December 23, 2013

Lose Self-Imposed Limits

Our self-image defines and limits our possibilities. The only way to lose self-imposed limits is by changing the self-image.
So what is the self-image? It’s your sub-conscious picture of who you are, what you’re capable of, and what you deserve. We make it from things we’ve been told about ourselves, past experiences, and beliefs we’ve developed about ourselves.

We all have real limits. You might be great at playing guitar, and have no ability to do word problems in math. For myself, the only way I’m doing a four minute mile is on a bicycle.

We also all have self-imposed limits. Often, they are well below our real limits.

Have you ever heard someone say “I’m always late. That’s just the way I am.” That’s a self-imposed limit. They believe there’s nothing they can do about it, so they won’t do anything about it. Their self-image is of someone who is always late.

It takes honest, accurate self-evaluation to lose self-imposed limits. Let me share one big place where I’ve been able to lose self-imposed limits.

Lose Self-Imposed Limits in Time Management

This is a big one for everybody. We all feel like there’s not enough time in the day, right?

Coincidentally, that’s one of the first things I worked on changing: my perception of how much time is needed. You see, there’s no reason why everything has to be done today.

My biggest change has been to make a realistic daily schedule. When you fill your schedule with too many things to do, the experience of leaving things undone becomes part of your self-image. You start to believe you never get everything done that needs to be done, and it becomes a downward spiral.

Now I make a point of putting only two or three big things onto my daily task list. There are already items on the daily task list – writing blog posts, checking e-mail, eating meals, exercising. So I know there are really only six hours in a day that I’m going to use for projects.

And that’s another important change – I now make sure there’s time in every day for me to relax. I mean time when I’m not eating, travelling, or waiting. There’s a break during the day when I sit and read, and always a couple hours at the end of the day to clean dishes, write in my journal, and do some more reading.

The self-imposed limit is “there’s not enough time in the day.”

Lose self-imposed limits and you realize “there’s plenty of time when you’re honest about what can be done in a day.”

There’s sure to be someone who says “But my boss demands more,” or something like that.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the self-imposed limit you’re dealing with is that you believe you have to do whatever your boss demands. You don’t. And I’m not talking about quitting or starting some business to replace your day job.

Unless your boss is a real life Scrooge (and they do exist), she’s only demanding more to see how much you can really do. I agree with demanding maximum performance from employees. Most bosses also recognize that when a good performing employee says something needs more time, then more time is needed.

This means the question keeps coming back to you. Strange how that works, isn’t it? If your boss doesn’t believe you when you say you need more time, then it’s probably because your boss thinks your performing below your real limits.

Whenever you run into a thought that says “I can’t because…” look for a self-imposed limit. Like I said at the start, it takes honest, accurate self-evaluation to lose self-imposed limits. The honesty shows whether you’re really trying as hard as you can. The accuracy shows whether you’re expecting more than is realistic.

Where do you see places that you want to lose self-imposed limits? Tell me about them in a comment, and I’ll share ideas for getting past them.

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