In my first year of high school, my counselor called me into the office for a meeting to help me plan my curriculum. He suggested that I drop a world history class and take a speech and debate course instead. I wasn't interested in public speaking, but somehow he convinced me that I should try it. Reluctantly, I did.
At first, I questioned whether I had made the right choice. I believed I would never be good at public communication and was sure I made a mistake by taking the class. But then the unexpected happened. The more I practiced and participated in debate tournaments, the more I enjoyed it and the better I got at speaking. That communication skill has served me well through different phases of my life.
Reflecting on my journey that started with that high school counselor's suggestion, I realize how often we put limitations on ourselves. Often restrictions don't originate from us, but are the beliefs of other people who say, “You can’t do that.” Whenever someone says you can't do something, it's usually their projected belief that they can't do it, and they are putting limitations on you to protect themselves from an anticipated disappointment of failure. We then, in turn, internalize their limitations and place them on ourselves.
We must ask ourselves, "What limitations are put on me and my potential? How do I break through those limitations?”
Here are three practices you can apply in your life to shatter your self-imposed limitations:
Practice 1: Embrace Discomfort and Take Risks
Often, we avoid stepping outside our comfort zones because we fear failure or judgment from others. However, in those uncomfortable moments, we have the most significant opportunity for growth. By embracing discomfort and taking risks, we open ourselves to new possibilities and expand our perceived limitations. Growth rarely happens within the confines of our comfort zones.
Practice 2: Challenge Limiting Beliefs
Often, we internalize the doubts and criticisms of others, which can prevent us from fully realizing our potential. We challenge limiting beliefs by questioning their validity. Challenging self-limiting beliefs is crucial for breaking free from the constraints we place upon ourselves. We take small, calculated steps toward our goals, and with each achievement, our confidence grows. Over time, our self-imposed limitations begin to crumble.
Practice 3: Cultivate a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset believes through dedication, effort, and continuous learning, we can develop the ability to be successful. I recall supporting a young woman who wanted to be a long-distance truck driver. She didn’t know any other young women who worked in that field and had people around her who told her she could not do that work.
At first, she accepted these other folks' limitations. Initially, this fixed mindset held her back from even attempting to learn. However, it dawned on her that she could learn and be a great long-haul driver, and she decided to just start getting the training and licensing she needed to pursue her vision. Through perseverance and dedication, she gradually completed all the steps necessary to become that skilled truck driver she thought was beyond her capabilities.
Our abilities are not set in stone, but we can develop them with effort and a willingness to learn. By cultivating a growth mindset, we can break free from self-imposed limitations and tap into our untapped potential. So, ask yourself: “What limitations have others placed upon me? How have I limited myself?” Break through those limitations and unlock your true potential. Take the first step today by embracing discomfort, challenging negative self-talk, and cultivating a growth mindset.
Peace and Blessings,