Push Harder: Give Yourself Permission To Be Great

I was at a restaurant recently when I got up to use the bathroom. (Don't worry, this won't be graphic.) It was a two-level bar with only one restroom upstairs, where I was sitting.

The door was closed when I walked up, so I gave a courtesy knock before pushing. It didn't budge, and I figured it was locked.

A couple minutes went by, and someone else came and stood behind me, then flashed a look as if to say, Are you waiting, too? By way of acknowledging her, I turned and knocked on the door again.

Three more minutes went by, the door was still closed, and she walked away. It was just me again, so I gave another knock. Nothing.

Waiting for me back at the table was my cousin and her husband. It had been about 10 minutes since I got up, and they had a train to catch. I didn't want to hold them up any longer and gave it one more shot.

Frustrated, I didn't even knock. I just pushed the door, much harder than the first time, and what do you know? It flew right open. There was no one inside. There hadn't been anyone inside the whole time.

I first started CrossFit in November 2015 while living in Williamsburg. When I moved this past September to Jackson Heights, there was no good gym near me, and I stopped going.

Fortunately, a brand new "box," as they're called, opened on the Upper East Side – right on my way to work – in December. I officially joined Jan. 2 (NOT as a New Year's resolution! Total coincidence) and am in my fourth week of restarting.

 Me in the middle of my 140-pound squat clean-and-jerk with coach Deanna in the background.

Me in the middle of my 140-pound squat clean-and-jerk with coach Deanna in the background.

I have been calling this my "no-pride month," because, not wanting to go too hard after a few months off and injure myself, I committed to doing really light weights until my body had time to adjust.

Monday, we worked on our one-rep max for three heavy exercises: squat snatch; squat clean-and-jerk; back squat.

It's not important that you know what all those exercises are, just that I knew the highest weight I had done on each before taking a few months off. There was no way, I told myself, I would surpass those weights this soon.

A funny thing happened, though. As I hit my previous max on the squat snatch, then the squat clean-and-jerk, and finally the back squat, I became complacent. Satisfied, I stood around catching my breath, admiring myself. And that's when Deanna, the coach that morning, told me to do more.

"Add five," she told me during squat snatches.

"Five pounds total?"

"Five on each side."

Ah, so I just did the most weight of my life for this exercise, and you want me to add 10 pounds? Got it.

"You can do it," she said. But not like a line from a Rudy movie. It was much more casual. Matter of fact. Almost like, Of course, you idiot. She even walked away for a moment after she said it.

So I put 10 more pounds on the bar, bringing the total to 105, and on my second attempt, I completed what she said was my best rep of the morning.

A few minutes later, the same thing happened. Satisfied with a 125 squat clean-and-jerk, she told me to add 10 more. So I did 135 pounds, and then 140.

Finally, feeling pretty worn down after a 205-pound back squat, I was about to try 215. She told me to go for 225. It wasn't pretty, but I did that, too.

If someone had told me the bathroom was open, I would have pushed harder the first time. Just like I went up in weight after Deanna "gave me permission" to do so.

Of course, I could have chosen any weight I wanted. I didn't have to listen to her, but knowing she believed in me after watching previous reps gave me confidence, and I did the heavier weight.

My point is not to go through life waiting for people to give you permission to do things. Nor is it to break into bathrooms, or potentially hurt yourself lifting more weight than you ever have before.

My point is that sometimes we need to find situations where we can give ourselves permission to push a little harder.

"He would say that when your mind is telling you you're done, you're really only 40 percent done." -A man named Jesse Itzler on advice he received from a NAVY Seal

So often we limit ourselves by what we think we can do, whereas if we just give ourselves permission and believe it's going to happen, we can be as nonchalant about it as Deanna was when talking to me.

This might mean asking out someone you like. Approaching your boss about a raise. Taking a solo vacation to another country. Or maybe launching your own business.

You don't need anyone to say you can do any of these things before you try them. You won't always succeed, but you'll gain self-confidence, and you'll learn your limits stretch further than you realized.