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Why we do hard things

Lessons from mountain biking: for coaches and athletes

Photo: Deborah Hage, North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League

There’s a quote by Theodore Roosevelt that says, “Nothing worth having comes easy.” This statement really captures why doing hard things is so important. Think about mountain biking. It’s not easy, right? Sometimes it’s downright HARD. But it’s so worth grinding up that hill to ride the sweet downhill on the other side. As a mountain biker, you’ve likely gotten used to putting in some hard work to increase your fitness and improve your bike handling skills. While we may be tempted to take the easy way out (or the easy trail up), it’s often the more difficult routes that make us stronger both on and off the bike.  
Next time you’re faced with whether or not to tackle a harder class in school, take on a big project at work, have a hard conversation with someone, or ride with that faster group at practice, here are a few things to think about why the harder route might be the best route…

Doing hard things helps us grow
  • We develop resilience. Overcoming obstacles and succeeding in challenging tasks strengthens our resilience. We become better equipped to handle future difficulties and adapt to change. When life (or the trail) gets difficult, we can look at the challenge facing us and say, “I’ve done harder things than this!”
  • We get better at problem-solving skills. Hard tasks often require creative thinking and problem-solving skills. By pushing ourselves to solve problems, we become better equipped to tackle other challenges.
  • It increases our self-confidence. Successfully completing a challenging task boosts our confidence in ourselves and our abilities. We realize that we are capable of achieving great things if we put in the effort.
It teaches us valuable lessons
  • It teaches us to persevere.
    When we tackle the hard stuff, we learn the importance of perseverance. We understand that success often requires effort and time, and that giving up sometimes isn’t an option. That feeling when your lungs and legs are burning during a race and you want to quit SO BAD…but you keep pedaling anyways…that’s perseverance.  
  • It teaches us to be patient.
    Think back to when you were able to climb that hill for the first time. That didn’t happen overnight, right? You did it by showing up for practice and working on your skills over time. Hard tasks often require patience, whether it’s learning a new skill or waiting for the fruits of our labor. By pushing ourselves to be patient, we become more tolerant and understanding of the world around us.
  • It teaches us to get out of our comfort zone. 
    Taking on hard things challenges us to get out of our comfort zone. We learn that it’s okay to fail and that failure is often a necessary step towards learning and  success.
It gives us a sense of accomplishment
  • It boosts our self-esteem. Accomplishing something that we once thought impossible can boost our self-esteem and confidence.  That steep hill. The rocky section you were once terrified to ride over. Once you do it, it gives you the self confidence to ride those sections (and those like them) again and again.
  • It helps us realize our potential.
    By taking on hard things, we can discover abilities and talents we never knew we had.
  • It provides a sense of pride.
    Completing something difficult can give us a sense of pride and satisfaction, and remind us of our resilience and strength.

How has doing hard things changed you for the better? Share your stories with us!

About the author

Why We Do Hard Things was originally posted in the Idaho Dirt News by the Idaho Interscholastic Cycling League. It was authored by IICL communications lead, Jill Bradley.

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