What I Learned About Pushups

In April I set a goal to do 1000 pushups on my 57th birthday. Yesterday was my birthday and it took me 1 hour and 10 minutes and 2 seconds to complete 1007 pushups. Honestly, it came and went without much problem at all. When I set the goal I was determined but I really thought the day would be a big deal, a monumental push, driving myself beyond anything I had done before. Like young Ralphie’s visualization of running off the bandits with his Red Rider BB Gun in the classic movie, Christmas Story; in my mind I would be battling unbelievable odds, nearly blinded by exhaustion and arms reduced to jelly, fighting back the natural instinct to quit simply to preserve human life, I would press onward to glory reaching lofty heights known only by great kings and legendary heroes.

It was nothing like that. Like every other workout, my muscles burned, I was breathing hard, and at times I felt weak so I took an extra 60 seconds rest. The only difference this time was that instead of stopping at 400, I stopped at 1007. I trained for it by pushing myself each workout to do more pushups or do them in less time. I was able to push beyond where I thought the limits were. Simply, I believe, because I had set my goal unbelievably high. I made the challenge harder every workout as I inched toward my goal, and my fitness and endurance improved each week. I finally reached a point where I really didn’t know how many pushups I could actually do before I was physically unable to do any more.

The limits I had set prior to this endeavor were not physical, although I would have sworn at the start they would be. My ability was limited by my mind, not my body. My body simply adapted to the work I did, but I had to conceive the goal then plan the work for my body to be able to do it.

At some point in the past couple months it dawned on me that if I have been limiting my ability to do pushups, then what else had I been limiting. I took a look at my marriage to see what more I could do to make it even better. I had to look beyond what I thought were the limits. I decided to push them a little and discovered they were movable as well. Today my marriage, is better than ever and the things I am doing that I never thought I would have the time for or the imagination, are so rewarding I am looking for the next thing I can do to express my appreciation and love for Ana. I also looked at the things I thought were impossible in our business. I challenged my productivity, my ability to learn better ways of doing thing, better ways to manage, lead, and find out what our customers need. I pushed those limits as well and found out they too were very moveable.

I thought about the concept of possibility. More specifically, why I, and many of us limit possibility. The psychological explanation could fill a novel but I will limit it to this: I realized that the limits I had placed on myself were based on my imagination and then I supported that fantasy with arguments and examples that I chose because I felt they validated my fears and concerns. Then I put it in a box and never re-considered it.

After de-constructing what had happened, I made a decision that I would no longer place any limits on any part of my life. I would no longer seek comfort as a reward, I would seek the realization of new conquests and achievements, then setting new goals as my reward. Now I am confident that I can push any wall and if I push it hard enough, I can make it move.

The possibilities are, for all intense and purpose, limitless.

In the past 2 months I’ve been able to change all of the most important segments of my life. All because I set a ridiculous goal to do 1000 pushups the day I turned 57.

Our minds are powerful and we have the ability to choose our thoughts and we can also control the amount of influence outside forces have on what we think. Everyone but Ana was skeptical about me setting a goal to do 1000 pushups. I simply chose not to let their influence impact me in a negative way. I viewed every challenge of my ability as fuel that would push me when things got hard.

We can use that power any way we choose with the words we tell ourselves and the thoughts we choose to dwell upon. We can look at every hard thing as pointless or impossible, we can feed fear and limit our ability, and we can always justify achieving less than our potential. We can fool ourselves to thinking that the hard things are not worth doing and that the easy things are the best path to take.

Or we can tell ourselves that we are able to push beyond comfortable and discover what’s possible. That others will never buy into anything they cannot see for themselves so the limits they put on you really come from the limits they put on themselves. Our choice to push then allows us the opportunity to influence them to greater heights rather than them influencing us to aim lower than we should. We can also tell ourselves that our ability, resolve and resources are much bigger than the obstacles we face, and that our potential is only limited by our imagination. We can choose to believe that discomfort is not an indication that something bad is happening to us, it’s an indication that incredible growth is happening. That gives us the drive to push beyond discomfort and when that happens, the world ahead opens up and we can start to see what is possible for our lives.

I just discovered that it’s anything.


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