Limitations: Redefining How You Meet Them and Beat Them
We all feel the restriction of our human limitations. On the physical level, pain and fatigue let us know when we’re getting close to that threshold where, as we go further or push harder, it could mean either a breakthrough or an injury. On the emotional level, it could manifest as fear, nervousness or sweaty hands. I run into it on the mental level all the time when I draw a blank.
But, upon closer inspection, a limitation is really just a doorway into a new experience. The other side of what we might call a limitation is really just unknown territory. We’ve never been there, and in some cases, never even imagined ourselves there.
I once had a teacher who changed my relationship to limitations forever. He told me that every time I come up against what I think is a limitation, I should say to myself, “My current state, subject to change, is……..” and then fill in the blank as objectively as possible.
“My current state, subject to change, is that I can’t seem to break a 4-hour marathon.”
“My current state, subject to change, is that I want to lose those last five pounds and I can’t seem to do it.”
“My current state, subject to change, is that I want to run a 5K with my kid and I can’t even make it across the room without getting winded.”
What I’ve learned from this wonderful piece of sage advice is that, when I can see my limitations for what they are, I have a choice to make; I can either accept the challenge, or accept the limitation. I will never play basketball for the Lakers or beat Tiger Woods in a golf match. These are limitations I have accepted, and which I can do nothing about. But, if there is even the smallest part of me that looks at a limit and sees possibilities, then it becomes a challenge and I no longer see it as a limitation. It then becomes up to me to meet that challenge with all the vision, intention, resourcefulness, and expertise I can muster.
This approach reminds me of the Serenity Prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
As any good strategist will tell you, when you’re meeting a challenge, use what you know to get you to the unknown, beyond your current limit. Being resourceful means aligning all of your available resources and directing them toward your goal…even if that goal lies in unfamiliar territory. This brings up what sounds like a Universal Law: breaking through any limitation requires you to “up the ante” by doing either more than you’re currently doing, or going about it in a different way.
Let’s say you’re trying to run your fastest half marathon, and you can’t seem to break your previous times no matter how hard you try. What’s our “current state” of conditioning? How good is your running technique? What’s your strategy? If your cardiovascular conditioning is limiting you, then you need to improve that before you can expect to do better. What does that look like? It might mean working to increase your cardio conditioning by throwing in some speed intervals into your weekly training schedule. It might mean increasing your aerobic conditioning by adding some faster miles (3rd gear) at the end of your weekly long runs. If, on the other hand, it’s your technique that’s holding your back, it means constantly working on improving your running technique so you’re more efficient. It means knowing how fast each mile needs to be in order to beat your old time, and learning how to run faster by relaxing more, not by pushing harder.
Any one of these adjustments to your training might be the key to surpassing your limitation. All of them added together will guarantee it. So, when thinking through your plan for dusting your limitation, it is important to approach your challenge from as many angles as possible. Think about what skills you’re working with and how you can improve each of those skills over time, so that on the day you decide to meet your challenge, you can “just do it.” Not with pain and struggle, but from a place of abundance and confidence.