A few years ago, I was at the gym working out with a trainer. He and I had been working together for over a year. He knew me well. He knew when to push me and when I just needed some encouragement to get through a particularly rough workout. This day however was different. He set up a circuit for me to do with lots of different activities. Push this. Pull that. Lift and squat some heavy stuff and throw it across the room. I was half way through the circuit when he put me in front of a box and said jump on this. I looked at the box which was no more than a foot off the ground and looked back at my trainer and said what are you crazy (with an added exploitive or two)? He said no, just bend your knees and jump. I bent my knees and couldn't do it. I was paralyzed with fear. I took a deep breathe and bent my knees again and again I couldn't do it. This is crazy I thought to myself it's a foot off the ground. I practiced jumping next to the box. I can jump that high with no problem. Why couldn't I just jump on the box?
If you've ever watched any weight loss show, you've seen contestants season after season get stuck in front of that box. But what is so different about this exercise? What is it about this box that it leaves so many people paralyzed with fear and crying in a big heap of a sweaty mess.
The box is a really good metaphor for life and after much analysis I've come up with 3 reasons on what's holding us back from jumping onto the box in life and in the gym:
1. Fear of Failure - The irrational fear that we will not succeed. So what happens? We don't even try because....(the millions of the things that run through our head). If you look at failure as just an opportunity to try again until you get it right, it takes some pressure off of you and gives you permission to learn as you go. Success isn't necessarily completing the task at hand. Success should be defined as accepting wherever you are in the process and pushing forward through each step till the end.
2. Leap of faith- The act hurling your body onto this platform requires you to believe that what you are about to do will all work out. If I jump, I will land squarely on this box. When it comes to doing something for the first time we make up excuses in our head that limits our abilities to take the leap. We combat all the voices by looking around to see if other people have done the same activity successfully. How did they do it? What did it take? If we can answer these questions, usually it's enough for us to take the leap.
3. Can't let go- For most of us the idea of letting go feels like a loss of control. Losing control puts us in a state of panic and extreme anxiety. We fear if we can't control the outcome something terrible will happen which is often rooted in our need to be perfect.
We can't let go of something if part of you believes that you are better off with "it". The "it" is serving another purpose and until you understand the need that is being met you won't be able to let it go.
Over the years I've stood in front of that box and some days I make it my bitch and other days it gets me and I'm that person crying in a big heap of a sweaty mess. What I know is that when I'm unable to do it, if I take a quiet moment to look inward there is always something going on in my life that is feeding into my fear of failure, my inability to take a leap of faith or my need to control something. What's different today then a few years ago, is that now I can understand what's holding me back and deal with it head on.