You Can’t Do That

This morning while running, I started listening to The Art of Possibility audiobook, which is about stepping outside of our mental boxes.

The first tool in the book is to acknowledge that whatever story you tell yourself is all an invention anyway, so you may as well create your own story. If your old story is keeping you stuck, change it.

Sometimes it’s hard to see what your old story actually is. I’ve found that a good way to see the limitations of my old story is to consider a stretch goal and then pay attention to my objections. Why do I see that goal as being a stretch? Why do I think it would be difficult to achieve?

When I learned that Bruce Lee used to run 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) per day, I thought, Wow… that’s a lot of running. Then I wondered if I could do that too someday and what it would be like to run that much every single day.

I immediately started thinking of the obstacles, like the fact that I live in a very hilly neighborhood, and running 10K of these hills is a lot harder than running on a flat route. I could drive to a flatter area in less than 10 minutes, but then that would add some driving time for every run. Or I could go to a closer but fairly short semi-flat stretch and just run back and forth, which would be pretty boring to do every day.

I’ve done a lot of distance running, mostly in my 20s, including running a marathon. But running 10K per day seems like a lot to maintain as an ongoing habit.

I can easily run 5K of hills every day. That would be in my comfort zone. But 10K feels like it’s across some imaginary boundary line. What makes it a lot though? There are people who wouldn’t consider 10K per day a big deal, but my mindset frames it as being a big deal, which makes it seem harder than it has to be.

I’ve surely crossed into areas that other people would see as being beyond their own imaginary lines. Going 40 days without food might be one example. Being vegan for 23+ years could be another.

For some people making a living without a job would be a big deal to them. To me it’s just normal life. Why would I ever need a job? Making someone the boss of me seems silly and unnecessary. I’d rather choose my own projects.

Our stories define our boundaries. When we make something a big deal, we push it away. By defining 10K per day as a big deal, I push it away.

Could I actually do it though? Physically yes. I ran more than 10K on Sunday, then 7K yesterday and 7K this morning. So I’m in the vicinity. The barrier isn’t physical because I can physically run 10K no problem – all hills too. The barrier to doing it daily is mental. The mind gets in the way.

Is 10K per day a super important goal for me? Not really. But I’d like to keep leaning in that direction for a while and push through that mental barrier to see what it’s like on the other side. I’m used to 5K runs, so bumping to 7K daily runs already feels like a bit of a stretch. Eventually 7K will start to feel normal. I want to reach the point where after running 7K of hills each morning, it doesn’t feel like I did a long run; it just feels like I did a run. Then I can work up to 8K, 9K, and see if I can hold at 10K for a while, like for at least a month.

When my mind says, “You can’t do that. That’s too far, too much, too excessive,” another part of my mind wants to prove it wrong. It wants to push through that limited mindset to make sure it doesn’t define me.

What matters most is the ongoing practice of identifying personal limitations and busting them up, so they can’t hold you back. It’s not that any one limitation is that big of a deal, but what is a big deal is letting those limitations box you in you when you might want something more from life.

What personal limitation would you like to demolish? Is it financial? Physical? Social? Creative?

Realize that it’s all mental. Financially it’s possible. Physically it’s possible. Socially it’s possible. Creatively it’s possible. The invitation is to bust up the mental patterns that make it seem impossible. And to do that you must cross some of those lines that you’re framing as uncrossable.