A little less than three months ago, Our Warpath’s captain posted an article entitled “I Don’t Want to Go to Heaven”. When I initially saw the title of the article, I almost fell out of my chair. After reading the post and thinking about it for a while, I almost fell out of my chair again. Although the initial shock from the title is probably quite understandable, allow me to explain the reason for Shock #2 and my accompanying thoughts.
One of the main messages of the author is the importance and necessity of pushing ourselves beyond every conceivable limit to become the people we were meant to be. It’s only during these moments of intense discomfort and pain that growth really happens. The term “growing pains” is not just a cute saying; nature knows that growth takes effort. And so, as the author argues, in order to meet our potential, we are going to have to apply a great deal of effort.
However, after reading this exhortation on the benefits of pushing and struggling, I was left with an intense dissatisfaction with myself. “Why,” I asked myself, “do I never want to push myself to see what I can really do and who I can really become?” Young as I am, I felt like I was not the person that I could’ve been in this 20th year of my life. And as everyone knows, such internal dialogues and revelations can be greatly disturbing. However, when channeled and directed in the right way, they can also lead to great discoveries and opportunities for personal change. The latter, thankfully, was the case for me.
I realized that the main reason why I never succeeded in pushing myself was essentially due to a flaw in my mindset. Our mindsets are so much more powerful than we might expect and can have such a massive influence on our actions and decisions. Take an example to illustrate my point.
Suppose you decide by yourself and with no one else around to see how long you can hold a plank. You set a timer, get down, get hot and sweaty, and stop when you convince yourself you’re tired enough and can’t hold the plank any longer. Now suppose you and a friend were to have a plank-off competition, with the winner to receive a brand new, top-of-the-line MacBook Pro (with a Touch Bar and any other cost-rocketing accessories you can think of). I think you would hold that plank longer. What happened? Did the presence of the mighty half-eaten apple make you physically stronger? Or did your definition of “tired enough” change when the brain-child of Steve Jobs was on the line?
Similarly, in every instance in which we need to push ourselves to reach our potential, it’s going to involve giving up our personal comfort in the moment to get something better. (It won’t always be a MacBook, but take heart, personal excellence has a much longer battery life.)
What I realized was that rather than focusing on what I could achieve or who I could become by pushing myself, I instead focused on what I would have to give up in the moment. I was too focused on the present me. Instead, I needed to shift my mindset to the future me; I needed to prefer the future me over the present me.
That is really the key to success. When we see who we can become and burn with a desire to achieve that, we won’t let the sacrifices involved with that goal stop us.We will rather come to see the sacrifices and pains as a sure sign that we are reaching the potential that we were meant to reach. But as soon as we let our mindset shift back to the present self, we will look upon the pain as a nuisance that is impeding our enjoyment of the moment.
Burn with a desire to become the future you. But more importantly, pray for it. Every moment and every good action of our lives needs the grace of God. In the story of his conversion, Confessions, St. Augustine shows the vital necessity of grace in endeavors like this. He recounts how he had intellectually come to the conclusion that Catholicism was the truth and that he must become a Catholic, yet his past life of sin and vice had so devastatingly weakened his will that he was unable to accept his conversion. It wasn’t until he received the grace of conversion from God in that famous garden scene that he was able to actually carry out the work of his conversion. We all need the grace of God if we’re going to get anywhere and make any progress.
Pray, push yourself, and be ruthless. True rest only comes to those who deserve it so don’t start looking for it yet.