I spent a number of years living on the 6th floor of an apartment building…with no elevator.
Local law requires buildings of 7 or more stories to have an elevator, and so there was a huge number of 6-storied apartment blocks. I wish I could say I was thankful for the government-initiated opportunity to improve my cardiovascular health.
I can recall my first day moving in, carrying up 9 duffel bags which weighed 70 pounds each.
My thought was simple, yet twofold. “I can’t wait until this gets easier” and “I’m never doing this again.”
Months later, I noticed that it still had not gotten any easier to climb those six flights of stairs. Though I might go up and down several times each day, still I would find myself out of breath upon reaching the uppermost landing.
How is that all that repetition didn’t enable me to handle the 6 flights with ease?
I shared this disappointment with a friend of mine who runs marathons for fun (some people have a bizarre perspective on entertainment).
He was not at all surprised about my ongoing hardship with climbing the stairs. He explained it simply to me: if I wanted to become adept at climbing my stairs, just doing six flights a few times a day wasn’t going to help. I needed to go beyond the target to build my capacity. Success at 6 takes doing 7 or more, perhaps even 10 or 12. If I did 10 flights of stairs regularly, my strength and endurance would be built up such that 6 flights would become relatively easy. But continuing to stop just at the goal line only assured me that the goal would be continually attainable, not that it would be achieved without exhaustion and struggle.
I never once failed to make it all the way up my stairs; my previous ascents assured me that it was possible and that I had the physical wherewithal to achieve my goal. But I never once tried to go up 7 flights, let alone 10 or 12. As a result, my body never pushed passed its 6-floor peak, and it never got any easier to achieve my goal.
It is an interesting phenomenon to set a goal and then to complain that it wasn’t achieved more easily. We want accomplishment, with energy to spare and effort conserved. But we don’t want to look far beyond our goal, afraid that we might never achieve the heightened marker, and thus fall into failure.
Setting a goal is but one aspect; considering the cost and the desired level of input is another. Do I push myself beyond the minimum so that my goal may be achieved expediently in the future? Or do I content myself with just enough, all the while lamenting that my level of just enough is not just a bit lower?
Achievement. 6 may come, but it may not come easily.