How to go the extra mile in life

Do you have a correct understanding of the concept of the extra mile? There are many views and most of us incorrectly understand the meaning of such concepts. "It is all written on my forehead" is one belief held as Gospel truth in most parts of India. Yet, the scope for action in our lives is still very large. Going the extra mile has to be correctly understood in this context. This article is an attempt in this direction.


What we do not seem to understand about life, are many simple concepts. In the West, there is a fabulous amount of behavioral science research. The findings of this research find their way into rock solid theory. More advanced research follows such research. More specifically, we are given several inputs that make us think in far better ways. The concept of Going the extra mile is one such. Based on a huge number of case studies and observations, it is relevant to focus on a) What is meant by Going the extra mile? b) Going the extra mile in families c) Going the extra mile at work d) Going the extra mile in society and e) Going the extra mile in realizing our inner selves.

What is meant by Going the extra mile?

Going the extra mile simply refers to making that bit of an extra effort to not only realize one 's dreams but also consistently achieving the same levels of excellence that we normally get to see in people with the best of values and noteworthy records of achievement. It is highly personal but it can make a huge difference to hundreds of thousands of others too.

How exactly does it work? Some eleven years ago, this author met with a brilliant expert in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. He did some soul searching and somehow found his calling. He had been doing a big fire fighting job in one of the well known TVS group of companies of Chennai as head of what was then called " personnel" department. Even today such tags exist in this group.

He went to the USA and qualified himself as a certified NLP expert. His charges, even some seven years ago, were Rs35000 per day. His lunch was some fresh salad and around 300 ml of buttermilk. Curious to know what was the reason, he mildly replied that his rigorous training in NLP had taught him that diet control was one vital variable that contributed to his success. When questioned why he made the dramatic shift in his career, he merely replied " I wanted to go the extra mile and realize what more I could do. I wanted to be independent. Here I am".

It was later revealed that he had brought to his life tremendous discipline. He would be awake by 4 AM. He would do twenty minutes of yoga thereafter. A brisk walk would follow. Breakfast was also restricted to a good diet. But that would be somewhat heavy so that lunch would be very simple. He never thought of feasting on the good spread of lunch in the five-star environs. He had established a fairly good reputation of bringing about some change in the schools he was associated with. The TVS group always engaged him.

Nothing comes free. Developing such rigorous habits is a big ask. Most of us have it in our New Year Resolutions and quietly forget them. Even some great film actors follow such rules. The director of the science fiction movie called " Enthiran" was on record of saying that the film 's hero, Rajnikanth, at 60 +, had to bear the torture of a particular makeup for 28 hours!! It would be really itching. But the actor saw through all the trouble. This is simply one superb example of Going the extra mile. Kamal Hasan, the brilliant actor had to undergo similar hardships when he acted in nine roles in a super-duper hit called Dasavatharam. Amazingly superb in acting in each of the roles, the actor demonstrated his prowess. To this day, this Going the extra mile is reflected in his actions. Even as a politician. He has a very clean record of receiving all his earnings in white. He pays all the taxes. His personal record is simply superb. This gives him the moral authority to tear into injustice in any form.

Hence, the personal efforts at Going the extra mile would simply mean consistently working on very good habits and doing all that is required for Going the extra mile, as a routine. Every day.

Going the extra mile in families

Have you seen fathers who would politely refuse to accept apples at the gate from some employee, who would tend to think that the HR Chief had played a role in his being promoted? In full public view, the apples would be distributed to servants, gardeners, cooks and such other service people. The HR Manager would pat the person on the back saying, "You got it because you worked hard. I do not want to offend you. However, I have distributed your gift to so many people. Are you happy?". He would then turn around and call his children and say, "Never hurt anyone. But be very honest".

40 years ago, this author had seen his father do what was described in the aforesaid paragraph. He could have easily accepted the apples. However, he would not take a glass of water from any subordinate. That is the kind of honesty that keeps going around. People even today recall many such stories. The spin-off in terms of family values was good. Even private bus conductors who knew about his ways would thank him for something he had done to their families. Like arranging a private scholarship for a deserving child in a local school.

Going the extra mile does mean extraordinary dedication to the greatest values. It does mean doing all that is good to make all in the family understand what it takes to stick to such values. It is no secret that the temptations to use shortcuts is today so huge in our society. If we do not go the extra mile, we cannot keep our own children on track. Every small extra effort is needed to demonstrate something good. Around six months ago, a family of six were traveling from Nagercoil to Chennai. All the six were adults. However, one was a girl just around eighteen who seemed a bit sick. The father came right up to the ticket examiner and requested him to check the waiting list position. The TTE hinted that none of them would get confirmation. However, two of them can travel using the RAC position. The father immediately asked the rest of the three including the mother to travel by bus up to Madurai and even board any private bus. A co-passenger suggested that he try giving Rs150 as a bribe for each berth. The father bluntly refused. He simply said that rules are rules. He said that even adult children learn only from such behavior. The other co-passengers not only appreciated the father but offered one berth allotted to a boy in their family, who was just nine years old!!

Instances like the above only go to prove that if we indeed go the extra mile in our families, that can work wonders amongst strangers too.

Going the extra mile at work

There are any number of opportunities to Go the extra mile at work. This simply means much more than the call of normal duties. Every single opportunity should be used to add value. Going far beyond one's Job Description is nowadays expected in every organization and at every level.

Going the extra mile at work also has another important responsibility. This concerns developing subordinates to the maximum extent possible. This is a big imperative. None of us can be selfish here. For any organization to become a learning organization, it is always essential that the collective talents and abilities of any number of subordinates are unleashed at any point in time.

Going the extra mile in a society

This is also very important. What is now needed is the involvement of a bigger number of the public, that is, ordinary citizens. For example, there are a good number of people who write letters to the editors of newspapers. This becomes a focal point for at least some social action. Awareness about the various dangers in our society is nowadays even more important than ever before. A singularly sensitive and important issue is the safety of the girl child. Judicious use of drinking water, cleanliness of public places, provision of adequate number of buses to the suburbs and so on are very important issues indeed. Each one of us can and should do our bit. This is a very essential duty of going the extra mile.

Going the extra mile in realizing our inner selves

There are hundreds of thousands among us who always run after money for most of our lives. We do not even avail the mandatory fifteen days leave to visit our relatives. We do not even go one step beyond wishing our own brothers and sisters a very Happy New Year. We do not even know their birthdays. Even the nuclear family is undergoing tremendous stress and strain.

Going the extra mile in realizing our inner selves does not mean becoming Godmen or forsaking our lives to lead totally spiritual lives. A vital balance between our commercial and spiritual issues is the first starting point in the journey of Going the extra mile in this respect. It does mean becoming more aware of all our weaknesses and in re-assuring ourselves that even when each of us is part of the inevitable rat race, we also have something basic that makes us so happy in our families. The spirit of caring and sharing for example.

Giving a good deal of attention to spreading good values among all is another aspect of this concept of Going the extra mile in realizing our inner selves. It is not so easy but every sincere effort should be made in this direction.


The concept of Going the extra mile is thus a comprehensive one that extends to some dimensions as explained above. There is a good scope for innovating n each dimension as we go along. The learning from each experience should also be documented for further learning. As we progress from one stage to another, it becomes essential that we understand concepts and their fuller meaning in different contexts. Learning from others is an integral part of this process.

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