It was just after New Year’s Day. Avoiding the rush at the local franchise gym, I wandered into a freshly opened CrossFit Box not far from my house. I’d heard a few people talking about CrossFit and was curious what it was all about. It hadn’t become mainstream yet and the word on the street was that this type of workout was so strenuous it would send you headfirst into the trash can, vomiting your dinner — if you did it right. If you aren’t familiar with CrossFit, it’s a fitness craze in which people push themselves to their limits with hard workouts.
Even though it sounded brutal, I had always been up for an athletic challenge, and the fact that nobody else was really doing it yet made it appeal to me even more. Being a single mom, I wasn’t able to work out whenever I wanted. I missed having that freedom, but when I walked into the Box, I noticed they had a small waiting area up front. Olive had just turned seven, and she was into art and loved to read. I knew she would be able to sit still if I decided to try it out.
It was quiet. Anyone here? I wondered. The door had been propped open so I gave a quick scan of the room.
“Hello?” I called out.
As I came around the desk, I saw a man in his 20’s with a dirty mop of blond hair. I assumed he was the manager. Fast and furious, he threw himself down into a push-up and then jumped up explosively, clapping his hands overhead. He was red-faced and looked exhausted.
“Almost done…just one minute!” he called out to me so I’d know he saw me. I waited patiently.
He was down on the ground again, jumping up and clapping overhead, but this time, it registered: what I was seeing was truly unique. My eyes focused on the clap. Jumping up again, his arms pounded together, but where hands should have been were just two stubs. His arms, muscular and defined, ended right at his elbow. He threw himself down on the floor again. Nothing below his knee, I noticed now, and understood more about the name of the gym I had just walked into: No Excuses.
The man finished his workout in a heap on the floor. Sweating profusely, he dragged himself over to shake my hand and introduce me to his gym.
“I’m Kyle.” He offered me his stub. Under any other circumstances I may not have known what to do, but Kyle was so at ease, it wouldn’t have mattered if I shook his stub or gave him a high five. I grabbed his arm and we instantly became friends.
Kyle was born with congenital amputation. Simply put, it means he has shortened limbs. It’s all he has known and, as I got to know him, I realized just now normally he lives his life.
Kyle has created ways to do just about everything that people with hands and feet can do. He can also do things many people with hands and feet can’t do. He has a drive and focus that many people lack, and an uncompromising belief system that supports his dreams and goals. Kyle lives Big.
He once explained to me that he thinks people are made by the adversity they face in their lives. That we each have a challenge to overcome in our lifetimes. The key is to be fearless. Challenges are what builds our character and defines who we are.
So how did Kyle come to the realization that his birth defect was really a blessing? How did he start out being different from all his friends, being picked on by some, and instead of getting bitter, building a life in which he inspires others, owns a fitness center, and speaks all over the world encouraging others to drop their excuses? It all comes down to his beliefs and how he works with them.
Growing up, Kyle’s parents saw the potential he had for his life. They wanted his life to be just as full and independent as any of his friends, and so they treated Kyle just like any other kid. They required he learn basic skills that may have been difficult to learn at first. Soon Kyle was proficient at simple things most of us take for granted; using silverware, cooking, and taking part in everyday activities just like other kids became simple over time. When he wanted to play sports, his parents didn’t discourage him or hold him back, but instead pushed him forward. They didn’t allow the opinions of outsiders to infect their hopes for their son to live a full and meaningful life.
The message Kyle heard, from early on, is that there are no excuses. He not only had the ability, he had the requirement to learn to be independent.
Were there times Kyle felt like he couldn’t do everything his parents asked of him? Of course. But their belief made him push through, and his success reinforced the truth of their ideas and made his belief in himself grow.
We all struggle to believe in ourselves at times. We think we can’t do something, or we think a Big Life isn’t for us. Different areas of our lives may be more challenging than others. For some of us, our struggle shows itself mainly in our relationships or our health or in our careers. For all of us, lack of belief keeps us from living the Big Life we deserve.
I remember, as a kid, hearing the story about how circus elephant trainers were able to train those big giant elephants to stay put in the barn. The trainers would take the elephants as infants and tie them with big huge ropes to the barn. When the elephants tried to pull away, they struggled and eventually gave up. Later, the trainers didn’t even need large ropes to contain them. The elephants believed they couldn’t break free, so they stopped trying.
Our belief systems can push us forward, like Kyle’s did, or hold us back like the baby elephants. Our experiences and influences are what create our beliefs. The key to moving forward is finding out what beliefs are truly holding you back and where those beliefs come from. Awareness is the first step to changing your life.
There is good news! You can not only become aware of how you think, you can begin to understand how your thinking holds you back. You don’t have to go to years of therapy to undo what’s firmly in your head. Instead, you need to listen to your internal conversation and ask yourself questions. This journey of awareness can be eye-opening and bring you joy as you begin to unpack beliefs that no longer benefit you.
Because limiting beliefs are so destructive, but so simple to change, everyone would progress if they understood how they truly viewed the world. To support you in accomplishing this, I’m going to share some simple tools that will help you stop, listen, and assess.
After you become more aware, you will find it easier to identify what you want to change and how to start shifting your thinking. This isn’t a one-time shot of awareness, identification, and shifting. This is an ongoing process, because beliefs are continuously being formed. As you practice, it will become easier and easier to identify limiting beliefs, and beliefs that you didn’t even know you held will make their way to the surface.
Read more inside Start Small Live Big and download the Awareness worksheets now so you can begin to identify what is holding you back!