I got a question the other day:
What is the main “why” for you when you do hard stuff? What makes you do the impossible?
The answer for me is pretty simple:
Atrophy is the concept that everything is in a natural state of decay. You know this intrinsically:
- If you don’t get stronger, you naturally get weaker.
- If you’re not getting faster, you’re getting slower.
- If you’re not learning or practicing new things, you’re forgetting them.
It’s not cause you’re bad or you’re doing something wrong, but everything naturally decays when left on it’s own. It’s just what happens.
If you doubt this in any way, go to the gym after you’ve taken a few months off. See if you can lift as much as you did before. Good luck.
Or, try playing the piano after not playing it for 10 years. Have fun with that.
You might remember some parts or be able to lift some weight, but you certainly won’t be where you were when you left off.
While this makes sense when you look at it with that perspective, it turns out humans are really bad at recognizing this when we’re close to it – especially when you’re experiencing it daily rather than looking at accumulated data from an academic standpoint.
In other words, we overestimate how good we are at “coasting” and underestimate how much we need to work to simply maintain the status quo.
That’s why “coasting” isn’t real – it’s just you slowly getting worse over time without noticing it.
But the problem is just that. You don’t notice it…
This lets a large segment of people believe that comfort is synonymous with happiness and that making things easier or finding shortcuts makes life better.
It’s the same reason that people assume that the “impossible” is too difficult or just isn’t worth doing.
As you can probably guess, I fundamentally disagree.
When you step back and look at your life like a third-party observer, things begin to change.
When you pull yourself out of the every day grind and look at your life like a story, your perspective shifts.
- Nobody watches a movie about a character coasting or reads a book about a character playing it safe.
- The best stories are when the characters decide that the something has to change.
- The best stories tend to be the same ones where the characters have the worst odds.
- The best stories tend to be when the characters have the most overwhelming obstacles.
So why do I do hard things? Why am I drawn to them?
Because if you’re not pushing yourself to learn, to get better, then you’re opting for the default, which is decline, getting worse and, quite literally, dying.
For me, I’m fundamentally happier when I’m doing hard things. I’m fundamentally happier when I’m pushing myself, learning new things, taking cold showers, looking like an idiot, hurting myself and sometimes figuring it all out.
The best feeling in the world is busting your butt in a productive meaningful way to achieve something difficult yet important and falling into bed completely spent.
That’s when I’m getting better, improving and living a life worth writing about.
As the New Year kicks off, it’s worth asking yourself: Are you going to be coasting this year or will you choose to push your limits? The choice is up to you.