"It's no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary."― Winston Churchill, British politician
Have you ever achieved something – and then, in hindsight, wondered how on earth you did it? I know I have! At times, my life has felt like a series of events that required truly superhuman effort.
Take the day when our vehicle got stuck, and I had to walk from Mozambique to South Africa, through an area roamed by wild animals. Or the time that I rewrote an entire day's presentations during the night, because I wasn't happy with how the first day of training had gone.
And then there was the long period when I had to battle to work and study at the same time...
The sequence of events in my life was not: a) go to university, b) graduate, c) start working, and d) get married. It was more like a–c–g–z–f–b! I went to university, stopped studying, started working, got married, got divorced, and then started studying all over again.
And while I was studying the second time, I not only set myself the almost impossible goal of achieving distinctions in all my subjects, but I also held down a full-time job throughout. During the day, I facilitated courses, developed new programs, and looked for business. At night, I did research, wrote assignments, and studied for exams.
The last assignment in my fourth year involved writing a business plan to set up an innovative therapy practice. I loved the creativity involved – and, weeks before the assignment was due, I was already working on it like crazy.
Then, I got a last-minute contract from a large organization to lead two weeks' training – finishing on the day that my assignment was due!
I wanted my degree, and I needed the money. I just had to knuckle down and do both.
However, despite my best efforts, I misjudged the amount of work that one part of the assignment required. Time was running out. My assignment was due on Friday. By Thursday evening, exhausted from the training, I still had a heap of work left.
I was so tired that my brain felt fuzzy. As I sat down behind my desk, I told myself that I couldn't do it. The task I faced wasn't humanly possible.
And yet... something told me that I still had a choice. I could go to bed and possibly not get a distinction. Or, I could ignore my discomfort, get on with my work, and hand in an assignment I'd be proud of.
I switched on my computer and started working. A lot of coffee was consumed that night! I also ate snacks, did star jumps, rinsed my face, talked out loud, listened to music, and pretended that I was working in front of an audience – all of it to stay awake, and to achieve my goal.
On Friday morning, at just after six o'clock, I sent off my assignment. And then I showered, and went straight to work!
Looking back now, I can't tell you how I did it. All I know is that I did, and I maintained my record of distinctions.
I could probably have settled for less. But now I have the satisfaction of knowing that I hit my target – not because I was "lucky," or because it was easy, but because I put in a Herculean effort. And no one can ever take that away from me.
During last Friday's #MTtalk, we discussed your experiences of putting in a superhuman effort – giving that one last push to get something done. Here are the questions we asked, and some of the responses we received:
@itstamaragt When the load becomes overwhelming or when there are many challenges associated with it. Superhuman effort involves a lot of discipline and drive!
@Mphete_Kwetli When your future hangs in the balance and you need to give it your all to keep things going.
@JKatzaman If you look back at a tough job and say you didn't know you had that in you, that's superhuman effort.
@PG_pmp One last push, whether you're alone or with a team – it takes focus and collaboration with each other and a decision to make it happen... It's like scoring the winning goal.
@lg217 I feel pumped. More determined than ever to get it done!!! My attitude is let’s do it!!!
@GodaraAR Sense of achievement after completing it.
@MarkC_Avgi Sometimes... other things must be put to the side which, if it involves people you love or who are counting on you outside of that effort... can be challenging emotionally.
@MicheleDD_MT Set expectations with family, friends on availability. Agree on the commitments that will be kept and the support you will need to be successful.
@Midgie_MT Risk "crashing and burning," exhaustion or injury. Also risk achieving more that you expected to achieve.
@carriemaslen You can miss the important parts of life – big and small – and lose perspective if you're pushed to the limits.
@ImParthPandya We believe in "The whistle has not blown yet." We never lose hope till the last moment of the game and we won each game up until today.
@vrajshahspeaks I believe our skills, abilities and beliefs decides what we are going to achieve, and what thresholds to cross to achieve a goal.
@SayItForwardNow Sometimes, putting in a "superhuman" effort has taught me to challenge self-limiting beliefs.
@LadderHR Pushing myself past what I thought I was capable [of]... opened me up to see what I can really achieve. Stepping out of what's comfortable and exceeding expectations. I also have noticed that when I do the extra for someone, they return in my moment of need as well.
@Jikster2009 I think most people are capable of making a superhuman effort... I think having a good level of emotional intelligence would help to identify warning signs of burnout from yourself or others.
@temekoruns There is no training or background that can prepare you to be in grind mode. You either see the goal and won't stop until you get it or you watch others get it.
@BrainBlenderTec Culture, but be careful – it can bite you in the butt. You may set out to build a team of competitive spirits but when you want them to take time off it's like you're swearing at them.
@MaryEllenGrom Motivate a team by simply including them. Make them feel part of the solution. People want to contribute to success. Free food works too!!
@Yolande_MT Reward others in a way that is meaningful to them. Remember to say "thank you" often and sincerely, and to tell people that you appreciate their effort.
@TheCraigKaye Acknowledgement, value, feedback, affirmations, CPD, opportunities, cake, coffee.
You can read the full collection of tweets here.
When putting in a superhuman effort as a team, conversations can help people to keep going. But they have to be handled with care! In our next #MTtalk chat, we're going to talk about conversational skills – in particular, sensitivity – and we'd like to know what you think the number one "conversation killer" is. Please cast your vote now in our Twitter poll.
Meanwhile, here are some resources relating to the topic we discussed this time:
Mike Barzacchini explores what to do when you're feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired at work.
For many people, a basic pre-pandemic routine was eat, work, sleep, repeat! They were caught in a rat race, and their employers didn't really care. The goal was to produce, produce, produce!
Mind Tools coach Sarah Harvey asks what are the benefits and dangers of courage at work.