Take poor Icarus, who famously said that “all limits are self-imposed.” Great in theory Icarus, but trying to fly too high towards the sun with wings made of feathers and wax for glue proves that some limits are good to heed to.
The issue we face in the 21st century is working out which limitations are good and which are holding us back—which keep us safe and which kill off our happiness, success, and even our health. You’ll have to learn how to break these boundaries to enjoy the benefits of not being limited.
Here are 7 ways to break boundaries and self-imposed limits.
1. Be Open to It
What you think is possible is absolutely accurate. The issue is what you think impacts your ability to think powerfully, so you trap yourself in your own quality of thought. Confused?
I worked with a client who categorically assured me that there was nothing that could be done. The first thing that must happen with any limitation is you have to break down the belief about it. You don’t have to believe it’s possible or know how to do it—just accept there’s going to be a way to do it. Let’s use science to prove this.
In a study on the Biochemistry of belief, researchers looked at the subject of “Man is what he believes he is” (a quote by Russian writer Anton Chekhov). They explored examples of how what happens in our minds impacts our bodies and our results in life.
“Receptors on the cell membranes are flexible, which can alter sensitivity and conformation. In other words, even when we feel stuck ‘emotionally’, there is always a biochemical potential for change and possible growth. When we choose to change our thoughts (bursts of neurochemicals), we become open and receptive to other pieces of sensory information hitherto blocked by our beliefs! When we change our thinking, we change our beliefs. When we change our beliefs, we change our behavior.”((NCBI: The biochemistry of belief))
So, whether you believe it or not, it’s a fact. You can break free and break boundaries.
In Neuroscientist Joe Dispenza’s book, You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter, Dispenza looks at occasions where the power of the mind overruled what happened in the body. He looks at the story of WW2 Doctor Henry Beech who had the awful predicament where he ran out of morphine. It turns out the story is not true (as Shannon Harvey showed in her article((Shannon Harvey: This Is Why You Shouldn’t Believe Everything You Read About Your Health))).
However, it is the case that Doctor Beech noticed that soldiers association with pain was very different to most since they saw the pain as escaping the front line—so, they were able to lower the amount of pain they felt they were feeling! See how powerful the mind is?
Again, you don’t have to believe this to be true. Just be open to the idea.
2. The Sayings That Count
Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory said:
“I often forget other people have limitations. It’s so sad.”
And he’s right. In my experience, it’s often the limitations that you can’t see that have the biggest impact.
I asked on social media what phrases everyone hated. I had over 150 comments within a few hours. I then asked, “What sayings do you love?” and struggled to get 8 comments in days!
The irony is that the negative phrases stop you from achieving great things and positive ones power up your ability to achieve what you wish to. Therefore, you should learn to know the sayings that count.
Clare is the leader of a highly prestigious team. The pandemic has hit them hard as it has for many, and Clare realized she was surrounded by people saying;
- “There’s too much work; we have to work during the weekend.”
- “I’m no good at working on my own. I can’t do it.”
- “It’s not my fault; the tech/Wi-Fi/other departments aren’t up to this.”
- “We have no choice about this.”
Look out for these. If you’re hearing a saying more than once, question it.
- Is it true?
- Is there nothing that can be done?
- Have you looked at that one phrase and asked, “Is there a better way?”
If there isn’t a better way to physically work within this limitation, there will be a better way to view the limitation so that it doesn’t cause a limitation!
Clare’s team was the perfect example. We took each statement the team made and questioned its validity.
We saw that some people believed that there could be a new way of working (new processes and communications) while others needed a new way of thinking. And some firmly believed that unless the pandemic ends, they would be trapped in hell.
3. Growth or Fixed?
To change the phrases that help create limitations, you need to look at yourself in more detail. If you’ve read my lifehack articles, you will know I talk about the science of you (i.e., not fighting who you are but learning how to utilize that to be the best version possible). Some will hold on for dear life to the beliefs they have, unprepared to accept that there could be a different way. If this is, you don’t feel bad.
Some naturally cultivate a growth mindset and can think in a way that helps them explore new ideas. This can be good and bad—not so good for sticking to the plan as they easily get distracted by something else!
If you can’t imagine ditching the limitations that feel self-imposed, learn to listen to yourself more. I’ve never seen a fixed mindset person who couldn’t do this—who couldn’t break their boundaries and limitations.
Here are strategies to develop a growth mindset if you have a fixed mindset:
- Look for role models—ideally not those who have a growth mindset already but ones like you who epitomize getting the life they want.
- What do you notice about these role models—passionate fashionistas, structured, free-flowing, love/hate to dance, or love or hate chat?
