This April, I bit off more than I could chew. I decided to do a whole30, a burpee challenge, an arm work challenge an abs and squat challenge… and work through Artist’s Way.
I consider myself a highly, highly capable person. I am very efficient, have high energy, and I’m incredibly stubborn when I set my mind to something. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to do all of this.
I wasn’t. By the second week, I stopped pretending I was going to keep up with Artist’s Way. It’s still sitting on my bedside table, and I have every intention of picking it back up, but I just couldn’t do it. I just really could not.
In week 3, I found myself three days behind on the exercise challenges. That day, I did 100 burpees, 120 pushups, almost 6 minutes of planks, 250 situps… it was absolutely ridiculous. And I was exhausted for three days afterward.
Not to mention, I didn’t think through how much of my day those exercise challenges were going to take up. Literal hours. I got to the point where I was splitting stuff up into rounds, but one round sometimes took about ten minutes, and if I had 5 or six rounds to do… well. Not that an hour of working out is insurmountable all of the time, but it is, sometimes, to our schedules. And I was walking and boxing on top of this stuff.
I was very ashamed of this failure on my part. I had told people I was going to do this! I can’t believe I’m not going to finish it, not going to do all 50 of those burpees on the last day! What about the 60 pushups? The 230 squats? I was angry and disappointed with myself. And I was exhausted. I looked at my 6 rounds of exercise… and I legitimately rolled over and took a nap.
Here’s the thing, though. On Monday in my boxing class? I did 30 burpees. About at number 20 or so, I realized that a month ago, I wouldn’t have done the second set, I’d have done squats or something instead. When we did pushups in that class, I did them from my toes, not my knees like usual, and I knew I could do them. And finally, when a 90 second plank was called? I relaxed into plank stance and stayed there. And although it was hard, I didn’t want to die.
So did I really fail? I guess, in some ways, yes. I set out to do these challenges, and I did not complete them. I did, however, get stronger and more confident. My arms are more defined. My waist slimmed. I’m not flat bellied, nor do I have super sculpted arms (yet!), but my abs and arms and shoulders are strong. And they are much stronger than they were a month ago.
There’s a more important lesson here though, and it has to do with the shame around my supposed “failure”. I learned so much about myself this past month. And one of the things I learned was one of my limits. If I had taken on just ONE of those challenges, instead of being a greedy gus and wanting them all, I could have nailed it, and I would have felt better and been less stressed. Instead, I took more than I could handle, and not very much of it got done to my satisfaction. But even though it wasn’t 100% done, I still made progress.
This pertains to the rest of our lives too, you know. When we do too much, we lose track of what is really important to us. And at the same time, we undervalue the success we do reach because we are so focused on an unrealistic goal- something that may never come to be! That’s NOT living life like a superhero. That’s living life like the police captain we love to hate. It’s no fun. It’s stressful. And you never get to soar under your own steam. Instead, how much better off would we be if we learned to slow down, add one new thing on at a time, and be patient? How much better can we live in the long run if we get the right training under our belts? Batman wasn’t trained in a day, you know. Embracing our human limitations doesn’t make us any less of a superhero, it’s just a fact of life. It helps us live fully, when we don’t try to over commit to something we really can’t do well. Find what you do well. Do that. Do that superbly.
Super hero action of the day: make a list of all of the things you do or are involved in. Take a hard look at them. Work, exercise, dates, partners, friends, clubs, hobbies, commitments, kids. Are all of them bringing you joy? Or are you holding onto something that not only isn’t getting your superhero self, but is leaving you feeling run down and ragged? How can you fix that?