How to push yourself and why it's important

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Most people seek to improve themselves, learn new things, become better people. The way to do this is to change your behavior.  Changing your behavior stems from ‘pushing yourself.’ Pushing yourself is a mentality.  You can push yourself mentally or physically, but they both stem from your thinking.  

I did not write this to persuade you that you ‘should be doing more.’  In fact, there’s a decent chance that you ‘should be doing less.’  Realistically, you will need to do both at the same time - do fewer unimportant things in order to do important things more frequently.  Both ‘doing more’ and ‘doing less’ are challenging.  ‘Pushing yourself’ refers to accepting this challenge and undertaking it, despite its difficulty.  Not pushing yourself is easy, comfortable, and reactionary - you just keep doing what you’ve been doing and go with the flow.  Pushing yourself is pro-active, and it forces you to exist in the uncharted headspace of new experiences.

You will have to push yourself in order to say no to things, because saying no is often difficult!  We believe that we are obligated to do many things which we are truly and deeply NOT obligated to do, but we choose to do them because we do not want to face the discomfort and possible confrontation of saying no to someone or to something.  We are too scared of seeming selfish, even though we actually know that it is in our best interest and well-being to say no.  You will need to push yourself to say no...simply because saying yes is an easy way out.  Automatically saying yes to a request or an offer does not require us to push ourselves.

Pushing yourself requires that you do not merely perform what is handed to you, or what is assigned to you.  It will require you to think about all that you are required to do, what you have assigned yourself to do, and all that you desire to do.  Pushing yourself is simply a mindset of proactivity, of thought, of care, of planning.  

Pushing yourself requires that you are aware of what you are learning, or of what you could learn.  We are all learn everyday, by default.  The way to accelerate learning is to be aware of it, and to drive it in the directions you desire.  

Start small

Begin the habit of pushing yourself in small ways.  Here’s a few I’ve used, but create your own:    

  • Mix up your everyday habits - Eat your meal in different chairs, drive on different streets on a familiar route, buy 5 new groceries products you’ve never noticed before, brush your teeth with the opposite hand.   

  • Focus ALL of your attention on actually paying attention while you drive your car.  Sure you can listen to music, text at red lights, and think of 2 things while you drive, but focus all of your attention on driving.  Driving is actually pretty fun when you’re aware of all the details -  those car commercials that push the joy of driving have got it right.    

  • Experiment with a new rising time.  Don’t just try waking 20 minutes earlier, go for something more drastic.  Wake up 2-3 hours earlier than usual -  the shock of tiredness your body feels can be used to your advantage to jump out of bed and start the day.  

  • Purposefully avoid the use of cliches in conversation.  It’s easy to get through the day saying things like “Hey what’s up?”  “Just chilling, you?”  “So busy!”  “Ah, it’s good to be busy.”  Cliches communicate little.  Make an effort to actually say something.  Be creative...think.  You don’t have to say anything of substance, just something that is genuine that stems from real thinking.  The interaction will be far more interesting, you have a better chance of connecting with someone, and you will probably feel better because of it.

  • Do math in your head whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Your shopping bill was $53.16 after a 10% discount?  So then what was the full tab before the discount?   

It may seem that changing such trivial and mundane habits has no significance. But the logic behind it is that if you change an unimportant action in your day-to-day life, you will become more aware.  Things that have slipped by unnoticed for days, months, or years will now be on your radar of awareness.  Once your awareness has been roused, your creativity is set into motion - how can you put a spin on this ‘same old thing’ to make it new?  You’ll need to create a new way… It’s a game… games are fun…and fun boosts your mood (and the moods of others).  Applying your creativity to small stakes situations will slowly change the way you perceive your environment, enhances your interactions, speeds up your thinking, makes you more decisive, builds your confidence, improves your problem-solving chops, and it will increase the number of options you are able to perceive in any situation. It will allow you to perceive choices of action that you never knew existed, that you were simply unable to see.  Ultimately, it increases the number of ways you are able to think and builds a habit of pursuing new things.  

Think Big

Drawing a roadmap of your future is the best motivator for pushing yourself.  

Answer these:

• Where are you now?

• Where are you going?

• How are you going to get there?  

Sit and spend the minutes/hours to answer these questions and it will generate the energy for you to push yourself.  Some people have a mental block about forecasting for themselves, and have a very difficult time thinking about the future, this I understand.  If this describes you, you can push yourself by thinking through the block.  When the block is encountered, most conclude that they are just not capable of thinking about the future.  However, if you deal with the block, and persist in your plan to plan, you can have a breakthrough and be able to imagine your future with more clarity.


Pushing yourself happens thought by thought, action by action, day by day.  The small actions will add up over time and create major change in your life.  Change will come about if you stay the course.  Pushing yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally  requires resilience, persistence, grit, and constant reminders of your future vision.  The process is the journey, and the results are worth every difficult moment…

 

Josh Giunta is an electro-groove music producer who writes about learning, the creative process, the relation of art & science, and more. 

 

Photo Credit:  Long Road Ahead by flickr user teamscuby

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