Client Blog | Perhaps I Am Stronger Than I Think
Insights on how our minds unknowingly dictate what we perceive is possible, letting opportunities for growth and accomplishment pass us by. Here are some thoughts on how one simple word – “perhaps” – can be a roadmap to your version of success.
Break Your Own Records
Yesterday, I watched Strongman athlete Mark Felix break the world record in an event called the “Hercules Hold.” It is a simple test of strength, but not an easy one.
In an arena packed with thousands of fans, the enormous Mr. Felix stood with arms outstretched between two 362-pound pillars. His right hand gripped the handle on the pillar to his right, and his left gripped the handle on the pillar to his left.
With Mr. Felix in position and the audience holding its breath, the official pulled the release pin. Suddenly, the only thing keeping the enormous pillars from crashing away from Mr. Felix was the sheer grit, determination, and might of the 53-year-old Strongman.
In the end, Mr. Felix held the pillars for an astonishing 87.52 seconds - smashing the world record set merely two months earlier by nearly four seconds.
Whose record did he break? Well, funnily enough, his own.
What are You Aiming at?
Mr. Felix is superhuman not just physically, but mentally. Throughout his career, he has torn muscles, had surgeries, and missed tournaments – all in a competition that hasn’t gotten as much exposure or attention as most others. In fact, his Strongman career has been largely secondary to his career as a tradesman in England - counting calories, tracking successes and failures, and training, training, training.
Though Mr. Felix is a world-champion athlete, his path to success mirrors just about every other path. He gravitated toward what clicked, and then trained.
Similarly, it is essential that we do not set aside the hard work between us and what we’re striving for. In the pressurized world of over-hyped social media, it is easy to compare ourselves to those who have “arrived” without seeing the back story. For them, Mr. Felix, and for us there are many reps, injuries, and setbacks between us and our versions of success.
What is it for you? It could be something you want to achieve, a relationship you want to mend, a virtue to cultivate… or to feel capable of love, finally finding a close friend, being less drawn to chaos and fighting, and much more.
No matter what it is, we each have a handful of woes or dreams we wrestle with and often fail to navigate. But it does not have to stop at failure, and it might be useful to keep that white flag of surrender in our pocket.
It Starts (and Often Stops) with the Brain
Upon confronting obstacles or difficulties, our brain snaps into a sort of “supercomputer mode” to predict the outcome and position itself for what to do next. In a split second, it calculates all the data and experience it can muster to determine if you can, or if you cannot.
It is a deeply subconscious function and can often decide if you will even try something before considering the possibilities. Sometimes this is positive. For example, it is completely sensible to avoid bungee jumping or sky diving at first blush.
But this function of the brain can also have a big downside. It is so conditioned to protect us from what we fear that it closes doors before we consider what is really behind them. This can, as a defensive reflex, send us on a trajectory away from opportunities for growth and development – rather than toward them.
Think of the times you have heard "I don't do (fill in the blank):”
"I don't do flying."
"I don't do heights."
"I don't do swimming."
“I don’t do reading.”
These can often indicate bubbles of our own design to protect something we haven't processed rationally. As a result, we often miss experiences in life that would otherwise bring a sense of perspective, growth, and fulfillment.
Consciously or not, if we do not think we can, then we will not. But if you want to keep these impulses in check and add some clarity to what you are capable of, read on.
Perhaps You Can
It would have been easy for Mr. Felix to sit back in satisfaction at his world record and sell himself short of his potential. It is certainly the easier thing to do. But something tells me he has a good relationship with the word “perhaps.”
Perhaps a few more days at the gym, a few more reps when he gets there, better nutrition, peace in his relationships, more control over his mind, less distraction, and so on.
All these things to, perhaps, become a stronger version of himself. Well, perhaps you can, too. Here are a few practical ways where, by being intentional, you can do the same thing:
Pay very close attention to feedback: about ten years ago, I wrote a funny thank you note to a friend who quickly replied “Oh gosh, that was hysterical. You need to write a book.” It bounced right off me. I don’t write books? Other people write books. But perhaps…
Try something just outside your comfort zone: momentum is a powerful thing. Think about one small, positive thing you have never done, and try it. It could be as mundane as mowing the lawn or changing a headlight on your car. These modest actions build momentum that not only bring satisfaction, they also foster an ethic of “doing.” Soon, perhaps you will be taking larger adventurous bites at fulfillment - and that looks an awful lot like courage.
Ask your counselor: who better to ask? So often the barrier between us and our goals is us, and your counselor will have insight on doable ways to make sure your brain’s impulses aren’t dictating your life. Don’t have a counselor? We would be happy to help you find one, even if it isn’t us. [link to your therapist contact info here].
Carl Jung has a quote that I can’t shake: "That which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our lives as fate.”
It is both easy and natural to let your brain’s impulses dictate your course away from opportunities to stretch and test yourself. But perhaps it is wrong, and that is worth thinking about. Perhaps you have something in you that you would never find without adversity. And who knows what would happen if you put yourself in opportunity’s way – such that if it found you, you would be ready for it.
Are You Considering Counseling?
You may be reading this because you are searching for guidance as you navigate hurdles and issues in your life. We are here to help and hope you will take a moment to [link to your therapist contact info here]. Together, we can explore practical methods to help you grow in your life and relationships. Keep hope and remember that it is never too late for positive changes - or to get experienced support as you do so.
Created and distributed by Joshua Zello LPC and Josh Polgardi at NeatlySaid.com, with publishing permission granted to this practice.