It was ex-Navy SEAL and ultra-endurance athlete David Goggins who most recently popularised the concept of the 40% rule. The idea is simple: when your mind is telling you that you can’t go on, really you’re only at 40% of what you’re truly capable of.
Goggins regularly placed in the top five of the toughest races on the planet. This was despite having a heart defect that actively limited his endurance. During his races he battled pneumonia, broken bones in his feet and kidney failure, and managed to force himself to push through.
That’s extreme. But we’ve probably all experienced a version of the 40% rule at one time or another. Whether it’s hitting the wall in a marathon and finding the strength to keep on running, forcing yourself to do an extra set in the gym, or you’re into the last few minutes of a football match and you’ve got to rouse yourself to fend off another attack.
The takeaway here is….you can usually achieve much more than you think.
The 40% rule holds true, not just in sport but in life in general. It might be burning the midnight oil to meet a work deadline; or being a parent to young children, up most of the night and still dragging yourself out of bed to make it into the office the next day. You could be starting your own business, recovering from a major setback or illness. Whatever it is, trust that you’ve got what it takes to see the challenges through. Trust that when it comes to your stamina and endurance, you’ve barely scratched the surface.
So what do you do when you feel like you can’t go on? When you hit the wall? According to Goggins you look for the door. And when you find the door you’re faced with a choice: either you go through it, or you don’t. If you don’t, then you give up. But if you make the decision to go through that door then something special happens. As Goggins says: ‘The second you realise you’re not going to give up, your body gets back in tune again and you’re ready to go.’
Once you make the decision that you’re simply not going to quit new possibilities open up. You’ve been tested and you’ve passed it. It’s an empowering feeling. It’s reassuring too. Now when I go running and I start hearing that voice telling me that I’m reaching my limit I see it as a good thing. It’s telling me that I’m not yet even halfway done.
So keep going. Test yourself. See what happens. Push through that door and see what you’re truly capable of…
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