Getting Out of Your Own Way

By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.” Richard Bach

What’s standing between you and your dreams? Your self imposed limitations.

Wisdom abounds on this topic. “There are no limitations to the mind,”wrote Napoleon Hill, “except those we acknowledge.” Les Brown said, “Life has no limitations, except the ones you make.” And Gerald Jampolski nails it when he notes that, “A truly creative person rids him or herself of all self-imposed limitations.”

Why do some people seem to plow through every obstacle, while others see the first bump in the road as “a sign that I should take a different path”?

The answer, of course is Fear.

Somewhere along the line, someone or something gave you the idea that you:

  • Were not good enough to learn how to do something.
  • Could not possibly achieve a dream.
  • Had to follow a specific path for a desired outcome (usually their outcome, not yours).

When challenges arise, the voices kick in. And we back off.

Who’s voice is saying these things to you? Sometimes it’s a parent or a trusted friend who unintentionally burned the notion into your brain. It could have been a painful experience or an embarrassing situation. It’s rarely the product of rational thought.

Many years ago, a friend told me how he witnessed a neighbor girl trying to learn how to ride a two wheel bike. When she would inevitably wipe out, her older brother would say, “You’ll never learn how to do that. You might as well give up.” Young minds quickly form assumptions even if it’s an incorrect assumption. So my friend decided to intervene.

He waited until the older brother had left the scene and told the girl, “I think you can do this.”

“I’ll never be able to do it,” was her answer.

“I believe in you,” he said, “and we’ll work together until you are riding that bike.”

After about a half an hour of tentative and uncertain practice, the youngster learned how. At first, it was that wobbly, twisting and turning vision we all remember from our first real ride on a grown-up bicycle. But as her confidence grew, so did her skill. My friend’s final memory of the event was her riding past an incredulous big brother, sticking her tongue out and saying, “See? I CAN ride a bike!”

What are your voices telling you?

“You’re not working hard enough.”
“You are not a success without…. an advanced degree, a certification, a specific job title, a certain income, following conventional wisdom.”
“Dreams are things that come true for other people and not for you.”

Do any of these sound familiar?

History teaches us again and again that we have the ability to surpass ourselves if we can over come F.E.A.R, False Evidence Appearing Real.

Harry Houdini made this discovery when he was placed in an impregnable jail cell in London. After all of the secret tools he had smuggled in with him failed to pick the lock, he fell, exhausted, against the door. And it opened. It had been unlocked all along. The obstacle he had imagined wasn’t ever really there.

Over time, people wrap their fears in self destructive behaviors, substance abuse and sometimes even over achievement. Some get so good at doing this that they no longer remember what started it all in the first place.

What paradigms are creating the walls of your jail cell? What are your self imposed limitations?

Here are what excellence guru, Jim Rohn considers our top 3 self imposed limitations:

1) Procrastination – We naturally tend to put off things we don’t enjoy doing. The road to success is paved with hard work and inconvenience. “Successful people“, the great sales trainer Tom Hopkins once told me, “do what un-successful people are unwilling to do.”

2) Blame – All of us have blamed someone or something for standing in the way of what we want to accomplish. Taking personal responsibility for your current situation and for the activities needed to change it is one of the most powerful things you’ll ever do.

3) Excuses – “Rationalization,” wrote Ayn Rand, “is a process of not perceiving reality, but of attempting to make reality fit one’s emotions.” Jordan Belfort, who has had his own spectacular ups and downs on Wall Street put’s it more succinctly. “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”

How do we overcome fear and the self imposed limitations that come with it?

Michael J. Formica, writing for Psychology Today, says it’s all about an honest self assessment. “Creating connection to ourselves, questioning our expectations, ideas and assumptions and exploring our perceptions, takes us out of the culture of victimhood and brings us closer to a state of conscious awareness.”

This week, try this short exercise: Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the center of it. On the left, make a list of your big hairy audacious goals. On the right, make a list of what you think is stopping you from achieving them. Test that second list against the self imposed limitations we have been discussing. You may find it enlightening.

We are all capable of doing good things, of achieving excellence, of seeking and finding happiness. If we honestly assess the things that stand between us and our dreams, we may well find that all we really need to do is get out of our own way.