12 Ways to ‘Do Hard Things’ So You Can Achieve More Powerful Results
Sometimes you just do hard things.
Most of us spend our lives seeking an easier way to live.
You wouldn’t even be reading this post if you weren’t looking for an easier path. When we seek wisdom or good advice, we’re searching for advantages in life.
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Yet, so often in life, we find out, even if it’s the hard way, that life is simply not easy. It’s filled with challenges, setbacks, and obstacles seemingly thrown at us in an endless supply. We wonder if it will stop sometimes.
So, why do we seek easy? Why do we lie to ourselves that things will get easier? Why do we seek expert opinions that fill our minds with the optimism of a situation, even if it’s simply not true?
Need an example? Look at the pandemic. How many people are clinging to the ‘expert’ opinions of whatever they want to be true? Not reality.
Back in June, I committed to running my first marathon. I run pretty consistently, but not in the rigorous way required of marathon training. All I’d ever raced before was a 5k and some weekend 10-milers. It was pretty ambitious and probably, no, absolutely over my head at the time.
And while I wouldn’t advise someone to choose my path, I also wouldn’t talk them out of it. Here’s why?
Doing hard things strengthens us in ways we can carry into multiple parts of our lives.
When ultramarathon legend Scott Jurek grew up, his dad would tell him when he complained about a demanding chore around the house, more often than not outside in the hard Minnesota winter, “Sometimes we just do things.”
And sometimes, we just do hard things, like:
Start a business.
Train for a marathon.
Change our lifestyle choices for our health, even if it sucks.
Have hard conversations with clients, friends, and family members.
Doing hard things is a part of life, and we all have to train those muscles that help us do it better. We can’t run or hide from hard things. These challenges aren’t going anywhere.
Here are the powerful lessons I’ve learned over the last four months in preparation for doing something hard.
Commit to things Outside Your Comfort Zone
Commitment will force, possibly drag, you to do things that are just outside your level of capability.
Sign up for online courses that you know will challenge you and force you to grow. Put commitments on the calendar that you know will force you just outside your comfort zone. Find an accountability partner, take on something challenging together, use each other as fuel, and grow your ‘do hard things’ muscle.
Use the power of commitment as a weapon to become better at doing hard things.
Ignore Critics To Your Plans (Or Don’t Tell Them)
You’re going to get negative feedback any time you declare an intention to do, accomplish, or pursue hard things — it comes with the territory.
It might be helpful advice, perhaps sincere. But at this moment, after you’ve committed with all your heart to pursue something you’re still not sure about, you need an all-in mentality.
Never walk away from valuable advice in life, especially from those wiser than yourself. Still, your journey reaches a point very early where you have to work with the information you have, remember the commitment, and ask yourself, “Are you in or out?”
You can still get out of this challenging commitment if you want. But it’s now or never. Decide and don’t look back.
Anticipate The Moments You’ll Want to Give Up
You’ll encounter multiple moments along the way that you will want to quit, not show up, move on or call it in. All these options come with a side of regret.
Learning how to fight this urge off is a muscle. Every time you ignore it, you grow that muscle. When you give in to it, this muscle shrinks a little.
You can’t possibly avoid this point of the journey when you pursue hard things. Whether it’s running a marathon, starting a business, or stopping smoking. This moment is why we call it hard.
Prepare for it. You know it’s coming.
Focus On Micro-Goals
Have you ever thought about something you have to do that requires a lot of steps, only to become extremely overwhelmed and put it off for another day?
Take small steps. Break your hard thing down into tiny steps. Don’t try and build Rome all in one day, even if it’s just in your head. You will do more damage to your psyche, and right now, you need all of that you can have.
Focus only on the day at hand.
Embrace The Journey. It’s Your Home
When you’re doing something hard, you are in this very uncomfortable and unsettling middle ground in which you haven’t arrived, but you have no safe place, either.
We want to believe that we become something once we start. Not true.
