Love, love, love this quote. If you’re wondering who Phil Lawson is, he was my guitar teacher for a couple of years. He was an amazing player. He could listen to a song I brought in on cd–one he’d never heard before–and after listening to it a couple of times, figure out the chords and teach me how to play it.
He was trying to teach me how to do a particular finger-picking techinique, in which I played the base notes with my thumb while simultaneously playing the melody with my other fingers. It’s called Travis Picking. And it’s a thing.
An impossible thing. Or at least it feels impossible. And that’s what I told Phil.
And he said…
I think Geothe had a similar quote, but I like this one better.
During the hours and hours I spent trying to get my thumb and fingers to pluck the right strings at the right moments, and ruing the day I ever decided to learn to play the guitar, I repeated this quote like a mantra.
And darn it if he wasn’t right. One minute I was gritting my teeth in frustration, and in the next minute I could do it. Just like that.
My brain had to make the right connections with my fingers and then the muscles in my fingers had to develop the memory of how to move in the right way without my thinking about it.
And then, boom–I’m Travis Picking my way through Willie Nelson songs and ready to take it on the road.
This knowledge of the impossible being possible has helped me immensely in my fitness journey. Because the process is basically the same as learning to play the guitar.
My brain and body have to make those all-important connections, so that I can move things in the way they need to move. Often my muscles need to get stronger in order to do a particular exercise, so I start with modifications and then work my way up to advanced movements. I break it down into manageable pieces and keep trying until what once was impossible, not only seems achievable, but is actually achieved.
The thing is you only need one experience of this in your life to believe it’s true of almost anything else you attempt. That’s what learning to play the guitar did for me. It was so, so difficult in the beginning. But it was the first time in my adult life that I had stuck with something that I wasn’t good at right away–stuck with something that frustrated and challenged me–and succeeded.
The lesson for me was never to limit what I believed I could do. If you’re struggling with exercise right now, whether it’s struggling just to do it regularly or struggling with a particular exercise, keep at it. Break it down as far as you need to in order to make it achievable. Maybe that means a few short walks instead of one long one each day. Maybe that means holding onto a chair during squats until you can squat without one. Maybe your planks are on your knees for a while before you graduate to legs extended.
It’s okay if your goal feels impossible to you right now. One day it won’t. And if you need help breaking down your goal into steps, ask for help. You can always reach out to Nikki or I–we are happy to answer questions and give advice. Or find a personal trainer in your area who can help you with exercise the way Phil helped me with guitar.