Do you know what a burpee is? You start standing up, jump into a floppy plank position with your chest hitting the ground, jump back up to standing, and then jump, clapping your hands overhead. Burpees are hard. I’m particularly slow at them, in part because I have to move my six foot frame through all that space. The physics of the movement favor smaller athletes. That’s just the way it is.
When I’m out speaking I often hear about ways our demographic characteristics can impact our careers and job searches. Age and gender come up most often, though I’m sure other factors come into play too. It’s unfortunate, but discrimination does exist, and it can certainly impact our journey to achieving our goals, much like my height impacts my ability to do burpees.
Here’s the key thing to consider. Even though our characteristics may impact our journey, they do not determine our outcomes unless we buy into the story that we can’t do something because we’re a certain way.
For example, burpees are hard for me. My height plays a real role. But my mindset could potentially make them even harder. Imagine if I were thinking, “I can’t do burpees because I’m so tall”. Or, “I’ll never be any good at these”. What would happen? I’d likely put forth less effort. I’d avoid workouts that included burpees. And my attitude and actions would create a sort of self fulfilling prophecy. I wouldn’t be any good at burpees because I never showed up or pushed myself.
This morning I did 50 burpees. Afterwards I thought about what helped me to show up and work at this exercise, even though I’m at a disadvantage. Here are three strategies that you can try in your own life if you ever find yourself getting caught up in the idea, “I can’t ___ because I’m ___”.
1) Focus on Your Engagement Rather Than Your Perceptions
I was thinking three things as I did my burpees this morning. My first thought was on my goal- to do them all with the full jumping motion (rather than stepping back and up, as I had done on half of them on a previous day). The second thought was counting to 10 five times. And my third thought was to glance up at my time after each set of 10, to see if I was on pace to beat my old time. (I did!)
There’s less room to get caught up in your perceptions when you put your full focus on engaging with the task in front of you. What’s the task that’s in front of you? Is it connecting with your network, launching a business, or proposing a project at work? Try setting a goal and some benchmarks. Let yourself get into the work. Your thoughts about yourself will naturally fade into the background as your attention moves to your project.
2) Find Evidence for What’s Possible
You know everything I said earlier about tall people being no good at burpees? It’s only sort of true. Top athletes who are as tall or taller than I am can do burpees wicked fast. They are proof that more is possible. And they help me to drop my “I’m too tall” story in a heartbeat.
Our brains love evidence. Use this to your advantage by consciously finding examples of people who are just like you who are doing what you want to be doing. Think you’re too old to get a job? Make a list of twenty people in your age group who successfully maneuvered through a job search. Keep these stories present in your mind’s eye to help you build your motivation and keep your momentum.
3) Complete the Sentence, “I am ___, but I ___.”
“I am tall, but I am working on my pushups, challenging myself, and showing up to burpee workouts to help myself improve.” With this thought I’m excited for my next burpee workout. I’m looking forward to seeing my improvement over time.
How would you complete this sentence? What are your reasons for why you’ll be successful, in spite of whatever obstacles might be in your way?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment below.