Going the Extra Mile – What it Means & Why it Makes a Difference

Imagine your surgeon telling you she did an “OK job” on the operation, or a contractor saying that the furnace installation is “good enough”. We’d all be pretty shocked and upset at the lack of effort for something so important. Yet, for many things in life, we tend to settle for ‘good enough’ far too often, particularly when it comes to our own efforts. What if…we made going the extra mile a new standard? What could we achieve, and how would it change our lives? In this month’s blog series, I’m going to go the extra mile to share and explore the ways we can put our best foot forward to not just do more, but be more.

What it means

The phrase to go the extra mile actually has an ancient origin. In Christian scriptures, there’s a story of Roman soldiers having the authority to order Jewish civilians to carry their heavy gear for one Roman mile, but Jesus suggested they instead go two. Going the extra mile has since become less literal, and simply means to put forth more of an effort than is expected; to go above and beyond the minimum requirements.

Why it matters

Do you know that feeling of handing in a report or essay you know you didn’t work very hard on? Or, giving up on a diet or fitness commitment you only started yesterday? Yeah, that feeling. While we may make an excuse or two to feel better, we know deep down that we just didn’t try hard enough. Letting ourselves down can be equally or even more disappointing as letting others down and it can eat away at our self-confidence and motivation over time.

We feel better about ourselves when we’re engaged in doing things that we can give our best efforts to. Whether we’re going the extra mile at work, at home, with our relationships, health and fitness or within our communities, it boosts and inspires us to continue to try harder and reach new heights. When we don’t have any internal motivation to care about our efforts, it often means we don’t care about ourselves.

Taking a step further

We usually have different motivations behind putting in that extra effort; it can vary from task to task. It might be for recognition, more pay, the excitement of seeing great results, or the personal satisfaction of a job well done. It can also be because, let’s face it…we are naturally inclined to be kind, caring and generous. We shovel our elderly neighbour’s driveway, we stay late to help a co-worker, or we pick up a stranger’s dropped groceries. That’s going the extra mile. Even from a young age, we are often driven to perform to the best of our ability, even when there’s no recognition or reward. I’ve watched my young children tackle a small chore at home for example. Sometimes there’s an obvious (sometimes humorous) lack of effort, but other times, they’ll go at it with vigour and determination! Imagine just how much we can achieve if we could harness that energy and commitment throughout our lives!

Luckily, everyone has the ability to go the extra mile for things that matter. It doesn’t take any special talents, education or money – all that is needed is awareness to get started, then it can become a habit. We have the choice to decide if we’re going to leave our efforts at ‘good enough’, or if we’re going to push ourselves to achieve better results. It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not possible or necessary to go the extra mile in all that we do in life, otherwise, we’d accomplish so much less. We should focus on the things that really matter first and foremost and sometimes we have to be a bit selective since we only have a finite amount of time and energy each day. Having fun and being spontaneous are also important. We have to know what our goals and values are in order to prioritize.

We’ll talk more about going the extra mile as it relates to our everyday lives and relationships in the coming week – stay tuned.

“One of the most important principles of success is developing the habit of going the extra mile.” – Napoleon Hill