“I need a volunteer!” is always a statement that guarantees most people will suddenly stare at their shoes or the ceiling. But when I add the statement “And they need to be the fittest and healthiest human specimen in the room”, most people feel immediately safe. “I’m off the hook,” they think as they immediately scan the room for someone to dob in.
Invariably a health nut is volunteered by his or her colleagues, and reluctantly they walk to the front of the room, climb the stairs to the stage, and await what they assume is going to be the most embarrassing part of their day.
I ask their name, highlight their obvious fitness and physical capacity, and then ask if they’ll assist with an exercise. An uncertain nod follows which I take as enthusiastic consent! And then… I hold out a broom handle.
“Fit person”, I say to them. “I’m going to hold this broom handle horizontally. I want you to back up over there, take a run-up, and show this entire crowd that you have the physical capacity to jump over the bar. Will you do that?”
They look at me hesitatingly.
I smile, crouch down, and hold out the broom handle about 10-15 cms off the ground.
“Do you think you can clear this?” I ask.
The crowd starts stamping their feet and clapping. The health-nut “volunteer” takes a few steps before stepping nonchalantly over the bar. The crowd claps politely. The volunteer looks embarrassed. And I quiz them on the experience.
“How do you feel?” is my first question. They shrug. They always do. It seems pointless. Embarrassing.
My next question is more pointed.
“Every time I do this activity, my volunteer essentially steps over the bar. It’s only 10cm high. But you only cleared it by a couple of centimeters. I know, and you know, that you could have jumped much higher. MUCH HIGHER. Why did you only just get over it?”
The response is always the same. Every time. I’ve done this with CEO’s, Sales Managers, random people in an audience, teachers, parents, medical practitioners. Every single time they say the same thing:
“It’s all you asked me to do.”
I pause when they say this. I let it sink in. I repeat it back to them. “It’s all I asked you to do.”
Isn’t that how so many people live their lives? We do the bare minimum. We just get by. We clear the bar that someone else has put in our way, but only to the level that they ask. Why do more?
It’s at this point that I ask my final question. “How did you feel when you cleared the bar?”
They always shrug their shoulders. They didn’t feel anything. There was nothing aspirational or motivational about clearing the bar when it was placed below their knees.
“Let’s do it once more. This time, though, I want you to tell me where we should set the bar. Let’s see how high you can really jump.”
Usually, my volunteer asks me to hold the broom handle around waist height. They step to the wings of the stage to get a run-up. The crowd starts to cheer with a level of excitement we definitely didn’t see the first time. And then…
They run. They leap. They clear the bar. The crowd goes wild.
And you can see, simply by watching the body language, that this fabulous fit person feels like they achieved something. Their chest puffs out. They can’t wipe the smile from their face. They are beaming. It feels like a real accomplishment.
Just one simple idea:
Don’t just clear the bar that someone else sets for you. Set your own bar. Push your limits.
And feel the difference it makes in your life.