I like to think I’m learning to be brave. These last few months, I’ve branched out and done some things I normally wouldn’t do, like facilitating a small group and speaking to a classroom of middle school students.
But I’m also learning something else about myself. I tend to only agree to try something if I have a fairly good idea I will succeed. I lack the courage to fail.
Nowhere has this been more obvious than in the weight room.
I’ve lifted weights fairly consistently the past four years. I’ve taken baby steps and won small victories. But when I think about where I could be, in terms of weight I am able to lift, most days it feels like I’ve taken one step forward and two steps back.
A few weeks ago, I became frustrated for feeling so weak, despite my dedication to showing up regularly at the gym. To get stronger, I learned I needed to determine my one-rep max—the maximum amount of weight I can successfully lift for one rep.
Have I ever calculated my one-rep max? No. Never. There’s risk involved in that, and I’ve preferred instead to stay within my comfort zone. Never testing my limits means I’ll never fail.
There’s a scene from the movie “Zootopia,” that sounds an awful lot like that. Ironically, I watched the movie for the first time that same week.
The movie’s main character, Judy Hopps, is a rabbit whose dream is to be a police officer. The only problem? There’s never been a rabbit cop in Zootopia.
Judy’s parents aren’t thrilled about their daughter’s dream, instead encouraging her to work on the family carrot farm. Early in the movie, the following exchange takes place between Judy and her parents.
* * *
Stu Hopps: Judy, you ever wonder how your mom and me got to be so darn happy?
Young Judy Hopps: Nope!
Stu Hopps: Well, we gave up on our dreams and we settled, right, Bon?
Bonnie Hopps: Oh, yes, that’s right, Stu. We settled hard.
Stu Hopps: See? That’s the beauty of complacency, Jude. If you don’t try anything new, you’ll never fail!
* * *
I don’t want to settle, but sometimes I think my fear of failure has kept me from my potential. If I don’t think I can do it, I don’t even want to try. I’d rather keep it comfortable. Play it safe.
To be honest, I didn’t want to determine my one-rep max that day at the gym. I knew it would be light, and I didn’t want to admit to anybody how much (or little) I was capable of pressing. Testing my one-rep max meant I’d need a spotter—in all my years at the gym, I’ve never asked for one because I don’t enjoy the thought of inviting someone else to stand behind me with a front-row seat to my weakness.
But the thing is, the only way I’ll get stronger is to first take an honest look at where I’m at, decide I’m not satisfied with complacency, then put in the work to get better. That starts with trying and being willing to fail.
I’ve been watching quite a bit of basketball recently. What kind of courage and confidence does it take to call for the ball with the game on the line as freshman Jordan Poole did in Michigan’s one-point victory over Houston? I guess a person can’t hit the game-winning 3-pointer unless you take the shot and try.
Determining my one-rep max was humbling, but it taught me a valuable lesson. In order to grow, I’ve got to be able to test my limits, try and see what I’m capable of, all while being willing to fail in the process. I just might come out stronger for it.
Janae Rempel, former sports editor at the Free Press, is on staff with Christian Leader magazine. You can still reach her at email@example.com.