I ran a Ragnar (200ish team mile relay race) for the first time in person in over two years. The night before I slept outside, on the ground in a sleeping bag and it got cold and dewy and I was literally running on a few hours of sleep, after a month of overextending myself personally and professionally and already being at my supposed human limits.
We were up by five and out the door by 5:30, and I would not get to lay down again until after 2:30 the next morning.
How often do you really push yourself, to see what you are capable of? Ultrarunner (and former NAVY SEAL) David Goggins insists that every person has a governor in their mind that restricts their capabilities, set somewhere at 40% of your potential. Meaning you could easily increase what you are doing by a quarter more than what you are doing and still only be at half capacity. What could you accomplish at work and personally if you were that much better, could go that much harder on that project or deeper in your relationships? You will surprise yourself with what you are capable of.
Most people are afraid to toughen their minds and bodies to become better. Generally people will avoid hard work if they can, and the hardest work is on ourselves.
Especially when we live in a world where we rarely lack materially. All of our physical needs are met now (especially in the way of shelter, safety, and most of all calories), and they are done so easily that we are accustomed to comfort. And this relative luxury is what inevitably harms us because the world is not all cupcakes and honeymoons, it is a place that is filled with pain and change and inevitable challenges that we need to remember to prepare for.
Bad stuff is going to happen. The economy is going to go in the toilet every decade. Your family will change (as do the relationships within it), we all grow older, and sickness and death of those we care about is inevitable. We need to remember that tough times are coming in all ways (as are more good times, as that is the cycle of the world). So how do we appreciate the good we have but not become dependent upon it? How do we appreciate what we have but still be able to survive without it if need be?
“Set aside a certain number of days during which you shall be content with the cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while “Is this the condition that I feared?” Seneca.
Various religions fast for a period, and when the fast is broken all food is better than it would be. If you have had mouth surgery and been unable to eat for a week, you know exactly what I mean.
Separation from the norm allows us to appreciate the everyday things we took for granted, like going out to see people post Covid or sending the kids to school and getting a break. Even the little things like a good morning from your sweetie is craved if it is no longer there, so when it does return (if you are lucky that way), the moment is that much sweeter, because of the hiatus and being able to know what it would be like to completely lack that. We survive, but if the joyful person/thing returns we treasure the moments as precious because we know the loss thereof. Every kiss becomes as precious as the first.
You have a chance today to push your limits and remove your governor, and you also have the chance to choose small hardships to welcome the easier patches and moments of beauty via contrast.
I run in the rain because I hate it. But it makes me appreciate the shower and dry clothes after. And the next dry run is that much more enjoyable because of the contrast. When I have had to run in a monsoon during a race, it wasn’t that much of a stretch because I chose to know how sloggy wet socks feel. I have calloused my mind as Goggins would say. Seneca would approve.
So when we finally got to the sleeping place at early o’clock, the only spot available was on gravel. Didn’t matter, I laid out my bag, curled up and was out in a few minutes.
Until someone’s car alarm went off at 4:00.
I was able to roll back over and get another half hour after that of sleep. But the two-ish hours of sleep after crazy hard runs and sleep deprivation was like Morpheus had chosen me because I was completely invigorated. Or at least convinced myself of that and ran well. My hardest, longest leg of the race and I rocked it because I knew I could because I was mentally tough from pushing myself and forcing myself to be uncomfortable when I didn’t have to.
That night after the race I slept on a couch outside, and that five hours was amazing!
Those who have battled for what they have appreciate it more than those who have had it handed to them. The earned beer is the best one. The difficult victory is the sweetest, and being able to go back into the harsh conditions that made you a champion even when you don’t have to is what keeps you on top.
Chose the hard path, or else life will force you onto it and you won’t be prepared for it.
“Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own inner resources. The trials we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths. Prudent people look beyond the incident itself and seek to form the habit of putting it to good use. On the occasion of an accidental event, don’t just react in a haphazard fashion: remember to turn inward and ask what resources you have for dealing with it. Dig deeply. You possess strengths you might not realize you have. Find the right one. Use it.” Epictetus
Develop those resources. Test yourself with trials and tribulations when you don’t have to, to temper your spirit as steel is tempered in the flame.
“Fire is the test of gold; adversity of strong men.” Seneca
Test yourself when you don’t have to so that you can pass the tests of life when you do have to. You will find that you have resources you didn’t realize, strengths you were unaware of.
Maybe you’ll even run a Ragnar. On too little sleep, because with adversity you will find that you have just enough to succeed.