“Any given moment, a man’s growth is optimized if he leans just beyond his edge, his capacity, his fear.” – From the book, “The Way of the Superior Man”
People are comfortable today. Too comfortable. Left and right I see people let their fears tame their lifestyle and give themselves in. They accept to settle with the cards they are dealt in life, rather checking than strategically betting.. These are the people that do just “good enough”.
Or some people can’t handle being comfortable, to the point of pushing themself too much, pushing beyond their capacity. These are the people that never check, but constantly bluff, overusing the cards they have. They think they’re being productive, but in reality their exhausting themselves with unnecessary stress, not enjoying the experience, the present. There is a difference between being productive and busy, and these people are the ones that are “busy”.
David Deida puts it perfectly from his book;
“Most men either settle for the easy path or self-aggrandize themselves by taking the extreme hard path.”
“Both approaches avoid your actual condition in the moment, which is often fear.”
The fear that Deida is writing about is why most people will take these two routes. The easy route because their fears inhibits them, downsizing their goals and dreams. The extremely hard route usually because imbalance like that stems from insecurities that push them.
The goal is to find the sweet spot, the balance; leaning just beyond your edge, your fear. This is where one can optimize their growth. Here are the steps to reach this:
Discover your fear(s) and turn them into your friend
“Your fear is the sharpest definition of yourself.” – David Deida
Fear is what keeps you back from doing what you want to do. You feel it daily. Make it a goal to take note daily when you sense your fear. When you don’t do, or say, something you want to do. Be completely honest with yourself and acknowledge your true fear.
Once you can identify this fear, make it your friend, not your enemy. Use it like a gage that alerts you when you are encountering your edge. Instead of backing out, acknowledge it, and use it as strength. Continual practice of this will allow you to become comfortable with fear, look forward to pushing your edge, and essentially, allowing you to grow.
Take a risk and Challenge your limits
“You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” – Paulo Coelho
Now that you have identified your fear, your edge, and made it your friend, challenge it. This involves taking a risk, which is needed for growth. The key is to not rush and push too deep. Take small steps.
I had a mentor that called this “Step closer, stay longer”. He used the example of a kid being afraid of water. The kid would feel uneasy just by looking at a pool, let alone stand near one. This kid decided to challenge this fear. He started out standing 20 feet from a pool for as long as he can, feeling his fear. A day later, he would take a step closer, and stay longer. Another day, another step, with a longer stay. With each day passing, and him becoming more comfortable being near the pool, he no longer feared the water. He continually pushed beyond his edge, his fear, and eventually broke free from it.
Do so with an open heart
Challenge your limits with an open heart. This means, you push yourself into a state of unknowingness, uncertainty. Take the risk by Pre-Accepting Failure. You cannot predict the outcome. Just trust yourself and your instincts. This is where time seems to stop, and you are completely focused on the task, the challenge at hand.
If you are an athlete or play sports, this the same state of mind as “being in the zone”. When I played high school basketball, I would enter this state frequently. It’s the fourth quarter and the team is down by two points. My team pushes up the floor with 18 seconds left. I catch a pass, pump fake a shot, dribble and attack the rim. I get fouled on the way up and earn two free throws. 10 seconds left. As the visiting team, the home fans are yelling, stomping, anything to distract and intimidate me. I can tie the game with two made free throws, and everyone in the gym knows that. I take deep breaths and just soak everything in. I recognized my fear, and use it as my friend instead of my enemy. I’m tired, mentally and physically, but this becomes my asset and gives me hope, optimism, faith. I bounce the ball, focusing on my challenge at hand, and blocking out all distractions. I would pre-accept failure and with an open heart. I trust myself and my skill. I become completely focused on the present, not the outcome, savoring the experience. I smile to myself and prepare to shoot. The ball leaves my hand and the whole gym goes silent….
David Deida sums it up perfectly. “Lean just slightly beyond the edge of fear and discomfort. Constantly. In everything you do.” Truly own your fear(s) and challenge it. Do this in every aspect of life and optimize your growth as a person.