This morning I went for my usual run, starting before dawn. Lately I’ve been going for 45-50 minutes. This time, however, I was listening to the audiobook Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. After hearing the part about his 100-mile run and how he had to push himself to get through it, I felt like I should push myself more as well. So I kept running for an hour, then 75 minutes, and finally decided to stop at 93 minutes.

This was hill running since my neighborhood is very hilly, so almost all the running I do nearby is either uphill or downhill.

Normally after a morning run, I feel pretty good. It gives me a sense of accomplishment early in the day and gets me off to a good start. I see a strong link between focus and productivity and cardio exercise. No matter how much I’ve experimented with other types of exercise, nothing takes the place of cardio in terms of the mental and emotional benefits.

This morning instead of feeling a modest sense of accomplishment, it felt way better to run twice as far as I normally would. I’ve done many 90-minute runs before, but not lately and not this year. It felt so nice to stretch beyond what I’m used to. It wasn’t physically difficult, but I had to nudge myself mentally to go beyond what feels normal to me now. Running for 45 minutes feels pretty routine. Running 90 minutes feels different though, somehow beyond normal. It makes the whole day feel special.

There’s something magical about pushing beyond normal, going outside of the usual zone of comfort. The barrier is usually mental or emotional. Even if it’s a physical challenge, the mind wants to stop before the body needs to.

This got me thinking about other areas of life where I’ve had to stretch myself mentally in order to improve my results. I remember when making an extra $1K seemed like a big deal. Then I eventually reached the point where $1K seemed easy, and I projected those earlier limitations onto $10K. Then I stretched that limit to $50K, and eventually $50K felt easy to earn, like in a week or a month. Now $100K feels easy and seems like a modest amount. And $250K is starting to feel like it’s probably not that hard to earn in one chunk. I just need to be a bit more creative. Earning $500K in a week or so is starting to look like it might be even more fun. It seems within the realm of reach, not inaccessible but a bit more of a stretch to get there.

What I like about financial stretching, as I shared in yesterday’s post on overcoming financial pressure, is that it’s very measurable, and the mind has different associations to different amounts of money. The way you feel about $10K won’t be the same as you feel about $100K or $1M. Some amounts will seem small. Others will seem big. But those judgments have nothing to do with the actual sums; they just expose the limitations and blocks of the mind.

The fun part that leads to breakthroughs starts with deciding to do something financially that’s on the other side of a mental block. Take a clear goal like earning $100K in a week. How does your mind classify that? Is it accessible and doable for you? Is it trivially easy for you? Or is it on the other side of a mental barrier that says it’s inaccessible, out of reach, or unrealistic to even think about?

If you don’t push through your mental barriers and challenge them, they become real for you. Your life becomes boxed in because you don’t push beyond the walls of the box.

To keep progressing in any area of life, we have to stretch the mind first. We have to decide to do something that seems like it’s too much, too far, or too out of reach. The mind will initially resist, but the resistance can be overcome.

Many aspects of my life that feel normal used to feel out of reach. Getting up at 5am daily was one of those. I struggled with that habit for a long time, but the main barrier was mindset. Initially I framed it as something hard to do, something barely accessible for me. But when I just decided to absolutely do it no matter what, the resistance crumbled. Now it’s easy. If the decision is made to get up at 5am daily, it’s a done deal. A long time ago, I broke the part of my mind that said I couldn’t become an early riser by proving it wrong till it finally surrendered.

I used a similar approach to figure out how to make a living without getting a job. The key was to decide not to get one and to figure out some other path. One the decision was made, there was no looking back and no second-guessing. Now I’ve gone almost three decades without a job. And the 2006 article 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job has inspired countless other people to discover that they too can do just fine without ever having to get a job (unless they really want one).

I feel like I enter a different zone of being when I push myself. Doing what’s expected and satisfying my own expectations feels good, but it’s nowhere near as satisfying as going beyond my comfort zone and stretching.

What limits are holding you back right now? What would you like to experience or achieve, but your mind tells you that’s out of reach? Prove your mind wrong. Go pursue the goal that’s out of reach. Decide that you’ll find a way.

Here’s a personal challenge for you: Do something within the next 24 hours that breaks one of your mental barriers. Find a way to push yourself, and notice how satisfying that feels.