The Value of Doing Hard Things

An unexamined life is not worth living. -Socrates

Last week, I asked for help. I decided to go to Physical Therapy for a long-standing gait issue that has stopped me from doing many things. It’s an on-going issue that prevents me from feeling “all ok.”

While the issue has been going on for years, I was hesitant to seek help, thinking that I know enough to be able to “fix” this on my own. While I have been making progress and learning a ton along the way, the “shotgun” approach is a slow go. Seeking outside help launched me to a new level of trust and vulnerability. But, as a coach, I know that a second pair of eyes can be exactly what is needed for new insights allowing access to new levels of opportunity. We can all improve our function with input from outside sources; a little help from our friends.

My own hesitation reminds me of working with one of my clients. When I present a new exercise variation, I am typically met with this: “I don’t like that.” Upon hearing, I probe: “Does it hurt?” The response: “No. It’s just hard.”

New things are a challenge. New things make us vulnerable. New things might be hard. New things carry risks of failure. We are not always “good” at new things.

But there is value in attempting hard things. The value is the gift of growth. This growth mindset keeps you motivated, but It’s not about succeeding in the thing you try. Rather, the gift is in the believing that you might be able to succeed, according the the research of Carol Dweck (Here is a relevant Ted Talk https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve)

What I realized I had been doing was chasing “the answer” instead of seeking (and enjoying the learning in) the process. Asking for help from a Physical Therapist, for me, was hard. Doing many of the, very foreign to my body, exercises, was really really hard. Doing hard things is risky. Or is it?

If hard things are seen as gifts, opportunities, learning challenges, maybe there are no risks and only opportunity. Once the mind shifts to see “hard” things as opportunities without risk and chance of failure, why wouldn’t you want to try the hard thing?

Doing hard things asks you to grow. This effort, and subsequent growth, creates a better version of you.

Doing hard things separates you from those who are afraid of trying. This isn’t about being better than others, but rather to distinguish yourself from others. Growth from challenges opens unseen doors into the future.

Additionally, doing hard things is good for the brain.

How to start

  • Pick something that is relevant, meaningful and interesting to you.
  • Choose something that is challenging but possible – the easiest of the hard  – but still beneficial in the long term
  • The next step is to start

If you have a long-term goal that is daunting, you might want to start with some really small challenges. Start priming the pump with some brain-training exercises that get you energized and leave you feeling successful. Listed here are some creative brain-invigorating ideas that might whet your appetite for more. Feel free to use these as inspiration for creating your own challenges that are meaningful for you.

  • brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand
  • put coins in a cup and, with your eyes closed, try to determine the value of each coin
  • close your eyes the next time you shower
  • share a meal in silence (and without cell phones)
  • close your eyes in the produce aisle at the store and determine fruits and vegetables by their odor and texture
  • use gloves when you work at the computer
  • balance on one foot – barefoot – and close your eyes

I’d love to hear what you come up with to challenge yourself.

By the way, Tuesday the 29th is my birthday and I want to gift you with a free mobility assessment. You can schedule that here: https://calendly.com/juliebergfeld/60-minute-assessment


I work with mid-life men and women who want to feel younger through improving their relationship to food, movement and mindfulness.

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