How To Achieve The Extraordinary

How To Achieve The Extraordinary

You want to do extraordinary things. We all do, I think this is quite universal. We’d all like to achieve something (or many things) that seem to be out of reach for most people.

We want to be in that small minority that climbs an 8,000 metre mountain, wins a marathon, builds a wildly successful business or becomes a famous actor.

What makes these things extraordinary? Extraordinary things are extraordinary, simply because so few people achieve them.

Then why is it that so few actually manage to achieve them? What, exactly, is stopping us?

Conventional wisdom tells us that we need a plan to achieve our goals. We need structure. We need tips and tricks. I am a little obsessed with reading self-help and psychology books. If you’ve read even a fraction of the books that I have on achieving goals, then you’ll be familiar with some of the common advice:

  1. Write it down
  2. Break it into smaller tasks
  3. Set deadlines
  4. Make yourself accountable
  5. And so on…

This is all great advice, and is probably very useful. But what I often find missing in the common advice, is this:

To achieve the extraordinary, you have to be willing to do something that most people are unwilling to do. It is going to be hard. And you will have to repeat that hard thing, over and over, thousands of times, until you finally succeed.

Whoa. Take that in for a minute. Achieving great things is hard.

If it was easy, then it wouldn’t be extraordinary.

You want to climb an 8,000 meter mountain? Get ready for months, if not years of difficult physical training and conditioning, carrying a heavy pack for long distances on a frequent basis. Be ready to endure howling blizzards and bone chilling wind.

Win a marathon? Be prepared to run every day for many years, in all types of weather. Be ready to run and lose so many marathons that you lose count. Prepare to deal with sports injuries, training setbacks and demanding coaches.

How about building a successful business? Saddle up for long nights grinding away on menial tasks. Dealing with paperwork, permits, taxes and payrolls. You might have to endure years of financial turmoil.

And so on.

I can hear you now, “What gives Dennis? You’re supposed to be telling me how to achieve the extraordinary. You’re making me depressed!”

It sure does sound daunting. But there is a secret here. Something that anyone who has ever achieved something extraordinary knows:

You have to genuinely enjoy doing the hard repetitive thing that will lead to achieving your goal.

Yes, that’s it. You have to enjoy it. To really, actually enjoy it.

To climb a high mountain, you have to enjoy carrying a heavy pack uphill, for hundreds of kilometres, in -40 degrees Celsius. To win marathon, you have to enjoy running 42 kilometres at a very difficult pace. To build a successful business, you have to enjoy long nights grinding away at your chosen trade.

And most of all, you have to enjoy doing those things every single day, for months, years, or even decades.

Because if you don’t enjoy doing the hard thing, you’re not going to do it. No amount of planning, scheduling, motivation or discipline is going to get us to consistently do something that we don’t like doing. Us humans are funny like that.

I hear you saying “Ok, fine, you have to enjoy the work. But what if I want to run a marathon, and I don’t enjoy running? Now what? Can I still achieve it?”

Lucky for you, all hope is not lost.

The amazing thing with the human brain, is that we can change our mind. And we can choose in what direction we will change our mind. Maybe you don’t enjoy running right now. But I am certain that you can find a way to enjoy it.

Sometimes all it takes is to re-frame how you think about the task. Instead of thinking “I have to go for a run”, you can think “I want to go for a run”, or even “I get to go for a run”. Remember that not everyone even has the ability to run, but you do, and be grateful for that. Feel the power of your body as you stride, and marvel how your body is able to propel you through the world. Think positively about your task (focusing on the task, not the end goal), and you might be surprised how quickly you begin to love what you’re doing.

I also find it helpful to make the task part of you’re identity. Identify as someone who runs; a runner. So often we get it backwards, and we think only once we have forced ourselves to run for years, do we earn the right to call ourselves a runner.

But that is counter-productive. When we are out there hitting the pavement, we think to ourselves “I’m not a runner, what am I doing, I can’t do this”. Instead, from day one, identify with your task. Tell yourself, “I am a runner. I’m out here running in the morning with the other runners. Every day, I am getting better at running, and soon enough I will be running my first marathon. I’ve got this!”

There are many ways to change your mindset to enjoy the hard thing that is required to do the extraordinary, and I won’t go into too much detail in this post. It’s also possible that you will never find a way to enjoy the hard thing that you need to do. Or maybe you decide that it’s just not worth it.

But the important part is this: if you want to achieve the extraordinary, you have to enjoy the doing work. If you don’t enjoy it, if your heart is not in it, it wont happen.

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