Do until you fail. Then do it again.
I just started strength training in the gym with my trainer. This means that I carry dumb bells and weights rather than run on the treadmill. It is quite a change for me as I had mostly stuck to building my cardio in the past. However my trainer assured me that this was the next level in my training regime and that I would see a difference in my physique in a few months. So I gave it a shot knowing that my trainer was very experienced and had helped me achieve my fitness goals before.
However, the first time I did bench presses in the gym, I really struggled. I had to remind myself that it was worth the pain and that I would see the results soon. I wanted to see changes in my physique right? Right. Was there an easier way? Apparently not.
What my trainer said next blew my mind. He said, “keep doing until failure” – referring to my bench presses. Wait. What? Keep doing until failure seemed contradictory to the common mantra “keep doing until successful”. He explained that in weight training, the first few bicep curls didn’t do the trick. Those were just warm ups. It was the last few bicep curls and especially the last 3 that really started to define the muscles. So I kept lifting the weights until I couldn’t anymore and at the very last one, my trainer helped me a little to lift the weights. That was when I had “failed”. It indicated to him that I had gone as far as I could at that point. My body needed to rest before it could start all over again.
This got me thinking about our relationship with failure. We generally tend to avoid failure or try our best to overcome it. In school, failure is penalised by a scolding from teachers or parents. At work, failure is frowned up and may be swept under the carpet. If possible, we like to get things right the first time and keep repeating that success. However in today’s changing business environment, the successes of past strategies and actions may not be sufficient to determine success in the future. We need to be nimble and be able to learn and adapt new actions to remain effective. We need to embrace failure.
What if we celebrated intentional failure? What if rather than seeing failure as something to avoid, we saw the effort and progress behind it? Just as most great inventions did not occur until a series of failures preceding them, we need to get used to failing to stretch and develop ourselves. Failing jolts us out of complacency and gets us back into a learner’s mindset. If coupled with gentle support, failing can be exciting as it holds the possibility of improvement and discovery.
When was the last time you failed and tried again?
What would it feel like if you congratulated yourself for failing?
What is your relationship with failure?
Hit “reply” and let me know where in your life you are failing and what’s that like. In the mean time, I will keep failing in the gym every week 🙂
P.S. If you feel you need a good gym fitness trainer, I’d highly recommend http://www.reps.sg