Are we hardwired to automatically place limits on ourselves? We set limits on our earning potential, on how much we can accomplish in life. We are either too young or too old, have too much or too little education and the reasons go on and on about why we cannot do something. Many of us suffer from excusitis. And, I was no different until I started to pay close attention to the stories I tell myself about why I did not honor commitments to myself.
Setting limits on ourselves is a self-fulfilling prophecy because we get exactly what we expect. And, setting limits is nothing new, and have been around for a long time. Take the popular story Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, in recent versions of the story there are only three wishes granted, but in the original story of Aladdin, which is a Middle-Eastern folk tale (found in Arabian Nights: One Thousand and One Nights), there were no limitations on the number of wishes granted. Whose great idea was it to limit the number of wishes granted to three? And why three?
And, the popularity of the timeless poem My Wage by Jessie Rittenhouse shows that its words resonate with most of us. The poem is a classic example of how we limit ourselves.
By Jessie B. Rittenhouse (1869 – 1948)
I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store;
For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.
I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have paid.
A common story that I would tell myself is that I am tired and it is late so I cannot perform a critical task. But when I reframe the story and instead tell myself, yes it is late but the task is important, I find that I get a sudden burst of energy and I am able to perform the task. As soon as I remove the self-imposed limit on how much I can do, my productivity soars and I also accomplish so much more in any given day.
Think about it for a second, in what ways do you impose limits on what you can accomplish in life? How much more could you achieve in life if you removed the self-imposed barriers that you construct, and shut down that little voice that loves to offer advice? The truth is that we can do and be much more than we tell ourselves.
So the next time when you perceive barriers that prevent you from going where you need to go, pause and evaluate the situation to determine if the barrier is a true one, or one you imposed on yourself. You will be surprised at how many of the barriers are self-imposed and can be easily removed. Do not be like the person in the poem who bargains with life for only a penny. You are worth so much more, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Avil Beckford, Chief Invisible Mentor, writer and researcher with over 15 years of experience, is the published author of Tales of People Who Get It and its companion workbook Journey to Getting It. Subscribe to the Invisible Mentor Blog for great interviews of successful people, book reviews, how-tos, articles and tips to mentor yourself and ignite your hidden genius. Explore the Resources page for free white papers, presentations and an e-book.