- Really understand them. Having a chat with them is useful, so pluck up the courage and do it. You’ll be surprised how people are keen to help.
- Write the phrases you say, and ask yourself if they are good or bad for your success. This goes for all mindsets. Growth mindset people are just as likely to have things they say that limit their ability to get what they need. They may have beliefs that are without limitation when in fact, if they faced that belief, they’d see their lack of skill doesn’t match their growth mindset. Ever seen a poor public speaker/singer who thinks they rock? Exactly!
- Challenge and question. There’s power in questions. Da Vinci was a lover of questions. The key is to not force the answer,. Just explore what you think. The more questions you can ask, the better the quality of your thoughts.
- Start in a way that suits you. It’s no good telling you to start small if you love to be very busy. Likewise, if I tell you to go for it, that may scare you so badly you proverbially sit in the corner and shake!
- Go at a pace that suits you but no matter what, ensure that you schedule your plan of action into your life. Even things that seem intangible need time to be worked on. Often, in a client’s plan of action, there will be something like “explore how this thought impacts on work for the next 4 weeks.” If you don’t diary it, you won’t prioritize it.
4. Can’t, Won’t, Don’t, Try
We concentrate on the negative to keep us safe. Known as negative bias, it’s been a winning way for us humans since we first evolved to stand up and build a campfire. The issue is that our brains can trick us into believing what they say.
As you start to focus on the phrases you use and their impact, look out for these 4 words:
These words take up too much of your brain and stop you from breaking down the self-imposed barriers. In my new book, Taking control of your mind: Life hacks to resilience, confidence, and success, I look at the 6 archetypes that we fit into when it comes to hidden fear.
We all have fears, from billionaires to students, from CEO’s to happy, healthy individuals living life to the fullest. The archetype disbeliever has a habit of hearing and accepting every word in their head—good or bad. The good news is that once you start to spot these words, you can change your results.
Can you only “try“? “Trying” suggests you take a high odds view that it could fail. Change that to something like “I aim to do this, give it focus, and take ownership.”
‘I can’t.” If it’s fly like Icarus, then I’m with you. On the other hand, if it’s telling someone what you think, is it “I can’t,” or is it “I am scared to”?
“I won’t” is a great one. It can be used to power up your chance to beat your limitations and break boundaries or be used to hold those boundaries in place:
- “I won’t let anyone hurt my family” is a powerful “I can overcome anything” mindset.
- “I won’t be able to do that” holds you stuck fast in a way that doesn’t.
Lastly, “should” makes out that everyone and everything else is more important and that’s just the way it is. I’ve never seen this to be true.
Remember, you can’t break all the boundaries. However, even if you’re stuck with certain limitations, that does not stop you from changing your mindset to them.
For instance: “I should do this report because the whole company needs it” takes all your power away. Change it to “I act on this report because the whole company is relying on me.”
Do you see how one is powerless and the other powerful?
I coached a full-time carer who was building a business on the side, working part-time, and felt like everyone had control of their life. Reframing what they should do to what they did and how it made a difference was, without a doubt, life-changing. They went from seeing themselves as a victim to a superhero.
5. Seriously, Get Out!
Self-imposed limitations don’t like to go quietly. They are reinforced with outdated incorrect “facts” gleaned from the internet or friends. Trying to break through limitations and boundaries means you must be mindful of who you hang out with, both in your head, online, and in the real world. The right people will help remove the limitations, too.
6. Plan With Confidence
To break these limitations and boundaries, create an action plan, decide who will keep you accountable, and monitor self-belief and confidence. Don’t do the “Go for it and you will fly” mindset. Unless you’ve got ears like Dumbo or magic like Peter Pan, no amount of positive thinking is going to make you fly—okay, if you really want it, you’ll find a way to get your hands on a James Bond jet pack!
Build yourself first before you break down your limitations.
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” —J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Contrary to what many experts will tell you, I’m not a huge fan of personality testing. If you love them, be mindful that you’re agreeing to be boxed up. You may have tendencies and natural ways of behaving, thinking, and reacting. However, that doesn’t define what you can be.
Holding onto a formula, for instance, that says “People like me don’t sit on the board of directors” restricts the ability to power up your mind and break boundaries.
A powerful time I saw was when a client said, “it’s impossible to earn more money in a pandemic!” Within 5 months, breaking that limitation means that person has made 500% more money and is likely to double that again. That’s the power of your mind.
It’s not easy to break boundaries and limitations, especially if you are not mentally prepared. You can start with these 7 tips to break your self-imposed limits to help you achieve your goals and live your life to the fullest.
Remember: if you believe it to be true, it is. So, choose carefully what you choose to think.