It might be the mindfulness experiment I started in December… It might be the journaling habit I got into. I don’t know what has led me here, but I realize more and more that personal limits are a creation of our minds. They are not real.
Limits are not real. Personal limits are just what our minds perceive as real. Change your thoughts and change your limits, change what you can or cannot do, change who you are, or how much you can be or have.
A few months ago I interviewed Pole Fitness champion Natasha Wang who now trains for multiple hours a day, 6-7 times a week. Natasha said that when she got started she would do pole for fan once a week for 4,5 years. Then, she once attended two classes.
She actually thought that two classes a week…was too much for her.
Now physically two classes a week is ok. You are not overtraining. Your body can handle it.
However, if you are used to seeing yourself as someone who exercises once a week, then twice a week is a stretch.
This an example of the personal limits I am talking about. You are used to seeing yourself in a certain way. Every change is viewed in the light of where you are today. That’s how exercising twice a week was too much for Natasha when she was still exercising once a week, but if you now told her to only train twice a week instead of 6-7 days, then she wouldn’t do it! Twice a week is close to nothing for her right now.Even though personal limits are not real, they are perceived as real, and consequently…guide how we live our lives.
- If you think that exercising 2x a week is a lot, then you are not going to try to exercise more frequently than that, not until you become comfortable with the idea that exercising 2x a week is “normal” to you.
- If you think that making $20,000 a year is normal to you, then $30,000 will seem like a lot, but you won’t try to get to $40,000, not until you feel comfortable with seeing yourself as someone who earns $30,000 (and earning $30,000 for some time).
- If you think that getting to Stanford or Harvard is out of your league, you won’t even apply. Maybe you would be accepted, had you applied. Maybe if you thought you could get accepted, you would have studied harder. But you decided that this was impossible. You were the one who disqualified you. Was it really impossible?
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“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
– Wayne Gretzky
You could accelerate your progress is every realm of your life, if you got your mind to be comfortable with achieving more. If you don’t believe you can get something (personal limits), then you are not even going to try. You might be able to get it, but because you think that this possibility is non-existent, you are not going to spot the opportunities that are there waiting for you.
If exercising twice a week seems like a lot, then you might rethink that. Is it really a lot? Or is it your mind being uncomfortable? How can you make it more comfortable?
Some people say “You get what you ask for”. How true is that. If you don’t ask for more, you are surely not getting more. But if you ask…you might get it!
When you say “I couldn’t do that” think again. Are you 100% sure that you couldn’t? Is the probability of you doing it 0%? Or, is there maybe 1% chance you actually could?
If it is possible after all, then what would do to make that 1% materialize?
If you shift your thinking from “I can’t” to “How can I?”, then you might be surprised by how much you can do or achieve.
Asking “how?” will eventually lead you to spot opportunities that you wouldn’t see if you stuck to “I can’t”.
However, you cannot ask “how” and believe that you “can’t” at the same time. But you will ask “how” if you think you might be able to get your goal.
It’s easier to get your mind to “chill”, ask “how?”, and feel comfortable with this question when the “how” is about a small change, or else, something that is in the vicinity of where you are.
E.g., going from exercising once a week to twice a week, and then from twice to three times, etc.
Your mind does feel comfortable when you move in the vicinity of where you already are but towards the direction of where you want to go.
Take advantage of this. Too many of us want to get somewhere that just seems way too far. We don’t feel comfortable and we are led to believe that we “can’t”. It’s hard to overcome personal limits when we don’t believe we can!
We don’t ask “how can I?” because we are stuck to “I can’t”.
For example, if you currently make $20,000/year, then $40,000 will seem impossible (even though it might not be, but you think it is).
Instead of saying “I can’t make $40,000/year” and end the conversation there, scale back. Instead of $40,000/year aim for $21,000/year. Ask “how”. How can you make $1000 more this year?
Now this does not seem overwhelming. It is just $83.33/month. It actually seems close enough that you ask “how” without feeling stretched. It might actually seem intriguing. Heck an extra $1000 could be a trip to the Caribbean. Not bad. Adios personal limits!
The recipe for overcoming personal limits.
- Acknowledge that you are thinking “I can’t do X” – sometimes we disqualify ourselves and we don’t even realize we are doing it!
- Scale back your big goal to a goal that is in the vicinity of where you are but in the direction of where you want to go. You might think you are not able to get X, but what about X/2 or X/10?
- Ask “How can I achieve X/2?”
- Take a notepad and write down the ideas that are immediately coming to you. If no ideas come to you, then you are probably overwhelmed, hence scale back some more (step 2).
- Start doing. Get moving!
And one last tip: You are not alone in this. Countless of people are getting past their personal limits right now.
- John Muldon (who explores just how much he can do by running a new experiment every month),
- Chris Guillebeau (who is formally unqualified to be a leader, yet he is),
- Adam Baker (who couldn’t shoot a film because he had no experience but did it anyway),
- Christina Rasmussen (who dared to overcome the grief of the loss of her husband),
- and many others who have learned that asking “How” might be surprisingly rewarding and teach that personal limits are more fictional that real with their actions.
Where are you heading next?