I was in spin class this morning, where I get most of my inspiration and good ideas, and I heard this phrase that I’ve grown up with my entire life. My spin instructor said, “mind over matter.” She also says things like, “Get your mind right.” They’re so cliche I don’t think much about them.
But today I started to think about what it might actually mean and I realized that often we stop before we need to stop. What I noticed is that often we stop because we think that we can’t go any farther. (That would be the “mind” part of the quote.)
In spin class, we work with weights during one song. This can be 3 1/2 to 5 minutes long and the weights are light, but I’ll tell you it can be hard to hold even light weights above your head for 3 1/2 to 5 minutes. I remember when I first started, over a year ago, that I would get to a point with the weights where I felt so tired I would put my arms down for a second or two, just to recover, and then I would start again. I remember the day that I thought to myself, “I bet I can go farther than that.” And I remembered my 9th grade track coach who said to me, when we were working with weights, “Work to exhaustion.” What he mean was the way to build a muscle is to work until you literally cannot go any farther, until your muscles actually give out. The problem is we never find out where our muscles give out because when we get tired, we stop.
So I thought to myself, sitting there on my bike, “I’m going to go until my muscles stop going.” And I discovered that I could go through the entire song. It was hard. It was tiring. I didn’t love it. But I could do it. And that was surprising and a lesson for me that day. I wondered to myself, “how often do I give up because I’ve become uncomfortable?” How often do I stop because I think I am about to run out of energy, rather than finding out when I am really going to run out of energy? And yet I could go farther.
There is a phrase – “lessons are repeated until learned” – that applies here for me. I started to remember when I was a teenager and every summer we went waterskiing. It’s an interesting sport because if you’re not great at it, you will fall off and even if you are great at it, sometimes you will fall off. I remember when it got choppy, I would not wait to fall; I would let go.
I believe all challenging physical and sporting endeavors provide metaphors for our lives. I have learned two things from this review of experience so that hopefully I have learned the lesson(s):
- The true growth that we seek comes at that edge when we think we don’t have any more to give but we keep going. Physically, that’s where the muscle develops. Mentally, that’s where the stamina develops. Emotionally, that’s where we learn we can handle more than we thought we could handle. In relationships, that’s where we become stronger. Right at that edge. Where we think it’s too hard to continue.
- Probably the most powerful lesson to me though – you can do so much more than you think you can. And you will never know how much you can do until you go past where you think you should give up.