The 40% Rule ~ Pushing Yourself for Personal Growth

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The Navy SEALs have a term called “The 40% Rule”, which states that when your mind is telling you that you’re done, you’re only forty percent done.

I experienced this myself during a backpacking trip through an organization called Outward Bound, the summer after my sophomore year of high school.

Eight other teens and I, along with two instructors, spent a total of two weeks in the Gore Mountain Range of Colorado. We had no cell phones, no music, no connection to the outside world. We had only ourselves, and the wilderness.

During this time I pushed myself further than I ever had before, gaining a much greater perspective for life. The program was designed in such a way that the instructors were only there to teach us how to use the equipment and navigate the terrain: supplies, routes and all other logistics were up to us. For once in our lives, we were in control of our paths.

Throughout our daily lives we never get a chance to find out what we are truly capable of. We typically get swept up in the motions of society, going to work or school, generally doing that which amounts to nothing more than busywork. Surrounded by supermarkets and freeways and towering glass skyscrapers, we lose connection with ourselves.


It is impossible to find your limits, your true potential,

without enduring a challenge in which you are pushed to those limits.


It was in the Gore Mountain Range that I got this opportunity. There were no guide wires, no caution tape, no corridors to lead us. There was only us and the wild.

The first day of hiking we journeyed through meadows, navigated thick underbrush, and crossed rushing rivers. This was definitely the hardest thing I had done up until that point in my life, both physically and mentally. I had gone as far as I thought I could go. Step after step, mile after mile I pressed onward. Slowly, I began to realize that just as the 40% Rule states, I could go much farther and harder than I thought I could.

Eventually we did reach our destination. Similar experiences followed, where I would find myself pushed to my preconceived limits, and then past them. Every time, I surpassed my expectations of what I was capable of, growing to better understand my abilities.

By the second week of the trip we were scrambling over rocky fields of talus and scree, climbing adventurous passes, and summitting towering mountain peaks. These tasks were far more physically demanding than those of the first few days. Fortunately, I understood and believed that I was capable of completing the hike, no matter how much it hurt or how tired I was. In the same way that a race car driver must know his car before he races down the track at full throttle, I had to know myself, before I could truly push myself to be the best that I could be.

After returning home from this trip, my perspective had changed. I found that I began facing any challenge with the 40% Rule mentality. Now, when a problem seems to be more difficult than I can handle, I know that I can push myself so much further than I think I can.

Since this change of perspective, I strive to be my best in every way. When I work out, I force myself to work past where I believe my point of failure lies. I have the same approach for projects involving school, choosing ambitious goals which challenge me to grow and improve. This mindset gives me an overall sense of confidence, power and personal control with my life. Whatever obstacles I face, no matter their size or importance, I now face with confidence in myself and my ability meet and overcome them.


This article is by Ben Hall, a 17 year-old high school senior living in Berthoud, CO

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