If you want to be a writer but don’t have published books, you’re in the pursuit of becoming a writer. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, but you haven’t found a way to pull in revenue, you’re not yet an entrepreneur.
The road towards this hard thing you’re pursuing is a life of itself, so embrace it. It’s your home for right now.
Don’t Search For Easy. There Is None
Don’t waste your time looking for an easier path once you start. You’d just be fooling yourself or raising your hopes for no reason.
You’re in the thick of it now. You passed Easy Street several miles back, and you aren’t coming back around on that option. It’s probably going to get harder, much harder, before it gets easier.
Embrace The Suck
Getting comfortable with pain is a skill that will benefit you when you chase after hard things.
Or, as I told someone recently when asked how I approach long runs, which have you running 2–4 hours straight, “Get comfortable with the pain. You’re going to be here for a while.”
You can find some solace, maybe not at the moment, in the fact that the ability to sit in the saddle with pain is a lost skill in life. Not many have it. Few ever will.
Know Your Why
If you don’t know why you are here, laboring through the pain, facing the adversity in your headwind, and fighting through it, then you are going to fail soon.
Understanding exactly why you are doing something is a hidden tool in your arsenal that you will have to call upon at multiple points in the journey. And, most likely, the most difficult moments of the journey.
Why are you going through that pain? Is it to become stronger? Is it to prove something to yourself or someone else? To be an example for those you love and lead?
You better determine this quickly, learn how to tap into it, and make sure it’s worth it.
Give Yourself Advantages, Even If They’re Small
When you’re fighting hard for something, don’t be too prideful to accept slight advantages to help your pursuit.
Play little mind games with your progress. Trick yourself. Hold tiny competitions to push yourself to the next light pole, sales mark, or even hour. Pull that carrot along the way if it gets you 1% of an advantage in your pursuit.
I wear compression socks and full leggings after my long runs. I have no idea if there is any substantial scientific evidence that it decreases my pain and inflammation. I don’t even care. It works, even if it’s mental, and I’ll take every edge, I can get.
Sometimes You Just Have to Go For It
There will be moments when you have to grit your teeth, do it, and hope you make it out on the other side.
You’ve strategized all you can. You’ve done your research. Now the time has come, and you have to pull the trigger, not knowing how it will turn out.
Maybe it’s an investment in your business that depletes your cash. Or, it’s saying something to someone you love, knowing it might not turn out well, but it has to be said.
The unknown is scary. But sometimes the what-will-happen–if-you-don’t is even more frightening.
You Can’t Do It All
At some point, we have to accept that we are human and all we can do is give something everything we have.
We could always do more things to improve our business: make more sales calls, do more marketing, get more information. Fight through more miles. It never ends.
But you also have things outside this pursuit. Obligations. Responsibilities. A life. So don’t forget this during our information age era: you don’t just need time, you need energy too!
Do your best and let go of the rest.
Don’t Forget To Enjoy The Tiny Moments
The glory or achievement may be what you started this journey for, but as you’ll soon find out, it’s just a tiny fraction of it the journey.
There are small beautiful moments along the way if you’re willing to see them and acknowledge them. Soak them up. They won’t come back around. These moments are significant and meant for your pleasure.
It’s those tiny moments with your child, even on the hard days, when they’re at this precious age that you’ll long for someday. It’s those moments, in your youth, with your closest friends and no care in the world. Or, those mornings, you woke up at 5 am to work on a dream that was so much simpler than it later becomes.
You don’t get these opportunities back. Soak them up. Don’t forget to enjoy the pursuit along the way.
Doing hard things will produce pain, heartache, and discomfort remembered long after the experience. More importantly, these moments and the associated emotion will, in time, give you hope, strength, and empowerment — things you can’t buy. You only earn.
These moments and the lessons and the strengths they produce are why you committed in the first place. You might have lost sight along the treacherous path. You might have forgotten in moments why or wondered what you were ever thinking.
Still, the reason you did it was to experience these moments — all of them, good and bad.
CONTRIBUTED BY Chase Arbeiter
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