Monday, December 7, 2009

One More Step - Challenging Our Limitations

"Few men during their lifetime come anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them. There are deep wells of strength that are never used." Richard E. Byrd

When we were kids and complained about being exhausted, my father always told my sister and I the story of a friend of his; this lady – Marina was her name – was a small lady, maybe about 5’2” and weighing only around 100 pounds. Marina had a little boy, Francesco, who was curious just like little boys should be but whose nickname really should have been Menace – Francesco could not function if he didn’t get himself in danger at least once a day.

One day, Francesco got into more danger than it was daily allowed, and after sneaking out into a shop in his backyard his grandfather used to repair antique furniture, he pulled a very heavy dresser over himself. Francesco screamed as he fell back, and thankfully his mother heard him. When Marina saw what had happened, she had no time to lose; she knew her husband and father were not around, and it would have taken too long to summon help – it was time to take matters into her own hands.

Without even thinking, she pulled the dresser up and away from her son, who was soon after taken to the hospital and diagnosed with three broken ribs and a fractured pelvis. When Marina told her family and the emergency personnel what happened, and how she had moved the dresser with her bare hands, everyone was skeptical; the dresser – her father confirmed – weighed approximately two and a half times her body weight.

It is not uncommon to hear of people performing incredible feats while in the grips of fear or anger. Indeed, the two are powerful forces, and it is understandable that they would drive someone to reach beyond their point of tolerance. What is quite interesting, though, is the fact that many of the things we think we cannot do are in fact manageable if we can shift our focus from our set limitations to the untapped well of our potential.

The past few years, I have set a small challenge with myself – whenever I feel I have reached capacity, I stop and truly analyze how I feel in that moment. Most of the time, we convince ourselves that we have reached the maximum of what we can do way before we are really spent. As a car’s gas gauge lights up several miles before a tank is truly empty, so do our tolerance triggers. No matter how exhausted we are – or how hopeless we feel – there is always a small reservoir we can tap into to temporarily regenerate and make it a few more steps. While I was in labor with my children, I almost gave up on refusing pain medication during the deliveries. I tried to focus on the fact that nobody had ever died of pain, and if I held off, my babies would be healthy and alert; that thought alone was a shot of resolve and I made it through the last few excruciating hours.

In many cases, wanting to give up is only normal; following through with it is no different than abandoning the car in the middle of the highway, and walking off while we still had enough fuel to make it to the next gas station.

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