Push yourself

Citius, Altius, Fortius is the Olympics motto. In case you haven’t brushed up on your Latin since high school, herewith the translation: Swifter, Higher, Stronger. The best of the world’s athletes strive for that motto, pushing themselves to their limits in order to break through them and reach faster times, higher bars and crazier jumps.

Pushing yourself to be better is not just for athletes, however. Reaching the outer edges of our limits leads to accomplishing dreams and achieving the next level in all that we do.


Whenever I think of pushing myself to do the impossible, I think of Gabe Adams, a Utah boy born without arms and legs. In his place, I am pretty sure I would do a lot of lying around, maybe moving myself occasionally from here to there with a fancy motorized wheelchair. This kid, on the other hand, learned to “walk,” using nothing but some pretty strong abs and a lot of determination. He scoots around upright, climbs stairs with some help from his head and neck, swims by himself and even has some sweet break dancing moves.

With a tenth of Gabe’s perseverance, what could I push myself to accomplish?

Push yourself …

Physically. Are you in a workout rut? Do you always run 3.25 miles at precisely 6.1 miles per hour? Today, push yourself to go four miles, or run a route with a killer hill instead. Are your reps with the bicep curl the same old, same old? Increase the weight, even if it means fewer reps at first. (1) Push yourself to do a little more and work a little harder, and see what your body can really accomplish.

Intellectually. If you are like me and your nighttime reading material has gravitated to more fluff and less philosophy, try something a little meatier. You don’t have to jump to Crime and Punishment right away, but maybe bring Charles Dickens into your bedroom tonight. Your significant other can’t be jealous of a 200-year-old dead guy, even if he does turn a mean satirical phrase.

Socially. Scientific research shows that diversity in a given group pushes group members to work harder and be more creative. In one study, racially diverse groups solved murder mysteries (apparently a good problem-solving test) significantly better than those with all-white participants. Even groups with both Democrats and Republicans solved the whodunnit better than groups with just one or the other political party. (2) Today, push yourself to interact with people of many different beliefs and backgrounds rather than sticking with your same comfortable posse.

To strive for excellence. This is your mantra for the day. Try a little harder to be a little better at everything you do. Clean more thoroughly. Be a little kinder. Walk a bit faster, negotiate a little harder, research more thoroughly.

Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb by striving for mediocrity. He failed thousands of times, but every time returned to the task to try again, succeeding at last after ten years. (3) Push yourself to keep trying. As the old saying goes, “You will never know your limits until your push yourself to them.”


More on pushing physical limits

Language, music, and board games, oh my! Ideas for pushing yourself intellectually

Gabe in a half-time dance performance for a high school basketball game



  1. Geiger B. How many reps should you do? Bodybuilding.com website. Aug 26, 2015. Accessed Jan 4, 2017.
  2. Phillips KW. How diversity makes us smarter. Scientific American website. Oct 1, 2014. Accessed Jan 3, 2017.
  3. Thomas A. Edison papers. The Edisonian. 2012;9. Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences.


Dana Vaughan

About Dana Vaughan

Dana completed a Master of Public Health (MPH) and a Master of Social Work (MSW) at San Diego State University, and has worked in family planning education, prenatal counseling, and child development. She loves her mountain bike, her husband, her kids, and her faith—although possibly not in that order.

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