Imagine jumping into the water from a 10-metre diving platform. How do you feel about it?
If you find it scary, dangerous, and impossible, what will you tell yourself? “This is impossible. I’m never jumping off from here. No way. It’s too high. I’m scared!” Then you hesitate, resist, and maybe avoid the situation altogether. Self-limits are all you can think about.
But if you find it exhilarating, exciting, and fun, what will you tell yourself? “How cool is this! What an awesome view. This is going to be fun. Here I go!” You might even run and jump off the platform without fear.
This is an example of how the same situation can trigger different thoughts, different feelings, and different actions. Everything begins in your head and what you tell yourself about the situation. Maybe you’re giving yourself limits you don’t necessarily deserve.
Are there some things you want to try, but never got the courage to? Maybe you want to move on to a new role at work, to do something unfamiliar and exciting, but something was holding you back. Maybe you want to settle down and start a family, but can’t seem to find the right person to do it with. Maybe you want to resolve a conflict with someone you care about, but can’t seem to find the right words.
In this article, you’ll find out how you might be setting limits for yourself unknowingly and stopping yourself from getting the outcome you want. How do you break your limits and go for your goals?
1. Be Aware of How You See The World
You never see things as they really are. Everything you see about the world, and how you think the world should be, is filtered through your own histories and experiences.
If you’re terrified at jumping off the diving board (like I am), your low risk-taking is probably the result of a lifetime of influence from your family, friends, school experiences, and work environment. What you’ve been told and how you’ve been brought up has a huge influence on how you see things.
The more aware you are of your basic views of the world, the more you have the power to test them, examine them, and take the perspectives of other people.
We see the world, not as it is, but as we are – or, as we are conditioned to see it. – Stephen Covey
Look at this image. What do you see?
Do you see a young woman – maybe in her early 20s – who looks attractive, and seems quite well-to-do? Or do you see an old woman in her late 60s, with a crooked nose and long chin, looking cultured and refined?
Most likely, you’ll notice only one of these. Try seeing the other possibility now. You might see it, yet what you saw at first sight still stands out more to you.
The image remains the same, but two people can view the same image differently. What you see is your interpretation of the lines of the image. The image itself has no meaning whatsoever without your interpretation of it. How you treat this woman boils down to whether you see her as young or old.
The same logic applies to the prospect of jumping off that diving platform. If you’re terrified of doing that although you really want to, what limits do you have in your mind? The situation is the way it is – if you interpret it to be scary, there’s no way you’re going to run and jump off the board no matter how many people tell you to – unless you change the way you see yourself and the situation.
It isn’t just a matter of how you label yourself. If I tell you (the low risk-taker) to see yourself as a thrill-seeker, it’s unlikely that you’ll suddenly be brave enough to jump off that diving board without worries. You have to believe it. You have to genuinely change the way you see the situation, from highly threatening to potentially thrilling, before you’ll be willing to jump.
You experience the world through your personal filter, which sets the limits of your mind and behaviour. When you act through your limitations the responses stay limited. To break free you have to open your mind to possibilities you never considered before. To do that, you have to be open to people who think differently than you do. – Emily Maroutian
2. Choose: Limits VS Empowerment
As Anh wrote in Master the Art of Life, what you believe about yourself either limits you or empowers you. The good news is, you have a choice in what you believe!
Think about how you see yourself on a daily basis.
Limiting beliefs stop you from getting what you want:
- If I don’t get things right, I’m a failure
- I won’t be happy until I settle down
- I can’t possibly achieve all that
- I have no idea how to do this
- Life is tough; everyone is against me
Empowering beliefs give you the courage to do so:
- I’m capable of overcoming any difficulty
- If he/she can do it, I can too
- No matter what barriers I face, I’ll be able to get around it
- I’m worthy of love
- I’ll always have open doors even if it doesn’t seem like it
Can you see how your beliefs affect the way you react to situations? You can decide at any time to focus on what will empower you. It is your choice, your decision, your freedom. Are you unknowingly holding beliefs that are limits to your potential? Are you focusing on your weaknesses instead of your strengths?
You may do a short exercise in the Hero’s Diary to discover for yourself what your beliefs are.
3. Choose How You Respond to Others
What you see is the start of a domino effect in changing what you think, how you feel, and what you do.
Do you view the people around you cynically, believing that people are innately selfish, inconsiderate, and lazy? Maybe you think this way sometimes; how do you react to people then? You might tend to be defensive, or keep to yourself, trusting no one.
What if you believe in the basic goodness of people, that everyone can be kind and pleasant if they choose to? How will you react to people differently?
Imagine that you’re on a subway one Sunday morning. People around you are sitting quietly and it was pleasantly peaceful.
Then, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were loud, yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. The man sat down next to you and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation, doing nothing.
How will you feel? Probably irritated. Maybe you think, ‘How can he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all?’ Everyone else on the subway probably feels the same way you do.
So finally, you turn to him and say, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”
The man lifts his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and says softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
What happens? Suddenly you see things differently. Because you see differently, you think differently, you feel differently, and you act differently. Your irritation disappears. Compassion overcomes you and you ask if you can do anything to help.
This scenario was real and experienced by Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Thoughts have power; thoughts are energy. And you can make your world or break it by your own thinking. – Susan Taylor
What is one belief you can choose today that will help you break your limits?