Take the extra mile

Emilio Bazan Sanchez
6 min readFeb 27, 2023

“If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.”

Stated Maya Angelou, a renowned poet and civil rights activist. This quote is a powerful reminder of the potential we all have to achieve greatness. However, it is easy to fall into the trap of complacency and routine, and settle for a life that is safe and comfortable. But what if we could do more? What if we could exceed expectations and challenge ourselves to take the extra mile?

Taking the extra mile requires us to set high standards for ourselves and push beyond our comfort zone to achieve our goals, it is about aiming to give a concert instead of just learning to play the piano, making a best friend instead of just networking, or appearing with a demo instead of just presenting an idea. It is about challenging ourselves to be more, to do more, and to discover the depths of our potential.

I have a friend named Chandhana who exemplifies the spirit of taking the extra mile. When given a task to study how memory works, she could have simply taken notes and created a study guide like most students would. However, she went above and beyond by choosing to write and publish a book about memory, which she then sold to others. This not only allowed her to deepen her understanding of the topic but also share her knowledge with others.

Chandhana’s determination to go beyond expectations is also evident in her record-breaking achievements. When she set her sights on breaking a record at her school, she didn’t just settle for breaking a school record. Instead, she decided to break a Guinness World Record for the most hula hoop rotations on her shoulders. Through her hard work and perseverance, she achieved this remarkable feat and became an inspiration to those around her.

Chandhana’s example shows that taking the extra mile is not just about doing more, but also about doing things differently and creatively. It’s about pushing beyond our limits and discovering what we are truly capable of achieving. By embracing challenges and going beyond what’s expected of us, we can unleash our full potential and make a difference in the world.

Søren Kierkegaard argued that taking the extra mile requires a willingness to take risks and embrace uncertainty. He wrote, “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.” This means that if we don’t take risks and push beyond our comfort zone, we risk losing our sense of self and purpose. Taking the extra mile means stepping outside of our comfort zone and facing our fears, despite the possibility of failure. It requires a willingness to challenge ourselves and push beyond the boundaries of what we think is possible.

Jean-Paul Sartre, an influential existentialist philosopher, contended that taking the extra mile is not merely a matter of surpassing one’s limitations but rather an indispensable step in the process of personal growth and self-discovery. He famously stated, “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself. Such is the first principle of existentialism.” In other words, we are not pre-determined beings, but rather, our identities are shaped by our choices and actions. By taking the extra mile, we take ownership of our existence and exert control over the direction our lives take. In this way, we are able to shape our destiny and fulfill our true potential.

Research in neuroscience and psychology suggests that taking the extra mile can stimulate the brain’s reward system and be an effective strategy for personal growth and fulfillment. Neuroscientifically, the reward prediction error coding concept indicates that the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in the reward system, when we experience something pleasurable, such as achieving a goal. The brain predicts the amount of dopamine to be released based on the expected outcome of a task. When we achieve the anticipated result, the brain releases the predicted amount of dopamine, and we feel pleasure and satisfaction. However, when we exceed the expected outcome, the brain releases an even greater amount of dopamine, leading to an even greater sense of pleasure and satisfaction. This is the reward prediction error, which is the difference between the expected reward and the actual reward. The larger the prediction error, the more dopamine is released, resulting in an increased sense of pleasure and motivation to repeat the behavior.

While taking the extra mile is an essential step towards personal growth and fulfillment, it’s important to distinguish it from situations in which individuals are coerced or manipulated to exceed their job requirements without adequate compensation or benefits. Work exploitation can have serious implications for the well-being of employees, ranging from burnout, stress, and reduced productivity to potential legal implications. In addition, it can create a culture of fear and conformity that stifles personal growth and discourages taking risks, thereby hindering self-discovery.

To prevent work exploitation, it’s important to thoroughly evaluate job offers and examine the working conditions, compensation, and benefits to ensure they comply with labor regulations. It’s also essential to research the employer’s history and work culture to identify any potential red flags. Moreover, it’s important to uphold ethical standards and advocate for policies that protect workers from exploitation, while still encouraging individuals to pursue personal growth and development. By doing so, we can foster an environment that promotes personal growth and self-discovery while upholding ethical standards and protecting the well-being of all workers.

In addition to the importance of distinguishing taking the extra mile from work exploitation, it’s also crucial to note that taking the extra mile does not necessarily mean working harder or longer hours. Rather, it’s about taking the initiative to do more than what is expected of us in a way that is aligned with our values and goals. This may involve developing new skills, taking on new challenges, or pursuing a passion that we may have been hesitant to explore in the past.

Taking the extra mile can also help us avoid burnout by prioritizing the things that truly matter to us. When we take on too much without a clear sense of purpose or direction, we may become overwhelmed and lose sight of what is truly important. By focusing on our core needs and values, we can make more deliberate choices about how we spend our time and energy, and avoid the stress and exhaustion that often comes with burnout.

In conclusion, taking the extra mile is an essential step towards personal growth and fulfillment. By setting high standards for ourselves, embracing discomfort and uncertainty, and taking ownership of our existence, we can discover our true potential and shape our own destiny. However, it’s important to distinguish taking the extra mile from work exploitation and to prioritize our core needs and values in order to avoid burnout. Through this journey of self-discovery and personal growth, we can become more authentic versions of ourselves and achieve a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment in our lives. As Kierkegaard wrote, “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.” So let us all dare to take the extra mile and see where it takes us.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

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Emilio Bazan Sanchez

Aspiring neurotechnologist writing about math, humans and human enhancement. UNAM Undergrad studying applied math and neuroscience