Accepting your failure can help you succeed

Hey bro, this summer I started lifting. I didn’t achieve Instagram-worthy results or anything, but I committed to a day-to-day workout plan and met the small fitness goals I set for myself. Looking back, most of the benefits I got from going to the gym weren’t physical but mental.

My weight training journey involved more than a few obstacles, but the one that stood out most was that of muscle failure. “Training to muscle failure” is a strength-building method that embraces regulated overkill. Muscle failure occurs when an individual’s muscles can no longer physically function after lifting a maximum number of repetitions. Bodybuilders use this technique because it places a high amount of stress on their muscles and helps them to bulk up. A strategy with failure built into the design may sound odd, but sometimes success requires embracing the realities of failure.

Trying to wrap my head around the failure part of muscle failure training was challenging to me, not because the process of getting there was hard, but because the concept itself involves physical limitations. Our culture tends to value overcoming our limits more than accepting them. Before this semester, I lived my life according to the idea that God never gives us more than we can handle. At the beginning of school however, ambition got the best of me and I foolishly took on more responsibilities than I could balance. Baylor University restricts students from taking more than 18 credit hours per semester and from working more than 20 hours a week. Believe me, they do this for good reason. Over the past three years, I’ve encountered too many students whose crazy schedules have led them to drop a class, to quit a job or to end a relationship. Remember, there are only 24 hours in a day, even if you choose to forego sleep.

Once you get realistic about how much time you actually have, you will become a better and more capable person. The first step requires self-awareness. Unlike lifting, life is not about pursuing failure, but rather about making decisions that will keep you far from it. Ponder over the four most emotionally and mentally taxing aspects of your weekly schedule. Separate what must be done from what should ideally be done. Do what you can, and cut out what you can’t. If you are juggling too many classes, friends or papers, something has to give, or else you open yourself to the possibility of dropping everything, not just figuratively.

Planning ahead is much less painful than waiting until your to-do list requires more hours to finish than there are hours in the day. Be proactive, and you won’t have to edit your life. Anticipate how your workload could detract from other aspects of your life, and ask yourself if the extra responsibility is worth the tears. Believe me, they will come. Only you can determine what stays and what goes, but for God’s sake you have to decide sooner rather than later. Be honest about your situation and realistic about your goals. Humility is a must. You are not superhuman, and the fact of the matter is that sometimes you just can’t have it all.