Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The 40% rule: Keep going on when you think you can’t do it

the wall of the marathon

There are moments in life when it seems impossible to keep going on. In these moments it is as if energy and hope are exhausted, at that point even the smallest step seems impossible. But before throwing in the towel you can make a last effort by applying the 40% rule.

The Wall of the Marathon teaches us the value of psychological resistance


Those who participated in a marathon definitely know “the wall of the 30 km”, better known as “The Wall”. In fact, the majority of runners stop at this point on their first marathon being not able to go over.

Curiously, until this point everything was perfect, but suddenly, the runner is overwhelmed by an enormous fatigue. At this point legs no longer respond, the body seems to be increased in weight and mind says “no more”.

This phenomenon is caused by the fact that our body has a limited caloric reserve of glycogen ending approximately after 30 kilometers of the race. At this point comes in the psychological training, the power of mind.

In fact, the wall of the 30 km is not a purely physical phenomenon. It turned out that when the runner starts to notice muscular fatigue and thinks he can not finish the race, also experiences a great frustration that decreases the levels of dopamine. Then it is impossible to finish the marathon.

However, when the runner is able to overcome this obstacle, it is more likely to complete the marathon. We too, in every day life, experience moments when it seems we have in front an insurmountable barrier, and seems like forces abandoned us and we can’t go on. But it’s just a psychological barrier.

The 40% rule


Newt Gingrich, an American politician, said: “Perseverance is the hard work you do after all the hard work you've already done”. It is a phrase that captures the very essence of perseverance and determination.

In this regard it is interesting the 40% rule applyed by the famous Navy Seal (special units of the US Navy), known for the quite challenging physical training which leads them to the very limits of their potential. According to these soldiers, we are all able to endure much more than we think and go beyond what we propose ourselves. According to them, when our mind says “enough” we actually only reached 40% of our potential. Therefore, when we are about to throw in the towel we could continue to strive 60% more.

Of course, this percentage should not be taken literally, just keep in mind that when we are about to give up everything often the cause is not a lack of energy, but only a mental block.

The 40% rule is a very simple tool that helps us reevaluate our limits and allows us to change perspective, it teaches us that if we really want to overcome our limits we must take a step further and show our brain that this barrier is just a product of our imagination.

How to apply this rule?


The main problem, when we create a psychological barrier, is that positive phrases are not very effective. In fact, sometimes can be counterproductive and end up frustrating us even more. When we suffer an emotional block is difficult to get out of it rationally. Therefore, keeping in mind that we have not reached our full potential, we just have to make sure to go step by step.

If we take a step at a time we will not fear, but give us time to regain self-control. In fact, the secret is that we should not focus on the final destination, we don’t have to to think how many kilometers of the marathon still remain, but we just have to think about next steps. This way, little by little, we will overcome the barrier we created ourselves.

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Jennifer Delgado Suárez

Psicologist by profession and passion, dedicated to to string words together. Discover my Books

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