Why delusion can be a good thing!
If you’re a fan of Westerns, you may remember Clint Eastwood saying, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” This is true! But how do you find your limitations? Most people live lives of quiet mediocrity, avoiding pain because it hurts! Yes, it does, that’s the main attribute of pain. But why do you have pain? Obviously there are many contributing factors, age, disease, injury, come to mind. But for many, if not all people, pain occurs when you do something unexpectedly difficult. “I hurt where I didn’t know I had muscles!” What does this have to do with delusion? I’m coming to that.
We have a picture in our head of who we are. I like to say you can either look in the mirror and see faults with your body which may or may not be there, or ignore your love handles and say, “Hey! Still got it!” The truth is our self image is rarely accurate, especially as we get older. A former athlete who has become sedentary is a danger to himself, he’ll attempt things he used to do easily and pull or tear something. A young person who could easily do a flip or a cartwheel might whine and say, that’s too hard. Neither of them truly understand who they are and what they are capable of.
I recently said to a student, don’t try to be Russell (a 20 year old, extremely athletic 4th Dan)! it’s hard for Russell to be Russell. We can only find our limits when we push to our failing point. And then as we keep pushing, that point moves. Russell works hard to push that point to an amazing place. So does Austin, a Septuagenarian martial artist who obviously can’t move like a 20 year old anymore. He is a great help to me personally as he shares his tricks and moves he’s developed to accomplish things his body won’t let him do.
OK delusion? Yes, delusion, I know in my head I am 65, not 25, but I have this delusion that if I work hard enough I will be capable of what a 25 year old does. Objectively I know this is false, but by feeding this delusion, I push myself past what I might imagine I can do and surprise myself. I will never perform like a 25 year old again, but dang it, I gotta keep trying.