I am sure the saying "no pain, no gain" was chiseled on a wall when one caveman was pushing another to work out (which probably involved moving a lot of rocks or trees). Regardless of its origins, athletes are conditioned to push past their current personal record and hit another while coaches should be directing these efforts so as to achieve maximum results. It would be great if we had a coach in every element of our life. The get out of bed coach, do your chores coach, study coach, praying coach, you get the idea. The truth is we must shoulder this responsibility and there are some tried and true steps to bettering your best.
Step 1. Embrace the struggle. Realize getting better is going to take work and that it will not be easy. You will hit the wall and you must push past it. The first step to getting to the other side is knowing there is a level beyond where you are and that the only person taking you there is you.
Step 2. Question the status quo. We are given a lot of advice in our lives and much of it is poor, incomplete or downright bad advice. The only way you are going to be able to ascertain what is going to assist you is to continue to question and to continue to do your own research. What works for someone may, or may not, work for you. Seek out those who have conquered your problem. Do your due diligence and most importantly pray about it before making a decision.
Step 3. Have a goal. Too often people solve the wrong problem. This happens because they have not defined the goal. If the goal is to be a better football player then you need to set goals for improving technique, speed, strength, knowledge of the game, etc. Your goal might be to bench press 185lbs by X date, run a 4.9 by Y date on grass and watch four hours of game film every week with padding a game.
Step 4. Go deep not wide. Far too often we think that achieving our goals require an array of tasks. This is where you falter. It is far better to break the goal down to some very basic elements and concentrate on these. This is what is meant by going deep. So if you want to get stronger, focus on four basic lifts: cling, bench, squat and dead lift. Throw out the curls, the lat pull downs, the cross training, etc. Focus on what makes you stronger as looking good on the beach is not the goal.
Step 5. Review and reflect. Always take the time to reassess your progress. If you don't take the time to "inspect what you are expecting" then don't be disappointed in the outcome. You may need to change your tactics or adjust your influencers. For example, if you have hit a wall with your max lifts, then switch up the order in which you lift because your mind needs to not be conditioned to hold back energy for the dead lift after benching.
Step 6 Teach someone else. You want to gain true mastery of any discipline then you must be able to teach it to someone else. Teaching makes you go beyond the act of performing the task because it will mentally challenge your assumptions as to why you are doing it.
Follow this outline and you will push through those obstacles which are hampering your growth. Embrace, question, define, dig, reflect and teach. Start today and see where these simple concepts can take you in the game of life.