8 Ways to Be Your Extreme Self at Work and in Life

A woman is distracted at work, looking at her phone.

It's easy to slip into the doldrums of an everyday schedule - clock in at 9:00 am and then as soon as the whistle blows at 5:00 pm, you've absolutely "yabba dabba dooed" yourself right out the door. Perhaps you spend your office breaks checking Facebook or texting friends. I mean just once couldn't hurt, right? Unfortunately, this "just once" or "just enough" mentality does put a dent in your opportunities from day to day, which snowballs into a lifetime of opportunities lost. 

7 out of 10 American workers or 70% of the American workforce are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work. This means that many extraordinary employees are falling short of their potential. While there are a lot of studies pointing fingers at various reasons why people are less engaged in their work, such as in this Forbes article on management and employee disengagement, it’s very easy to blame others before looking inward.  

There are a lot of things you can do to keep yourself from overindulging in your daydreamer. In Sarah Robb O’ Hagan’s book, Extreme You, she defines an ideal “Extremer” as someone who is high performing in their everyday life and not scared of their imperfections, contradictions, or their own attitude. They are the best at what they do, yet none of them started knowing exactly where their true greatness would lie. They have an extraordinary impact on others by embracing every aspect of themselves – they take risks and work through what may be negative consequences.  Achieving the title, Extremer requires discovering and making the most of what’s in you.  If you want to try harder, push further, and care more here are 8 ways to build your “Extremer" qualities

1. Check Yourself Out 

This might seem contradictory but taking time for yourself can work wonders for other parts of your life. Allow curiosity to be your guide, follow what grabs your attention and observe the results.  Checking yourself out requires an openness to surprise and a sensitivity to whatever intrigues and grabs you; it can often happen unexpectedly, i.e. on a vacation or a break from the formal world of work. The point is to learn by trying, so promise yourself that when you discover something that captures your imagination to go all in and develop it.  Don’t half-ass it!  Finding something you’re passionate about generally takes time and effort – so beware of giving up too soon.  Checking yourself out can mean the difference between getting into the moon-shot lane and just puttering around town. If you don’t do the prep work, an opportunity might not be recognizable to you. 

2.  Ignite Your Magic Drive 

Have you been letting your work quality slip? Sometimes it takes being honest with yourself. Have you become a bit lazy or are you cutting corners? Working hard and showing effort looks a bit different to everyone - maybe it's adding a little extra "oomph" to a presentation or putting in extra hours to really devote yourself to product knowledge.  Working harder and then feeling and seeing the progress feels amazingly fulfilling.  New confidence and drive emerges from progressive success and stretching for one goal and then another (small wins) and is quite addictive! Caution: the goals can’t be just any goals – they must matter to you. Set subjective goals (not objective) – chose the right goals for you, that energize you, give you satisfaction and help you build self-belief.  You must trust yourself and do it your way.  You’re on a journey of self-improvement; don't compare yourself to anyone else.

3. Get Out of Line

You have developed a powerful combination of extreme interests, knowledge and skills, but when will be you able to use them?  Take on a big challenge and do it with preparation, knowledge, and humility.  There are many ways to get moving; volunteer for an assignment, express interest in extra work or even create a chance for yourself.  Employers reward employees who take initiative, but they may punish those who try to take on an initiative that doesn’t serve the company’s values and interest. Make a habit of scanning for opportunities going to waste – often the chance will reveal itself first as a gut feeling of either frustration or worry. 

4. Get Over Yourself 

When you see the world only through your own lenses instead of listening to and learning from the perspectives of your colleagues, you can grow very lopsided in your skills and understanding.  You must develop an awareness of your weaknesses and learn how to compensate for them.  Living extreme is the opposite of being well-rounded. Notice what you're avoiding, look for patterns in feedback and get to the punchline (there is truth in humor – what’s being said to you?) Ask for feedback and find a friend who doesn’t hold back their opinions.

5. Pain Training

The truth hurts – failure is a painful emotion. However, you've heard about getting back on that horse, right? People waste their lives and destroy their dreams by being afraid of their own failure. Don't be a victim, turn your pain into steely determination. Keep a diary of your successes, but also your failures to ruminate on how you can do better. (Note: a fail doesn’t have to be epic to have value.) Give yourself 24 hours to feel sorry for yourself. Then ask, "What am I going to do about it?” Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen? Then make a plan on how you might mitigate in advance. This will improve your confidence immediately. 

6. Stay Stubbornly Humble 

Be humble. Have you have taken a step back during a discussion and realized you're the only one talking or the one who is ALWAYS talking? Start by listening before you talk to show you care about other opinions. The best thinkers are usually the most observational. Understand that it’s possible to integrate ideas from lots of disparate sources, achieve alignment and accomplish greater results. To affect change, you must either have positional power or personal status.  Don’t be deterred if you don’t have positional power – you can still make things happen.  Status is being respected and admired (credible) and must be earned – every day, every time.  Building status involves networking, asking for help, listening, seeking other people’s perspectives.  You can’t know everything; you can learn something from everyone.  

Woman standing triumphantly on top of a tall cliff.7. Plan Your Specialist Game 

You’ve done the prep work, so how do you find breakout success?  It’s through specializing – in two different ways; taking your broad skills and narrowing to one specialized thing and pairing that with an equally narrow, specialized audience.  The art of the Specialist Game is to never create a general approach or method or product that everyone will like.  To be successful, your specialty should be something your consumer needs or values.  Keep enriching your knowledge base until you have a unique depth of understanding. The long, hard work of going deep can pay off… and the secret to making this work is in what you don’t do. 

8. Calling All Extremers

Extremers benefit from support every step of the way.  You may not have all the knowledge or skills to bring your vision to life and need help.  Leaders need an opportunity to elevate their leadership approach – their challenge is to imagine how to make great ideas bigger, bolder and more badass and to empower others through Imagination Leadership.  It takes a symbiotic collaboration between leaders and followers, each helping the other, to really go "extreme." The limits of your success are not something within you; what matters is how effectively you can bring out the "extreme" in others.  As a leader, you must be tough and nurturing – be a mentor and a supporter – be clear about what you expect and be clear about your support. 

If you are interested in reading Extreme You, visit their website at https://extremeyou.com/.