A pilot has three choices
This probably won’t surprise you, but I don’t really know how aeroplanes work. Still, was I going to let that stop me from using them to make a point? Of course not. So here goes.
When it comes to deciding how high to fly a plane, there are really only three choices a pilot has: she can make it go higher than it currently is, she can make it go lower than it currently is, or she can keep it the same as it currently is.
You think that you work the same way. I’m afraid not.
Your default is to get worse
There is a happy ending coming, but first we have to go darker.
The unfortaunte truth is that unlike the plane, you only have two options: you can up or you can go down. And if you’re not actively going up, you are going down. Your default is to get worse over time.
You are more like a muscle than a plane.
If you give your leg muscles hell at the gym, they will grow – it’s their job to respond to whatever stress they’re given. Give them more to do than they comfortably can, and they adapt by becoming stronger, ready for the next challenge.
But what happens the moment you stop giving them something to do? Do they stay big and strong? No. They start immediately to shrink. It’s not their fault – you stopped stressing them, and so they simply did their job and adapted.
Your brain works in a very similar way. When you give yourself slightly more to do than your comfort zone permits, you adapt. You become better, smarter, stronger as a result. But the moment you stop challenging your your brain, it stops adapting. You get weaker.
This is the why complacency is so dangerous – we feel as though sure, we could actively try to improve ourselves, but we don’t need to, and if we just stay relaxed about it all, we might not get any better but at least we won’t get any worse…
No. There are only two options. Actively improve, or automatically deteriorate.
You are limitless
Now for the good news.
Just as there was a difference between you and the plane, there is a key difference between you and your leg muscles.
If you gave your leg muscles hell at the gym long enough, you would eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. You would have to keep giving them more hell to make them grow any further, and at some point more growth would become physically impossible. This is because your muscles have a genetic limit – a ceiling, if you will – determining how much they can grow. It would take you years to hit this limit, but hit it you would.
You, on the other hand, have no such limit to how much you can grow as a human being. Any and every second of effort you expend doing something slightly above your current level of ability makes you grow. And this never stops.
In fact, you could start right now in this moment doing something simple to try to improve yourself, and even if you lived to a-hundred-and-ten, you would still be growing. You can never reach a point where there is nowhere left to grow. It’s literally impossible.
Isn’t that something?
So how do we improve? What do you have to do?
To be honest, the what is arbitrary. It really doesn’t matter what you do, so long as it takes you in the direction of growth. So long as what you do challenges you – even in the most minute way – you will grow. And you will then be ready for the next thing. And the next thing. And the next thing.