Why Do We Do Hard Things?

Talitha Vogt on Dakota Ridge

From the beginning, humans have evolved to avoid situations that can cause harm, pain and discomfort. We have, over millions of years, evolved to seek comfort and minimize challenge.

But, deep down, we are wired for struggle, to survive and beat the odds. That’s how we have come to exist on the top of the proverbial “food chain”. If we fast forward to modern society, where in most cases we have created a world of safety and security, where do those inner survival traits get put into practice? How do we get to practice those deep inner survival traits and exercise those urges to thrive after we’ve experienced struggle?

Most of the time we can’t and don’t. In fact, nowadays, we can literally push a button to get almost anything we want, delivered to us, by 4 p.m. Typically, the biggest threat in a day in the modern world usually involves someone stealing our place in the line at the grocery store and dealing with the subsequent frustrated feelings that follow. Most of the time, instances in which we have to actually put our survival skills to the test are pretty rare.

In a world where the vast majority of people choose to avoid challenge, what makes some choose to do the opposite? Who are these people and what separates them from others?

Our “Whys” are as Diverse as We Are

As an endurance coach, I’ve heard all kinds of things. I’ve worked with women in their 60’s who hadn’t yet challenged themselves and wanted to live their life to the fullest. I’ve worked with women in their 20’s who are just starting out in life and want to test their grit and see what they are capable of achieving. I’ve seen people work through loss, process their own mortality, and pursue higher goals as a means to self-actualization and greater life fulfillment.

And I’ve seen something as simple as curiosity about one’s own abilities turn into a life-changing course through the pursuit of epic endurance events. At the very least, almost everyone ends up with a better understanding of themselves.