I recently participated in a “Go Ruck” event in the Atlanta area.
(If you’re not familiar, “rucking” is a term used to describe the process of carrying heavy weights while attempting various physically demanding exercises.)
“Go Ruck” events are designed to test the physical, mental, and emotional limits of participants by putting them through challenges derived from Military Special Forces training/maneuver tactics. I participated in an event that lasted 12 hours.
It was an intense time of trekking around Atlanta, wearing a 45-pound pack as I carried a variety of objects: 60-pound sandbags, five gallon water jugs, and even a fellow participant; all the while walking, running, crawling, and doing hundreds of pushups and squats. It was brutal!
I was aware going into the event that I would be pushed and stretched to the edge of my endurance. However, I was not prepared for the physical pain and mental exhaustion of those grueling 12 hours. I have climbed to the summit of ice-covered mountain peaks; I have spent one hundred days in the New Zealand wilderness; I have adventure raced and competed in many taxing physical and athletic endeavors. Not one of those feats matched the punishing severity of “Go Ruck.”
As I reflect on this particular event and recall past physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual challenges, there is one specific observation that stands out:
I learn far more from uncomfortable situations than I do from easily achievable and comfortable situations.
Youngme Moon, Senior Associate Dean for Strategy and Innovation at Harvard Business School, once stated, “The most profound learning experiences seldom feel good while they are happening.” I’ve embraced Moon’s statement as I’ve developed my own personal growth paradigm.
Driven by a fear of failure and the desire for recognition, I most often seek comfortable circumstances—those that allow me to operate solely within my strengths and known capabilities. However, I’ve learned that fulfillment and growth rarely lie on the other side of comfortable. The most meaningful and fulfilling accomplishments come after a challenge.
The Bible says, “. . . . we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character . . .” Suffering or hardship carries with it profound meaning. Perseverance and character are key characteristics of effective leading, teaming, or following; these characteristics are only obtainable through hardship.
Therefore, my previous mindset of only pursuing those things within my current capabilities and operating only on my known strengths did not allow for the challenges and struggle needed to become the leader, team member, and follower I am meant to be. Ease produces apathy and squanders potential. Hardship, handled rightly, produces endurance and character, which are desperately needed in our world today.
Here are three lessons I have learned from suffering through challenges:
Do things that are hard, uncomfortable, and challenging. Muscles have to be stretched and torn in order to grow. Likewise, your emotions and mindset need to be exercised in order to grow your capabilities and get better. As you embrace difficulty, you will become more comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and therefore, respond more appropriately to the needs at hand.
Create Time to Reflect
Unprocessed hardship is like forcing your body to run while dehydrated. Eventually, your body breaks down and can no longer respond. Processing difficulty fuels your heart, mind, and soul like water refreshes your body. Processing and internalizing hardship’s lessons will allow you to not only recover, but come back stronger. Reflection creates learning and learning builds our capabilities.
Challenge yourself as often as possible. Read books, talk to people with differing perspectives and worldviews, climb a mountain, do a Go Ruck (it’s really hard!). The frequency with which you exit your comfort zone is the rate at which you can grow. Growth-minded people seek to be uncomfortable often and experience greater fulfillment.