Who is stopping you from living your dreams? It’s easy to put the blame off onto someone else, but if you take an honest look at your situation you’ll find that the answer is you. That’s right, I said it. You are stopping yourself. You’ve convinced yourself that you can’t do this or that based on preconceived ideas about what is possible. You might have gotten these ideas from what others in society have told you. You might have gotten them from experiences you’ve had in the past. Wherever they came from you have to understand that they aren’t necessarily true.
My limiting beliefs …
I always told myself that I could not speak in public because I was too afraid and that fear paralyzed me. This is the limitation I put on myself. It was based on past experiences. When I was eight years old I had to speak in church. That didn’t go so well. I sobbed, threw my bible on the floor, and then ran into the woods behind the church to hide.
In high school, I had to present a book report on A Brave New World in front of the class. Again that didn’t go so well. I only managed to get two words out of my mouth before running to the bathroom and throwing up. These too experiences were my focus whenever I thought about public speaking. Because of these experiences, I assumed that I was too frightened to be able to speak in public. There was a problem with that assumption though.
I thought English in Korea for six years. That was essentially public speaking before a small group six days a week for six years, but I never thought of it like that. It didn’t count as public speaking because I decided it didn’t. It didn’t count because it didn’t fit into the story I tell myself about my inability to speak in front of people.
Recently, I decided to challenge this idea, because I felt that my fear was holding me back. So I decided to change my story. I could speak in front of people, I just needed some practice. So I joined Toastmasters and now I practice dealing with my fear just about every week.
The shocking thing about this story is that my public speaking isn’t that bad and doing it doesn’t really scare me that much. Yes I feel nervous, my heart pounds, and my armpits sweat before a speech, but I can deal with it. It certainly isn’t paralyzing fear. I needed the experience though to discover that the story I was telling myself was wrong.
Fleas in a jar …
Zig Ziglar used to tell a story about how to train fleas. Fleas can jump vertically about seven inches. If you put a flea in a jar it would just jump out, but do you know how to keep a flea from jumping out of a jar? Put a lid on it.
When you put the lid on the jar the fleas will keep jumping and bumping their tiny little flea heads on the lid. They’ll do that over and over again. Check back in an hour, and they’ll still be jumping and bumping their heads on the lid of the jar, but at some point they’ll figure out that there is something over them and all this head bumping isn’t doing them any good. You know what they’ll do then. They’ll make an adjustment and start jumping just a little lower then the lid to avoid hitting their heads.
Once they do that you’ve got them. You can take the lid off the jar and those fleas will continue jumping to the point just below where the lid once was and never jump out of the jar. The limitation (the lid) isn’t there anymore, but that doesn’t matter. They’re not going to test it out anymore because they’ve accepted that their ability to jump has been limited. Now they are limiting themselves.
Most of us do the same thing. We put limits on how high we can jump and never dare test out anything beyond that. Some braves souls will test it, but if they fail they say to themselves, “That was hard. I’m definitely not doing that again.”
Running a four-minute mile …
Tony Robbins likes to tell the story of the four-minute mile to illustrate an important point about limitations.
In 1954, Roger Bannister ran a four-minute mile. He was the first one to do it. Before that people thought that such a thing was impossible. Human beings were physically unable to move that fast. Roger Bannister didn’t believe that though and by reaching for and achieving something that was thought to be impossible, he opened the door for others to achieve it.
Since then many people have run that fast and even faster. Running a four-minute mile is the standard for middle distant male runners. Bannister raised the bar. He showed everyone else what was possible. Once they saw the possibility others were able to rise to the challenge.
What are your self-imposed limitations?
What artificial limits have you put on yourself? Have you decided that you can only have a certain level of success? Have you decided that your passion could never be your career? Have you decided that your life has to be lived a certain way? Do these limiting beliefs make you happy? Let me be presumptuous and say that most of the time they probably don’t. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this post.
Now is the time to make a change. That change starts with imagining the possibilities for your life.
What are the possibilities? They are anything you want them to be. The only limitations on you are the ones you put there yourself.
Write down something that you want to accomplish that you just haven’t been able to do yet. Maybe you want to start your own business and get out of the corporate world. Maybe you want to write a novel. Maybe you want to start painting again or learn to play a musical instrument.
Why haven’t you started doing it yet? Write down all of your excuses? Why haven’t you started moving in the direction you really want to be going in? Make the excuses good ones. Maybe your scared of failing. Maybe you don’t have the funds to get started. Maybe you’re afraid that you’re not as talented as you thought you were. Fear is usually what your limitations are really all about. Do you have your list of excuses? Good.
Breaking through your limits …
Now that you’re clear on why you haven’t yet, let’s look at how you can.
For every excuse you’ve written now I want you to write down two things: a reason why you want to achieve that goal and how you can do it.
For example let’s say that you want to learn how to play the guitar, but you’ve written as excuses that you don’t have a guitar, you are uncoordinated, and you have no musical ability.
You have three excuses written down so think of at least three reasons why you want to play the guitar. Maybe it seems like fun. Maybe you’d like to express yourself musically. Maybe you want to lead a sing-a-long with friends. Think of as many reasons why as you can. Make sure you write at least as many reasons as you wrote excuses.
The first problem is that you don’t have a guitar. How can you solve that problem? You could buy a guitar. If you don’t have enough money to do that, you can put aside some money every month to save up to buy a guitar. If you have a friend or relative who has a guitar, you could see if they would let you borrow it.
The second problem is that you are uncoordinated. If you’ve ever learned to play a musical instrument you know that it is difficult at first. The coordination isn’t there. It comes with practice. That’s true for most anyone. Being uncoordinated is no excuse for not starting. You build coordination by doing the finger exercises people do when they learn the guitar.
The third problem is your lack of musical ability. Again most people don’t come out of the womb holding a ukelele and singing a song. You can develop musical ability over time. You just need to be willing to put in the effort and practice everyday. Can you find thirty minutes in the day to practice. You probably can. Do it thirty minutes everyday and before you know it you’ll be able to play a song.
Now that you have your list of why you want to do it and how you can make it possible, cross off all of your excuses and get to work.
My point is that you just need to figure out what you really want to do and start doing it. No limitations. Just begin and work toward it a little at a time. You don’t need to have everything figured out. You just need to start and things will start to fall into place … if you do the work. You don’t have to be trapped in the walls that you’ve put up around yourself or that society has put up around you. You can bust out of all that and do what makes you happy. You can go further than you’ve ever imagined. I know you can. You just need to believe, and then do the work required to make it happen.