For years, I went to the gym for a cardio workout.  To reach the elliptical machines, I hurried through various weightlifting areas.  I never thought of lifting, but one day the spirit moved me. I hired a personal trainer and got paired with a mordant British wit.  We focused on dead lifts, picking up heavy weight on a bar off the floor, and squats, squatting and lifting weight on a bar lowered across the shoulders. 

My trainer scrupulously taught me proper physical technique.  When my form met his approval, we began placing weight on the bar.  Under his watchful and expert eye, I lifted and squatted increasingly heavy amounts of weight.  What an astonishing experience to be pumping iron.  

But as the weight increased, I became more fearful.  When I approached the bar, internal saboteurs appeared:  there’s too much weight on the bar.  You won’t be able to lift it.  This time, you might really hurt yourself.  It was a veritable Greek chorus.  These fearful thoughts got my attention.  I had to negotiate both the physical resistance provided by the weight, and the formidable mental resistance represented by fear. 

Physically, I could strengthen my body to lift the weight.  But what about the fear?  I quickly realized I could not silence the negative voices.  The more I tried, the louder they got.  It confirmed the adage that anything you bring your attention to grows.  But during a lifting session, it occurred to me that my negative thoughts were none of my business.  I would not allow my worried mind to deter me from lifting the weight.  This was not easy.  It remained an incessant challenge.  But to my great satisfaction, it often worked.  I lifted the weight despite the fear track playing in my head. 

Weightlifting allowed me to put my mind in its place.  The negative chorus could have its say, but I would have the final word.  No more hemming or hawing.  I would lean in to take uncomfortable action. 

But let me add that it remained a work in progress.  Some days the weight felt light as a feather.  Other days I struggled with my internal saboteurs and the weight.  But when I was not derailed by my Greek chorus of fear, I felt invigorated and elated.

When we give ourselves permission to move beyond the limits of what we believe we can do, we leave our comfort zone.  We push the envelope.  Of course, we worry.  Of course, we feel afraid.  Fear signals we are sailing in uncharted waters.  It means we are stretching to grow.

How do negative voices, internal naysayers, shape the choices you make or don’t make in your life?  What will allow you to overcome internal obstacles that inhibit and/or prevent you from leaning in to take uncomfortable action?  How can you push beyond your comfort zone, to grow and develop in ways that enable you to inhabit more of the life you say you want? 


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Neal Aponte

Neal Aponte is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 30 years of experience providing psychotherapy for adults, adolescents and children. Read more here.