“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
In trying to decide whether or not I was going to blog today, I flipped through my little notebook of quotes that I like and was gently reminded of the importance of having the right attitude and perspective, as so many of the quotes that I have written down speak to character, attitude, and perseverance. I could easily just list all of those quotes and call it a blog post, but then my eyes landed on the Eleanor Roosevelt quote that leads off this post and I knew what I had to say.
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Why is that exactly? Does it matter so much if I do that thing I am sure that I am incapable of doing? Does it matter to anyone else if I do it?
Let me answer in reverse.
Does it matter to anyone other than me? Not really, but then again it just might. Since my most recent experience involves chin-ups, let’s use that as an example. I didn’t think I could do chin-ups. I was certain that I would never be able to do chin-ups. Despite months and months of putting in the work, I felt no closer to doing a chin-up than I did a year ago. Did anyone truly care if I could do chin-ups or not? As much as I might like to think that someone cares about me and my little blog, the truth is that my ability to do chin-ups is not exciting news to most of the people in my world. My kids don’t care. My neighbours wouldn’t care. My customers don’t care. My husband might care, because my mood might swing wildly if I am frustrated with a bad training session. My coach might care, because he wants to see me succeed. But really, whether I can do chin-ups or not, the people that love me love me regardless, and those that don’t would be unfazed by my success or failure.
However, you never know who might be watching with interest. This is one thing I have learned over the past year. This little journey of mine hasn’t gone unnoticed by people around me. As much as the attention might make me squirm just a little, what I say and do has impact. I’ve been told that I am inspiring and, while I may not always believe that to be true, I have to admit that I would find my own story inspiring if I were on the other side of it. Most might not care that I can do a chin-up, but my ability to do what I think I cannot just might be the push someone needs to do their own impossible thing.
Does it matter if I do what I think I cannot? I think this is like tossing a coin. The image on the surface may differ depending on which way the coin lands, but you are still left with the same coin. I do believe that sometimes we may never achieve a goal, and that is perfectly okay. In fact, as I mentioned to my coach last night, I have actually said as much in a blog post about goals within the last few months. I just looked back and found it on December 31, 2015:
“Seriously though, I do enjoy having goals to strive for; however, I realize that some goals require deadlines and others do not, so I make my goals and work towards them, knowing that forward progress is of greater importance than completing X by the end of a calendar year.”
Sometimes we gain more from the effort of striving for a goal than we could ever possibly gain from easily reaching the goal. That is how I look at many of my goals…yet somehow I lost sight of that just this week!
The flip side of the coin is that there are times when I do think it matters. There is great power to be found in reaching a goal, in doing something that we once thought was impossible to do. Success breeds confidence. Success that comes where least expected breeds not only confidence but inner strength and character. We live in a world where convenience is king, and everyone is looking for the easy fix. We want it all and we want it all now. We don’t want to work for it, especially if the work is strenuous and for the long haul. Society has forgotten what a work ethic is, and I don’t think that is a good thing at all. Striving to do the difficult or the impossible requires dedication and hard work, and I think those are qualities that we need to have.
Why must I do the thing I think I cannot do?
I have already kind of answered that, but perhaps I cannot reiterate it enough. I must do what I think I cannot do, because I am not content to stay the same, to stagnate, to curl up and die without living life to the fullest.
There is a difference between being unable to do a thing and thinking I cannot do a thing. Do you know what I’m saying? There are things that I may never be able to do, because of physical or logistical limitations. Unless I win a lottery (for which I seldom buy tickets), I am unlikely to ever travel the far corners of the world. Financially I am unable to travel at will to wherever I fancy. I’m having difficulty thinking of a physical limitation, because my brain is refusing to let me acknowledge that I have physical limitations anymore! I’d say that I could never do the splits, but my chiropractor once said that with enough time he could get me to do them. I used to think that I could never run a marathon. While I have still never run a marathon, I did train for one and ran 32 kilometres at the peak of my training, which is only 10 kilometres shy of a marathon. And this is why we must do what we think we cannot do…because when we finally do it, our mind is open to all of the possibilities that lie before us.
I thought that I would never be able to do chin-ups. Even as I stepped up onto the bench and reached up for the bar last night, I didn’t believe that I could do them. Then I did two. Suddenly I no longer think that I cannot, rather I know that I can! That knowledge surpasses the chin-ups. The acceptance that I can do the unthinkable flows from one unthinkable to another. I have no plans to do the splits anytime soon, but I believe that I could get there one day. I know I could run a marathon…if my chiropractor gave me the green light and it didn’t conflict with powerlifting, that is!
Let me wrap this up with another quote.
“Capability is like a water table below the surface of earth.” ~Katagiri Roshi