Phil, a fellow Humanergist, just returned from the Tough Mudder challenge held in South Amherst, Ohio. This is billed as “probably the toughest event on the planet.” The Tough Mudder is a 10 to 12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces. Typical obstacles include navigating electric wires dangled above mud pits, swimming through ice water and running over every type of terrain you could imagine (and some you can’t).

It was difficult for me to understand the enthusiasm – even euphoria – that Tough Mudder participants exhibit. Phil summed it up by saying, “It was the best thing I’ve ever done. I overcame fears and erased perceived limitations that I’ve carried for years.”

As a leader, how would your outcomes be impacted if you took your continuous improvement to the extreme? How can you purposefully create situations that confront the fears or self-imposed limitations that are barriers to your full potential?

There are ways to stretch yourself and change profoundly – and these don’t involve mixing water and electricity.

Know yourself on a deeper level. Ask yourself, Am I really living the life I want? What fears hold me back? What self-imposed limitations do I operate within? With this fuller self-awareness, you can design your “Tough Muddler-like” change process. If your job is in sales but your passion is writing, you will only succeed if you link your challenge to what you really love.

Embrace pain. If you haven’t done something difficult in a while, seek out an opportunity to stretch in a way that is uncomfortable. Life-changing evolution involves moving out of your comfort zone. If it doesn’t hurt a little, you’re just tweaking. Learn Spanish in six months to set yourself up for an international assignment. Take leadership of that huge project at work and deliver value in the face of massive uncertainty.

Take yourself off autopilot. Even if you aren’t interested in a mind-blowing, life-changing experience, examine your daily routine and make a change. Either stop doing something that is counterproductive or start a behavior that will get you closer to your goals. Choose something tangible and go after it with a renewed ferocity. If you’ve always thought, “I should be a better communicator,” stop thinking and start doing. Commit to a new behavioral change, tell others and track your progress.

Being a Tough Mudder means approaching every day with zest and tenacity, with a commitment to push past fear and redefine “your best effort.” Sure, you may fail spectacularly. This new bold approach may also enable you to reach heights you’d never dreamed possible.

“Your best is whatever you can do comfortably without having a breakdown” J.R. Moehringer, The Tender Bar

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