My whole body shakes as I support myself on my hands and feet in push up pose. My core aches and the sun beats down on my back. Beads of sweat drip onto the towel beneath me.
I want to give up. I want to quit. Why am I doing this?
Still. I hold the plank. I am a plank. I imagine a steel girder supporting my spine, keeping me rigid.
I hold that plank for 21 minutes. On the beach. With people watching. I don’t care.
The Challenge That Changed My Life
When Ramit Sethi issued the 21 minute plank challenge as a part of his Hell Week event, I was thrilled. An impossible challenge is my idea of a good time.
I love being faced with a challenge I’m not sure I can meet. It’s a chance to discover something new about myself. I learn what I’m capable of, and it forces me to confront those demons of doubt and fear.
I almost always accomplish more than I think is possible.
“Choose an audacious, ridiculous goal and you find that you’re capable of 20x more than you think.” – Mark Divine, SEALFIT
The the point behind ridiculous goals like holding a 21 minute plank or doing 1,000 pushups is using a physical challenge to develop the mental, emotional and spiritual toughness necessary for top performance.
When you overcome seemingly insurmountable limitations in one area, you discover that you have the power to do anything.
Ramit Sethi interviewed Mark Divine of Seal Fit and Unbeatable Mind to learn the seven traits of top performers. He pulls from the life lessons learned as a Navy Seal and teaches us to achieve top performance.
The Habits of Top Performers
1. They control their mind/body/emotions.
Top performers understand how their minds work. They observe their thoughts and choose them carefully. Strategies such as affirmations and meditation strengthen that control.
They consciously nurture and develop their physical strength and grow past their emotional limitations.
2. They align with their highest purpose.
The only way to overcome the impossible challenges of life is to have a strong connection with your “why.”
What’s so important that you’re willing to push yourself to the limit?
Knowing why what you’re doing is important gives you the strength to push through.
Top performers deliberately reconnect with their purpose every day and remind themselves why they’re doing what they’re doing. If something on the To Do list that isn’t aligned with that purpose, it gets ditched.
3. They develop mental toughness.
We aren’t born with mental toughness. It’s an ability that’s developed through the exposure to constant challenge, and it can be strengthened, just like a muscle, through periods of stress and recovery.
Top performers toughen themselves in order to deal with the challenges of the future.
4. They develop competence.
Mark Divine describes the path to performance excellence as:
Step 1- Commitment
Step 2 – Courage
Step 3 – Skills
In step one we connect with our purpose in order to commit to the goal. Testing our mental toughness gives us the courage to move forward.
It’s not enough to just want it; you need patience to develop the necessary skills and follow through.
Top performers take the time to develop competence in their areas of expertise. They put in the practice and discipline necessary to make it happen.
5. They develop integrated strength.
A characteristic of top performers is balanced strength. Have you ever seen a man who’s in top physical condition, but can’t hold down a job? Or a woman who’s top in her academic field, but lacks healthy relationships?
Top performers work their minds, bodies and spirits equally to create a balanced and happy life.
6. They are constantly learning.
Top performers are readers. They follow the latest website and blogs in their area of interest and train to hone their skills.
Constant learning is necessary for the growth and improvement top performers crave.
7. They have a coach or mentor, or even several.
Top performers want to surpass their own potential, and they know they can’t do it on their own.
They seek out mentors who have already achieved the things they want and hire coaches to train them.
“It’s not the tactics I teach that make people successful. We know they work. The biggest reason people fail is mindset.” – Ramit Sethi
The Point of the Pain
I’m drawn to push myself. Whether it’s a challenging physical exercise, lengthy meditation or an unbearably uncomfortable situation, I am compelled.
It drives my husband nuts because he only sees the struggle.
What he doesn’t understand is that every time I face my limitations, I remember how to get through them.
And if I can train myself voluntarily, I’ll be ready when the storms of life inevitably come.
How do you deal with challenges?