I grabbed the pull-up bar in my grammar school gymnasium and started lifting myself up off the ground.
I was in the sixth grade and not in the least bit interested in athletics—a sharp contrast to the aging gym rat I am today.
Behind me, Mr. Keating, the gym teacher, and my classmates, watched as put my chin over the bar once, twice…
And then I let go.
I wasn’t tired or in pain. There was nothing wrong with me physically, but emotionally I was done.
I had decided that I wasn’t strong, I wasn’t a jock, like some other kids in my class, so clearly I couldn’t—or perhaps shouldn’t--do anymore pull-ups.
In other words, I quit.
When I hit the ground, I turned to see the shocked expressions of Mr. Keating and all the kids in my class.
“Why did you let go?” Mr. Keating demanded. “You could’ve done more!”
He was right. I could’ve done at least two or maybe even three more pull-ups. But subconsciously I elected to get by rather than excel.
I had no answer for Mr. Keating and I still can’t explain why I to this day I will often hold myself back in both my professional and personal lives.
It’s often been that way with relationships, where I either avoid getting together with women I liked; or when I do get together with them, I found some way of torpedoing the relationship. And then I’d whine about not having a girlfriend.
What’s particularly upsetting is that I only recognize my self-destructive behavior after the fact, when it’s far too late to undo my needless denial. Oh yeah, I should’ve done this or I should’ve done that, but I chose to do nothing.
I was feeling a bit down this week so I tuned into to some self-help guru’s webcast on developing an abundance mentality.
Hope You Guessed My Name
I’ve listened or attended a number of similar kinds of talks and typically they’ll give you a little taste of what they have to offer and then try to sell you the secret for a reasonable price. Of course, you’ll have to act fast to get the special discount.
It’s easy to see why these self-help types are so successful. They’re selling people what they already have—their untapped potential.
They promise to show you how to tear down the walls you’ve built between yourself and the person you could be. Get a better paying job, start you own business, meet the person of your dreams. Do more pull-ups in Mr. Keating’s class.
I usually tune out when the sales pitch starts, but this time it was different. There was something about this woman’s voice and my own fragile mindset that had me wondering if maybe I shouldn’t get out my credit card and sign up for this program.
Logically, I have to wonder if what she’s offering is any different from the stacks of self-help books, CDs and DVDs that I have around my house—many of which I haven’t read, listened to or watched yet.
That’s what I want to do. I want to get out of my way because despite all my promises, resolutions, and meditations, I still think there’s so part of me who doesn’t want to move forward because that means taking risks.
I recently saw an Off-Broadway play called “Pocatello” where a character at one point says, “I don’t know who I am anymore.” Critics complained that it was a hackneyed line, but I was intrigued.
Clearly the character meant that she was hurting, but I wonder it’s not such a bad thing to be confused about who you are.
If you identify yourself as someone who can’t get ahead, someone will never win, and will always be struggling, then perhaps an identity crisis is just what you need. It might not be a crisis at all.
Maybe you’ve held on to a warped, unhealthy version of yourself that is better off forgotten. Perhaps you could let go of that person you think you are, the one who holds back all the time, and find out you’re somebody much better.
I still haven’t decided if I’m going to sign up for that abundant thinking course yet. It seems wasteful to pay someone to tell me something I already know. But then I’m not changing, or at least not as quickly as I would like.
Ultimately no one can make you change. You have to get out of your own way, grab hold of that bar, and pull up all by yourself.