What would your response be if I asked you to walk and run 100km in the Australian bush with me? You’d be part of a team of four and we’d be raising money for the Oxfam Trailwalker. Would you have thought you couldn’t do it? That the human body isn’t meant to do that kind of thing? It was mad? These were the kind of responses from most people… or that they happened to be busy that weekend!

I eventually found three others who were keen to take on the challenge. We formed a team and hit the ground running, so to speak. Not only is it a physically demanding event, all four team members must complete the 100km course together, everyone must check-in at all the designated checkpoints and make it over the finish line within 48 hours.

Leaving the house in the wee hours of the morning of Friday 10 April, the course started off at Wesburn Park and ran through the Dandenong Ranges, covering some beautiful country. We travelled over the mountains into Warburton, onto the O’Shannassy Aquaduct and along the flat section of the Warburton Trail. From there we moved up to the peak of Olinda, down through Ferntree Gully, Lysterfield and finally finished in Jells Park Wheelers Hill.

There were times throughout the 100km course where our bodies felt like they’d gone as far as they could, our brains were telling us to stop and the thought of a hot shower was almost enough to make you want to throw in the towel and raise a white flag. But, as with most challenging situations, whether they are physical, mental or both – we actually had a lot more in the tank than we realised. It’s called the 85/15 principle.

This principle was first introduced to me by a seasoned Oxfam Trailwalker participant, who has a background in medicine.  She told me the Oxfam 100km is actually a piece of cake, provided you do your training. When you think you’re near exhaustion at say 85% of your physical limits – ignore it. You’re actually at 15% and have 85% of your capacity in reserve. I was intrigued.

She said the human body is amazing in terms of its strength and underlying capability and sometimes we should ignore our natural instincts, reservations and doubts.  Those reference points to exertion and the physical boundaries we place on ourselves are in our minds and you actually just need to keep pushing through.

It can be the same in our professional and personal lives. Whether we are mentally challenged by solving a difficult problem, managing multiple projects with competing deadlines, or feel like we don’t have enough resources to successfully deliver – once you’ve solved the problem, delivered the projects and completed what you thought was unachievable, it reminds us we are capable of so much more than we think.

Our team of four completed the Oxfam Trailwalker together in 20 hours and 45 minutes, finishing at 4:45am on Saturday 11 April, and I’ll tell you what – we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our tired and grubby faces. While the event certainly took us out of our comfort zones, we all took on board a valuable lesson. Next time you’re confronting a serious challenge, try the 85/15 principle: When you feel like you’re at 85% of your limits, flip it around and know you’re capable of much, much more than you’re giving yourself credit for.

I think most of us have probably been guilty of underestimating our own capability at some point throughout our lives, as well as the true potential of what our colleagues, clients, friends and family can achieve. We are far more likely to achieve our goals when we ignore our doubts and just get on with it, while supporting others to do the same.

What challenges have you set for yourself to take you out of your comfort zone?