For the last few months, I’ve been doing 30 pushups every morning.

I didn’t settle on the number 30 for any good reason, except with proper form it should take about a minute. It’s hard to be lazy enough to try wriggling out of doing one minute of exercise.

What I found weird, though, is it never got easier. Without fail, the final five would be tough and I’d barely be able to complete the final one.

If you do something every day, isn’t it supposed to get easier?

Then, the other day, I read an article about how being able to do 40 pushups is associated with better cardiac health. This is probably nonsense, but no matter: I decided I’d start working up from 30 to 40, by just doing my absolute best to add an extra one whenever I could.

Today, I did my first set up pushups with the target of 40 in mind…and I achieved all 40 with the same perceived effort as I was previously using for 30.

How did that happen?

It seems that my previous limit of 30 wasn’t physical at all: it was mental. As soon as I shifted the target in my mind, my body could do it.

This is consistent with the idea in David Goggins’ book Can’t Hurt Me that when your mind is telling you you’re done, you’ve only used 40% of your physical capacity.

The number is plucked out of the air, but the logic is sound. There comes a point where you reach your physical limit – but there’s a large range before that point where it’s your mind that’s holding you back.

I’ll be examining where else in my life I might have been wrongly telling myself I’m at my physical limit. And maybe setting myself the target of 50 each morning…

Your turn!

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