Imagine if you lived your whole life and realized at the end that you didn’t do all the things you wanted to do (and the things you could do), that your talents went wasted, and you didn’t help others make as much of a difference as you wanted. You have now ended up unfulfilled with your personal and work life and it’s too late. Imagine a life devoid of living to your potential and full of regret. This would be the antithesis of pushing yourself and living life to the fullest.
What I mean by pushing yourself is that you consistently grow. Pushing yourself has nothing to do with “being pushy” with others (like a pushy salesman). It means pushing through our insecurities and fears to become the best we can possibly be in terms of our character and contribution. It’s about pushing through Resistance rather than letting it get the better of us. It requires stepping out of your comfort zone and doing the things you’re afraid to do because that’s where growth happens.
A common mistake we make is getting complacent when we achieve some success in our life. That is exactly what we should be looking out for — to not get comfortable and to keep doing the work because you are a pro. It’s why the “successful” keep doing the work, even though they don’t have to (because of all the wealth they have acquired).
Writer and novelist Charles Bukowski said it best:
The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.
We don’t push ourselves because we let the Resistance rule our lives. It is at our happiest and safest when we stick to the status quo. Resistance abhors any kind of change because it doesn’t want our ego to be hurt. Doing things that are challenging requires us to fail, and Resistance can’t let us fail.
Also, change can be hard. It’s easier to be who we are now than to become a better version of ourself in the future as doing the latter will likely take some work, which we might not be thrilled about doing for a variety of reasons.
The fact is you need to push yourself and put yourself out there if you want to do justice to your strengths and help others make an impact through your art. There are times when I felt I haven’t learned things enough or as fast — this is fear of missing out on learning things.
For example, let’s take the fear of being an impostor. We fear being “found out” by others because we think we are not good enough, which causes us to lose faith in our own abilities. We end up losing self-confidence and don’t believe in our own self-worth (because we have low self-esteem).
According to author Richard St. John, we push ourselves to overcome shyness, self-doubt, and fear — the fear of being “found out” amongst other fears. We constantly push ourselves so we can live to our potential and make an impact in others’ lives. We push ourselves to overcome challenges we know exist for a reason, which is to grow. If you think about it, what’s the alternative to pushing yourself? Living a life of complacency and failure. Now, who wants that? You’ll find that there is no such thing as plateau, as we are always moving forward or moving back. Everyone wants to be on top of the mountain, but all the growth occurs on the way up.
You can get others to push you by having mentors or hiring coaches or experts that will push you. Athletes hire performance coaches to push them to do their best all the time. You can do the same with different areas in your life. You can have mentors to help you advance your career since they have already been there and done that. You can hire experts to help you move to the next level. You can even get your family and/or friends to push you. They can push you to limits further than you ever thought possible. Frank Gehry said that he was able to achieve great success in his work because his mother pushed him to be great. When you get others to push you, you’re accountable to them for doing the work. You can even set financial rewards as a stake by way of asking for feedback so you’re bound to lose money if you don’t keep your word. If that isn’t a good incentive to do the work, I don’t know what is.
You can also push yourself on your own, which can be hard depending on the kind of person you are. But, if you are the kind who is driven and self-motivated, then you can probably do this on your own without relying on others. In this case, you will likely have the self-discipline required to push yourself.
You have to do things that you are afraid to do. You have to do things that make you uncomfortable and push you out of your comfort zone. For instance, if meeting attractive strangers at a party makes you uncomfortable, then you should probably do it enough to get comfortable with it. If marketing is a constant challenge for you or if reaching out for new business is difficult, you have to push through it and remind yourself that you are providing value and not trying to sell. Change your mindset.
You can use deadlines at work to push yourself. While setting deadlines may not work for everyone, there are people who thrive under pressure, and then there are those (like me) who like to plan things in advance and do them. In the end, do whatever works. For the latter, whatever gets scheduled gets done.
Self-discipline is freedom. Constraints drive creativity. You can use these to push yourself to limits you never thought possible. It requires being a pro, showing up and doing the work without making excuses, and saying no to others.
We need to push through our doubts, insecurities, and fears if we are to do justice to our talents and to help others make a difference in their lives. There is no alternative to not growing. Choosing to grow requires us to do the work. As someone has wisely said, hard choices make an easy life, while the reverse is rarely true. Don’t worry about not knowing what to do next, but focus on doing what you know. There is an old proverb that says that the master will appear when the pupil is ready. Are you ready?