“Limits, like fear, is often an illusion.” — Michael Jordan
When was the last time you pushed yourself? When was the last time the odds were stacked against you, but you kept going and ignored the negative critic in your head, surprising yourself and blowing your expectations out of the water? When was the last time you amazed yourself with the potential you never knew you even had?
Humans are an amazing species. Whether it is an intellectual achievement or a physical feat, people are constantly making history, breaking records, and making great advancements for human civilization. We watch in awe and wonder how they achieve such greatness. So how do they do it, and what differentiates us from those who achieve greatness?
Successful people know how and when to push their limits.
Pushing your limits can be intimidating because it requires stepping outside of your comfort zone. We prefer to remain in familiar environments and engage in tasks that we know how to do well.
Pushing your limits may seem similar to taking risks. Pushing your limits can seem risky because you are moving outside of your familiar environment to try something different. However, taking risks and pushing limits are different. Taking risks involves doing something that is outside of what you would normally do. Risk also tends to involve a sense of unknown, as you don’t know what the outcome will be. With pushing your limits, you’re usually already familiar with the task you will be doing, you are just extending the intensity or the duration of the task. Since you already have some experience doing the task, you know what to expect. With running for example, if you increase your mileage from three miles to four miles per day, you are pushing your limits because you already know what to expect from having run three miles before. If you decided to study abroad in a country you have never been to before, you would be taking a risk since it involves a sense of unknown.
Pushing your limits is essential to getting better at anything in life. If I never pushed my limits in life, I would have never run a marathon, engaged in extracurriculars, or gotten into college. Think about the last time that you reached a goal of yours. Initially, the excitement helped to start the goal, but then you had to push yourself to keep going and achieve the goal. As you push yourself, what you once thought was difficult becomes much easier and you set new challenges to conquer. When I first started the marathon program, even the thought of running five miles was intimidating. With time and hard work, I was able run five miles faster and it was easier than ever before.
It’s also important to know how and when to push your limits. A common example of people over-pushing their limits is with exercise. We get excited about a workout program and finally get to the gym. Instead of starting out slow, we do as much as we can possibly do before our muscles give out. The next day, our muscles ache and our motivation to workout takes a nosedive. So how do we know when and how far to push our limits?
It’s important to ensure that pushing yourself will be beneficial rather than harmful. If you run when you have a bad cold, it could make the cold worse and deplete the resources your body needs to heal and recover. If you are not able to push yourself, don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, be kind and take care of yourself. Once you recover, you can get back into a routine and determine when pushing yourself will be beneficial. There are also good times to push yourself, like adding an extra mile to your run when you are healthy and feel comfortable with the current distance that you have been running. Think about where you would like to excel in your life, and consider pushing yourself in order to improve.
The key is to be gradual and consistent. Instead of going from being a couch potato to running five miles, start slowly. After you get comfortable with your current mileage, increase it by a mile. Continue to slowly push yourself until you reach your goal. Once you get better at learning how to push yourself, you can apply it to other categories and watch your life improve, one step at a time.
Pushing yourself is easier said than done, but with practice it is possible. Not only will it help you achieve your goals, but it will help you realize what is possible and what you are capable of. It will help your self-esteem, confidence, happiness, and get you one step closer to success. Give it a try, you will be glad you did.
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