Theodore Roosevelt once said, “We must all either wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out.”
I know what you’re thinking. We can’t all live our lives the same way the 26th President of the United States did. But I believe we still can find inspiration in his life philosophy. This post is about why you should do hard things.
Let’s start with this simple fact: There’s a major difference between wearing out and rusting out.
Rusting out happens when we do nothing—when we stay still, safe within our comfort zones.
Wearing out happens when we take regular action, pushing ourselves to do and discover more, even if it’s painful at times.
If you’re in a place in your life where you’re waiting for something to happen—something to solve your problems, or make your dreams come true—it’s time to take action and make choices.
Everyday, life provides us with an opportunity to do hard things or to avoid them. Because after all, doing nothing is a choice too. So let me ask you:
Are you willing to choose to do hard things?
Here’s another question. It’s a hard one, but don’t flinch:
If nothing changes in your life, and you keep doing what you’re doing right now, are you moving towards a future that will make you smile? Or one that will break your heart?
Let that question really sink in. If you don’t like the answer, the good news is that it’s never too late to do something about it.
Here’s what I believe to be true, and hear me out:
Most people don’t need another pat on the back, or to be told they’re doing great when they can feel in their bones that they’re not. No, what we need now more than ever is the straight-up truth.
You need, and should want, people in your life who tell you the truth. Remember: Good friends don’t tell you what you want to hear, but rather what you need to hear.
Don’t run from clear, direct communication. If you don’t have it in your life, seek it out.
Ask yourself again: If nothing changes in your life right now, are you moving towards a future that will make you smile? Or one that will break your heart?
If it’s one that will break your heart—if you’re stuck in the status quo or living on autopilot—then it’s time to do hard things. And what do I mean by “do hard things”?
To answer that, let’s reverse engineer here with a third question:
What do you want your life to look and feel like?
Really visualize what you’d like your future to look like with your family and friends, your home, your lifestyle, your career, your bank account, and anything else.
Now, really think about the emotions you’d like to feel on a regular basis. I’m guessing these include joy, happiness, increased energy, focus, and a sense of purpose.
See? You already have a pretty good idea of what you want your life to look and feel like. So, how do you make it happen? Well, by doing hard things.
I’m not talking about trekking to Everest Basecamp, taking cold showers every morning, growing all the food you consume, or building a home by hand.
It’s much simpler than that—and simultaneously much more challenging.
Before you make any major decision, start by asking yourself this final powerful question:
“Is what I’m about to do going to make my life better or worse?”
Life hack: Do things that make your life better.
Plan ahead. Be on time. Prepare more. You’ll learn that winging it is easy when you’re well prepared.
Regularly evaluate your life. Be honest about what you are and are not doing. Ignoring poor behavior can actually reinforce it.
Do the hardest thing you have to do first thing in the morning. It could be a workout, phone call, project, meditation, presentation, or delivering bad news with compassion. When you do hard things first, it creates momentum for a great day.
Don’t spend your life “figuring things out.” Instead, make decisions. Even when things don’t work out, you didn’t fail—you learned. You only fail if you don’t learn.
If you can’t stop thinking about something, you must address it. If you don’t, it will address you in negative ways.
Create a new standard for your life. One of the greatest skills you can acquire is doing more than you’re supposed to do. This is what my friend, performance coach Ben Newman, calls the “UNREQUIRED.”
If you find yourself regularly bored, you aren’t actually bored. You just aren’t challenging yourself.
Don’t wait for luck. Chase it down.
Cheer for yourself as much as you cheer for your favorite sports team. Wear a jersey with YOUR last name on it—metaphorically or literally. You do you.
Instead of focusing on the end results like how much money you want to make or how much weight you want to lose, instead focus on the daily habits that will make those goals possible.
Stop putting off things until tomorrow. As the famous Spanish proverb goes, “Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week.”
Remember that “doing the work”—the grimy behind-the-scenes work—isn’t glamourous. People who do it for the shine don’t last long.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the course of my life, and I remind myself of it every day: No one will care more about your life than you do. It’s time to start acting like it.
Find your ambition. It doesn’t have to be lofty. Have high expectations for yourself and your life, in whatever path you might choose.
This means living a life where you contribute, instead of one where you settle. Prove yourself wrong sometimes. You owe it to yourself.
Remember, taking control of your life starts with taking control of your today.
This is how you do hard things.