Gym is a classroom. Today during my chest workout, I wanted to see if I could break through my bench press plateau of 160lbs, but since the gym somehow doesn’t have 85lb dumbbells, I couldn’t try lifting 170lbs, instead, I had to “risk it” by using two 90lb dumbbells. Looking at those two giants that I never thought of touching before, I feared and started to doubted myself “Are you really ready for this?”

As the fear was tensing up my body, I took a deep breath, poised myself, and literally ran though my head all the quotes that I could think of about how “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” After another reassuring deep breath, I firmly grabbed the weights and swiftly kicked them up with my knees while I lay down on the bench. One repetition, two repetitions and three… all in good form! I eventually got to Rep 6! “Haha,” I laughed at these two giants that I just conquered, “I did it!”

That victory greatly boosted my confidence, and I decided to give it a shot by lifting even heavier – 95lb dumbbells. With little hesitation this time, I lifted the weights up, 190lbs, 3 repetitions!

In the joy of achievement, I reflected on this satisfying experience, and realized it has taught me three things that I should write down to remind myself when I face pressure and fear in the future:

  1. Outside pressure will push you harder than you would to yourself.

Not having 85lb dumbbells forced me to use 90lb dumbbells, which I would not have tried if I had an option.

In my future actuarial exam and professional endeavors, I will always remember to look for outside pressure to push myself a bit harder.

In my other blog article, I interviewed a full-time undergraduate student who completed five preliminary actuarial exams in less than two years. One system he found helpful was “exam buddy” – a form of outside pressure that helped him to maintain a strong work ethic and discipline – something essential for actuarial exam success.

  1. Fear indeed is a figment of imagination.

There wasn’t really anything to fear about the 90lb dumbbells, since I knew I had nothing to lose by trying: even if I weren’t able to lift those weights, I would still be strong enough to make sure they fall on the floor instead of on my body.

Outside the gym, I will never talk myself out of things – I’m too busy to invalidate myself, let others do it.

  1. Confidence accumulates, so cherish small progress.

Small improvements from each repetition, each set of exercise, and each single day in the past 2+ years has helped me to gained about 20lbs of body weight. I was once weak and skinny, but I’m now stronger and more confident than ever before, and I’m inspired to continue my lifelong endeavor to discover my fullest physical and intellectual potential!

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