There’s so much I have to say about this topic, so I’m just going to ramble through it and hopefully you get something out of it.
Saying I can’t…
We all do it. All of us. I’m the type of person that tries not to set limits for myself, and I do truly believe that I can do anything I put my mind to, but I STILL find myself, at times, saying…I CAN’T.
Oddly enough, the most often setting that I use those words happens to be when I’m working out.
“I can’t lift that much weight”
“I can’t run that fast”
“I can’t jump that high”
I try not to do it, but i totally do. It’s a hard habit to break and sometimes it can be really hard to believe that you CAN do something.
Now, before you go step in front of a 10 foot plyo box and try to jump on it from a dead stance….let me make it clear that I’m talking about realistic things here haha….so don’t go around saying that “Lizzy said I could do anything i put my mind to so I’m going to somehow get magical powers and jump on top of this monstrosity”. I’m talking about the things you truly CAN do, but may think you cannot. Now that we’re clear, let’s keep moving…
Why We Can’t
SO, why “can’t” we do things?
The #1 reason we can’t do things is because we get stuck in our own damn heads. If you can’t get past your head, you’re screwed. That thing you want to do, can’t happen. You will be unable to do that thing because your head won’t even allow you to try. You’ve told yourself you can’t, and your body and brain will follow that. It’s just like Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or cannot, you are right.”
We tell ourselves that we can’t all the time. We stay in our comfort zones and do what we KNOW we can do. Why? Because this way, it’s harder to fail. Failing sucks. It really, really, really SUCKS!! Sometimes it hurts physically (hello dent in my shin from “missing” a step on the bleachers), sometimes it’s just flat out embarassing, and no matter what, it makes you feel shitty. Isn’t it so much better when you do things you know you can do and accomplish them??
Well, yes and no.
Of course, it does feel good to accomplish things you know you can do….. but when you do something you originally thought you couldn’t do…and then you actually DO IT….
Holy fuck balls….THAT feels good. It feels like you’re high on drugs…it feels like you are floating on a cloud…like you can walk on water (although I don’t recommend trying that). It’s absolutely one of the best feelings in the world.
So I’m here to explain to you why you CAN. And how to get OUT of your head.
The Gray Area
When I lived in Arizona, I trained with an old power lifter guru genius type guy named Karl. We used to call him God because he was the healer and knower of everything when it came to the body. Your back hurts? He could fix it. Your legs are sore? He’ll roll them out with a PVC pipe until you cry…and until they feel better. You can’t add weight to your back squat or deadlift?….Karl fixed this too.
My experience with Karl was extremely impactful. I remember very clearly when I first started training with him. I was always telling him what I could and couldn’t do. I think he got really sick of it, and one day he decided to do something about it.
He took me to a decline leg press and loaded it up with more plates than I could count. I looked at him for a few seconds and finally asked “are you serious?” He wasn’t smiling..he wasn’t joking…he looked at me and said “yes…now let’s do this.”
At first, I thought for sure he was just messing with me. I explained to him, once again, that there was no way on earth that I’d be able to complete even 1 rep with that weight. His response to me was “so what? try it.”
I was freaking out thinking what if I get stuck??? What will I do then??
I still felt like he was off his rocker, but when God tells you to do something, I guess you do it.
I put my feet up, lifted off, got to the bottom and sure enough, I couldn’t move. The panic set in and I looked at Karl with a look of complete and utter terror. He just sat there smiling at me and said “just let the weight go all the way down.”
WHAT? I’m going to get stuck!! (meanwhile, I’m holding up 2349083 pounds and sweating, unable to move.) Again, he said: Just let the weight go.
And so slowly, i let my knees press into my chest, as the weight went down. And suddenly, the only pressure was my knees against my chest. And the weight was quietly resting at the bottom of the leg press.
And I was fine.
I didn’t die.
I didn’t get hurt.
I didn’t get stuck.
This was my first lesson in breaking through the gray matter in my head. The gray matter… the stuff in your head that holds you back from trying, in fear of failure.
Lesson 2 came a few days later in the squat rack. He did the same thing. He set up the safety bars, loaded the bar up with more weight than I’d ever done, and told me to squat. Now, Karl knows me and knew I had good enough form and instinct that I could handle this test, and that if i couldn’t do the weight, I’d be able to get out of it unharmed. KARL KNEW THIS…but I didn’t.
Once again, I put the weight on my back, squatted down as low as I could go, tried to get back up, and NOPE. Not moving. My legs started shaking, my heart was pounding and I was looking at Karl in hopes that he would save me.
Again, he looked at me and just told me to get all the way to the floor and let the safety bars hold the weight. I did…and sat on the ground, the weight off my back and on the safety bars.
I didn’t die
I didn’t get hurt
i didn’t get stuck.
These two lessons were soooo important in my growth as a weight lifter. I was stuck in a bubble of telling myself what I could and could not do. And while Karl was purposefully giving me weights that I could NOT do, he was teaching me that it didn’t hurt me to try. His lessons showed me that if I could just get past the gray matter in my head, and TRY to do the things that scared me, I could do them. My squat weight went up in a huge way from that point on. I went from thinking 95lbs was my max, to squatting 135 just the next week. I could only do 1 rep at that point, but I could still do it. This was about 5 years ago now, and these lessons are still something that hold true to me to this day.
A few weeks ago, I squatted 185 and deadlifted 225. Those were weights that I NEVER thought i could get to. But every week, i try to do a little bit more. Sometimes I fail and it SUCKS BALLS…but it also lights a fire in me. I remember failing at 165 several weeks ago and immediately wanting to do everything I could to break through that and squat more weight. 5 years ago, I would have just stopped and stuck to lighter weight, thinking that was all I could do….but now? Now I know that isn’t true. Now I know that if I just put in the effort day in and day out, the results will come.
I would estimate that about 75% of not being able to do something, is likely because of you. It’s most likely because you’ve told yourself that you can’t do it. This could mean that you don’t try, or it could mean that you give a little bit of effort, but give up after a while because you just don’t think you can do something.
If you can just get past that gray matter…if you can just start to try a little more, a little harder….you might be surprised at what you actually CAN do.
Now, I’m definitely not saying to go get yourself stuck in a squat rack, but I’m telling you to do a little more than you thought you could do, each time you try. This doesn’t just go for weight lifting. This goes for LIFE in general.
Whether you’re trying to start a business, get a promotion, or just lift heavier weights, do something every day to try to get a little bit better. The big goals that you don’t think you can achieve are successfully reached by the small goals that you work on day in and day out.
Start thinking with an I CAN attitude…remind yourself of the gray matter in your head, and BREAK THROUGH IT.
Your life will be infinitely better when you do.