By Chad McCoy, M.A.So the other day I went to the gym. I walked in, they scanned my fob, and I set out to accomplish something that I’ve never accomplished before. With any great feat of strength there is much to prepare prior to hitting up the gym: I read articles and watched videos from professionals about proper lifting techniques, how to avoid injury during lifting, and how to get the most out of your reps. As I place my keys and fob in the gym lockers, I also placed my iPhone ear buds in and cranked up some “Avenge Sevenfold”. I place a large amount of weight on the straight bar that lay before me on the floor. With each plate racked on the bar, my anticipation grew proportionately. I addressed the bar and felt that pump. Music was right and each movement was intensified by the mixture of supplements coursing through my veins. I addressed the bar, engaged the weight and took to accomplishing a dead lift of 450-lbs. As I feel the force resist my will, I open my eyes to notice the weight. It hadn’t budged an inch. The most movement the weight had done was me moving it from the rack to the bar. It sat there mocking me. Where did I go wrong?
I’ve known many people who have dead lifted 450-lbs.; one of which is a 50+ year old gentleman. That’s near twice my senior!!! What I haven’t divulged until this moment is that I have never lifted anything close to 450-lbs. Never. Viewing it through this lens, my failure looks a lot more appropriate. I had done the research. I read the articles and watched the videos, at right, had “my jams” going. I was thinking positively about my lift, but maybe where I went wrong was that I had an illusion that didn’t match reality.
I have teens and young adults come to me with similarly outlandish goals. Once I had a 17 year old young lady tell me that by 21 she would be living in a 5,000-sq. ft. home driving a brand spanking new Audi. When I asked her how she would accomplish this, she really didn’t have an answer other than, “It’ll just happen.” I loved the self-confidence! Seriously. By then she’ll have lassoed the moon presumably. However, I remain skeptical.
Positive illusions are something David Feldman and Lee Kravetz discuss in their new book, Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link between Suffering and Success (http://www.supersurvivors.com/). Positive illusions can be defined as the idea of confidence and increased self-control over situations. The idea that we have a hand to play in all situations, and that hand, is the winning one. This can appear arrogant but make no mistake that positive illusions can be useful. Positive thinking, doesn’t necessarily make events happen. No, if that were the case, we’d all be living in 5,000-sq. ft. homes driving Range Rovers. Positive illusions can be enhanced by having hope, not delusional hope but hope that is grounded in reality. This, you see, is where I made my mistake.
The reality was that I wasn’t ever going to be able to deadlift 450-lbs. that day. I had the illusion that I could. I somewhat prepared but the reality was, no, I wasn’t going to budge that bar. A more realistic conclusions for me is that I would lift 300-lbs, something I’ve done before. From there, putting in work, staying realistically positive about my goals and having a little bit of patience and determination, I would someday be able to meet that 450-lb. goal.
Staying realistically positive sets individuals up for success and happiness. By removing the flamboyant, reckless, “in the clouds” thinking, looking at available resources, and adopting habits of hard work, we can create a winning situation for people. A good therapist can help with this. An objective point of view helps reshape irrational expectations into realistic planning. It takes teamwork to develop a plan. Now, if you will excuse me, I think I will go to the gym!