Everything in life is possible if you keep pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. That's one of the mantras of athlete turned entrepreneur Lewis Howes.
I recently had the chance to learn more about Howes and his remarkable journey from being a professional athlete to a New York Times bestselling author, lifestyle entrepreneur and host of the podcast "School of Greatness."
It wasn't an easy path. At one point, Howes found himself sleeping on his sister's couch after he had had been injured playing football. He was trying to figure out his next steps in life. In the end, he had to overcome self-doubt and keep charging forward, and that was the key to creating his own success.
Even if you're not an athlete, Howes' advice and life lessons can provide a valuable basis for achieving success. Here is how Lewis Howes found his inner greatness.
1. You can't play it safe. Instead, keep pushing yourself.
Howes made progress by taking action and choosing to push himself out of his comfort zone. For instance, to raise the funds to launch his own podcast, he needed to sell a company he had worked hard to grow. It was a gutsy move but one he has never regretted.
"There have been 100 turning points along my eight-year journey, but selling my company to a business partner was one of the actions that made the biggest difference," Howes explained. "It allowed me to go off in a new direction with my personal brand. I was able to turn it into something I was really interested in. I have never looked back."
2. Be an entrepreneur with an athlete's focus.
Howes' first dream was to become a professional athlete. He accomplished that as an arena league football player and team handball player. Though athletics is no longer his primary focus, the years of playing sports professionally provided skills he still uses, such as being able to concentrate on the task at hand.
According to Howes, you have to focus on your goal, cut out distractions, and lean into the pain. Being able to do that has made a big difference in his business experience.
However, ability to focus is not enough. It is also important to know how to direct the focus. In one of his podcasts, Howes says, "What you focus on determines your reality. For instance, if you are focused on generating income, you will naturally find ways to create more income. But if you focus on your loneliness, you will only remain lonely."
3. Take care of your mind and body.
"So often, accomplishing our goals means being sedentary at work, but you cannot forget about your body," Howes says. "Keeping your body tip-top, including exercise and getting sleep, is incredibly important to keeping your mind sharp and focused."
He explains, "The mind-body connection is huge. If you don't take care of your body and treat it with respect, you will not reach your full potential, no matter how developed your mind is. I learn so many valuable lessons for my business, relationships, etc. through pushing my body through fitness."
Howes still plays handball and basketball. He also works out regularly. He makes sure staying fit remains a part of his life no matter what else he's doing.
4. Believe in greatness.
Often people become so daunted or depressed that they give up on pursuing their dreams.
"You have to remember that it's the journey from having a dream to finally attaining it where you see the most personal growth, and that's how you become truly great," Howes says. He also notes that you have to embrace the messiness in order to discover the possibilities.
"Every person has greatness inside them, a purpose in life, and a unique set of talents to contribute," Howes said. "I honestly believe that everyone can make a significant difference in the world if they develop their skills and find a niche to serve."
5. Get clarity.
"It's easy to get caught up in competing ideas or get so wrapped up in life that you forget to look beyond yourself," Howes said. "You have to be able to have clarity on what you truly want. Without knowing the end goal, you don't know where you are going."
"This may take a while, but it's essential to get clear on what your vision is," Howes said. "If you don't know the bigger purpose of why you are pushing yourself so hard, you'll burn out or get off course."
6. Start from a place of authenticity.
"Self-promotion is a big part of what any entrepreneur has to do to get out there and accomplish your goals," Howes says. "But you have to be genuine about it. People will spot someone who is a phony, who isn't coming from a place of truthfulness."
It's no secret that in the corporate world, the way people perceive you at work is critical to your career success.
"It has to come from authenticity," Howes said. "Of course some people will be turned off by my style and how I promote myself, but I know that if I'm coming from an authentic place, from a desire to serve the most people, my intention will come across in everything I say and do."
7. Let your dreams lead the way.
Howes admits he has had an abundance of dreams. Some of them seemed farfetched, but he pursued them anyway. He has learned to let his dreams lead the way. Not pursuing them would have left him with regret and the painful knowledge that he hadn't reached his full potential.
Even as he continues to accomplish his goals, he is nurturing more dreams. Howes believes he is destined to help others achieve their dreams too.
"At the heart of my work is a deep desire to let everyone know they matter and are worth it," Howes said. "I care a lot. I see myself as a guy version of Oprah in the future."
This column was originally published on Entrepreneur.com on July 27, 2016.