Once upon a time a few years ago, my preschool neighbor was learning to ride a bike.
If you haven’t watched this process, it is hilarious and endearing.
He was 4 years old at the time, but he carried himself with an air of expertise. His loose curls poked through his helmet as he studied the two-wheeled vehicle before him. He put his hands on the handlebars, swung his leg over the bike and plopped down on the seat. His little shoes found the pedals and he started on his maiden voyage down the driveway, his mom standing to the side.
He was upright for about 3 seconds before he wobbled and fell over. His serious façade cracked and the first tear slid down his cheek. His mom came over, said something to him, and sent him back to try again.
And again and again until finally, he was getting the hang of it.
So tell me, what do you think his mom said? That since he fell once, he probably shouldn’t try again? That he’d never be able to do it? That it was too risky and he should probably give it up?
If you’re reading this and thinking those options sound ridiculous, that’s because they are. You and I both know it was probably along the lines of to keep going and eventually he’d get it.
Have you found yourself in a similar spot, when you weren’t able to achieve something? What did you say to yourself? Probably something along the lines of “I’m not good enough / I’ll never get it / This is stupid and I’m wasting my time / *insert mopey and possibly self-loathing statement about giving up*.”
When did it become ok to fail and just stop trying? We are SO quick to give up on ourselves. We try it once. When it doesn’t work out, we think that’s it, we can’t do it.
We started putting a period at the end of the phrase “I can’t” instead of a comma and the word “yet”.
When did we stop saying “yet?”
When did we stop seeing ourselves as malleable?
When did it become ok for us to settle for things?
It’s a subtle shift that I think everyone experiences. We look up to our idols as incredible people whom we think we can’t measure up to. We attribute their success to awesome genes and lament the fact that we couldn’t choose our parents. They had more time. They had more money. They went to a better school. They knew the right people. They were in the right place at the right time. Life is inherently unfair, right? This is just another example!
We don’t see the YEARS of work, grinding, discomfort, discouragement, and stumbles. We don’t see the mindset of someone who sees the light at the end of the tunnel, knowing that whatever obstacle is in her way will pass. We don’t see that she believed in herself when no one else would.
But you know what the awesome part of all this is?
YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
You, and only you, are responsible for the thoughts that go through your brain. YOU have the power to say, “Hey, I can’t do this now, but if I keep working at it, I’ll get it.”
You don’t have to succeed today. You don’t have to succeed tomorrow. Hell, it might take you a year or more to get your goal - I trained for 3 years before I got my first pull up. Yes, 3 years.
Next time you go to the gym and you feel like you’re failing, remember this. Your goal should be to get used to the movement, perfect the technique, and keep progressing. You should be focused on doing the best lift YOU can do, not competing with the person next to you and feeling like you’re never going to get there.
So what if you’re not lifting as heavy as others? I hate to break it to you, but really, no one cares if you can only bench press the bar. As a lifter, I actually respect people more when they know their limits and focus on expanding their own boundaries. If that means starting with the lowest weight possible, so be it. Keep chugging and plugging and before long, you’ll be stronger and lifting more anyway. You just have to give it time.
The key is to never give up.
Don’t close the door on your future success.
Don’t stop saying “yet”.