It must be fun to select the cast members for shows like 72 Hours, the show where teams race across treacherous landscapes to locate a suitcase holding $100,000. I’m pretty sure they select people who will create interesting team dynamics–some whiners, some overachievers, some jocks, some couch potatoes, and all with an opinion.
A recent episode of the show included a guy who drives a duck boat in Boston. His team won, and I was kind of disappointed, because he didn’t really make for great TV. He and his team basically got along, and there were no big fights, no big struggles, no last-minute comebacks, no impressive bonding. They worked together, they found the suitcase first, and they won.
But this guy earned his spot, if you ask me, in the post-win interview. He said something that has been replaying in my brain, like a song stuck in my head. He said:
I learned a lot about myself out here. Number one, I can do more than I think I can. And number two, I probably should.
Let me tell you why his words are so important, and why I want them to replay in your head, too.
Regarding his number one point: My instinct tells me that this guy is no grammarian, so I suspect his first point is accidentally profound: I can do more than I think I can. The idea seems ironic at first blush—I mean, how can a person think they can do only a little bit while simultaneously doing a lot? Well, it’s simple.
Our brains have recorded our experiences and our imaginings, and for the most part, we can’t tell the difference between what we have actually done and what we have envisioned doing. And if we have never imagined doing anything beyond our actual achievements, then our brain has lots of evidence to suggest that we cannot do anything bigger, better, faster, cooler than what we have already done.
And sometimes, when we DO achieve more, it’s not enough for our brain to recalculate what it has already decided is possible. We’ll see this new success as an anomaly instead of a new benchmark. We have to really be conscious and tell ourselves, “Hey, brain, check it out! I just did MORE than usual. Factor that in to your calculations on what I CAN do. And what the hell…add a bit more just for good measure, because next time I’m going to really knock it out of the park, and I want that factored in!”
So yeah, we can do more than we think we can. And as Boston Duck Boat Guy said, We probably should. I just love that. We probably should do more than we think we can. Why? Because everything we want is outside our comfort zone. Everything we want is just outside of our current efforts and reach. We need to stretch, to risk, to push ourselves, to go beyond what is familiar and comfortable, and THERE is where we’ll get more than we already have. If we’re happy with what we have, then there’s no reason to go for more. But most of us are striving to improve our minds, our bodies, our relationships, and our lives, and those improvements will be found just a little further away from where we sit, beyond what we have DONE and smack dab in the middle of what we have not yet proven we CAN do.
We don’t have to go on a 72-hour adventure in the tropics to learn this lesson. Opportunities are all around us to teach our brains a new definition of CAN.