 200s.
The Triple Crown involves running three 200+ mile nonstop races across some of the toughest mountain terrain in the country. A total distance of 650 miles with over 225,000 vertical feet of gain and loss. Making it all the more difficult is the fact that the three races take place within a 10-week period, allowing little time to recover in between.
At that moment, the idea seemed so far beyond what I thought was possible. But something about the enormity of the challenge captivated my imagination, focused my recovery efforts and sent me on a journey to find the other side of what I perceived my limits to be.
After eighteen months of hard work, disciplined training and careful planning, I stood at the starting line, not fully appreciating what was to come. Over three incredibly difficult races, I made my way through the mountains, forests, rivers, deserts and canyons. While slow and struggling with battered feet, I completed the Triple Crown a few months ago. It was without question, one of the hardest physical and mental challenges I have ever experienced.
Crossing that final finish line was a very special moment. But what I’ve come to value most from the entire experience are the important life lessons I learned. These lessons transcend running and can be applied to any goal in business or in life. In sharing them, my hope is that it inspires you to rethink what is possible and to take the first step in pursuing your goals and dreams.
1. Mindset is everything.
The boundaries of our limits are only defined by what the mind believes is possible and the enthusiasm to pursue them. It starts with the willingness to entertain the seemingly impossible and to courageously leap through the fear and limiting beliefs that too often hold us back from starting.
2. You’re capable of more than you think.
Each of us is sitting on an enormous untapped reservoir of human potential. We have the power to achieve so much more than we think we can. But you’ll never realize what you’re truly capable of until you force yourself to stretch, to be uncomfortable and try something that you think currently exceeds your ability.
3. Don’t fear failure.
It’s natural to have self-doubt, anxiety and to worry about how others may judge you when taking on any big goal. But if we allow fear of failure to keep us from starting, then we will never know the joy of success. Fear and doubt are the source of more unfulfilled potential than failure will ever be.
4. Big goals start with small steps.
Every great achievement is built upon small actions that may seem insignificant individually but accumulate over time to build momentum. Once in motion, momentum creates a positive feedback loop that bolsters confidence and motivates you to keep moving forward. The key is to simply take that first step, however small, and reinforce it through consistent and purposeful action towards your goal.
5. Value the process of becoming.
Happiness, personal growth and fulfillment in life often come more from the curiosity, exploration and process of pursuing a goal, rather than whether or not you achieve it. Most people perceive all the value to be in the result, but the process we endure is of greater value than the actual goal achieved.
6. Embrace the struggle.
In order to truly learn about ourselves, to grow and develop, we need to struggle. It’s the obstacles and setbacks we face that shape our character, strengthen our resolve and teach us how to handle future challenges. Overcoming adversity is often the most memorable and rewarding part of any journey.
7. Never underestimate the power of grit.
Grit is a combination of determination, perseverance, passion and a tenacity of purpose. It is the ability to keep going in the face of hardship and to believe you can improve your situation. Grit is developed and strengthened through hard work and struggle. Never underestimate the power of grit to move you beyond what talent or innate ability would ever suggest.
8. The importance of team.
Individual effort is important, but having a strong team of family, friends, community, mentors and coaches that support and believe in you can make an enormous difference. Collectively they provide a level of accountability and motivation that will often push you to go further than you would ever push yourself.
9. Gratitude is the ultimate reward.
The emotions you feel when you’ve pushed yourself physically and mentally to the other side of your limits is hard to describe. More than the personal satisfaction of completing the goal is an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the experience, personal growth, people you meet and especially for those that helped and supported you along the way.
10. Celebrate the journey more than the destination.
You’ll likely spend months or years preparing for any big goal. If you’re able to accomplish it or reach the finish line, you’ll spend at most only a few minutes there. While those few moments are very special, they represent such a tiny percentage of the total time dedicated to the goal.
Not all of us have the desire to run ultramarathons. I get that. But each of us has goals and dreams that are currently unfulfilled. Maybe it’s to start a new business, rekindle an old friendship, embark on a healthier lifestyle, or maybe even attempt to write and publish your first article.
What’s important is to realize the power that resides within each of us to take on new challenges, to overcome difficult odds and to achieve more than we think we can. The outcome will never be certain and the process certainly difficult, but the journey is forever rewarding. And in doing so, you might just surprise yourself.