Brock Shinen
Digital Transformation Consultant

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5 Ways to Defy Your Limits as a Business Leader

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I was a cross-country runner in high school and college. A fast one, in fact. I had a running scholarship and was typically between 5% - 8% body fat throughout the year. I achieved a PR almost every time I raced, and my ability to improve seemed limitless.

Then I graduated from college and got a full-time job. I also started graduate school later that year, and decided to “muscle up.” Work, school, weights, repeat – it became my daily routine. Before I knew it, I had put on 40 pounds and along with my physical changes, I began seeing life quite differently.

Fast-forward to adulthood, skimming through a couple of decades, those days of running on air seem so long ago. In my 20’s, it was trying to break a 5-minute mile. In my early 40’s, it became about trying to break an 8-minute mile. 

The limits always seemed to exist, but the realities have somewhat changed over time. More importantly, the concept of limits is much more visible to me now and in more ways than just running.

THE REALITY OF LIMITS

We are all faced with limits – both real and perceived. It’s nearly impossible to progress through life without encountering walls and barriers. However, there are a handful of ways to not merely overcome your limits, but to literally transcend and defy them. This is true relative to our physical health, as well as our business realities. 

Here are five rules I’ve implemented in my life to defy limits on a consistent basis.

Rule #1: Separate your actual limits from your perceived ones

Your inability to run a two-minute mile is most certainly “actual” – human beings are not capable of that level of unassisted speed. Your inability to get in shape, eat healthy, or read more, however, is perceived. The only real limit is in your own head. 

In many circumstances, our perceptions form our reality. When we believe we have limits that are insurmountable, we develop an actual state of limited functionality. 

In order to defy your limits, you must first determine which limits exist merely in your head, and which exist in an objective, evidenced-based reality outside. 

Speed, endurance, and the limits of survival have all been tested and retested from the beginning. The average high school cross-country runner living today may have beaten the Olympic gold medalist 50 years ago. The pursuit of “faster” is what made that possible. 

If you are facing a limit in your life, ask yourself how that limit is defined. Is it because of the law of gravity or the distributive law of mathematics? If not, question whether you’ve placed that limit on yourself because of some perceived barrier. Actual limits must be removed or avoided; perceived limits can be defied.

Rule #2: Recognize that limits are often tied to other life factors

For well over four years, I tried to break the 8-minute mile as an adult. I sometimes ran up to 10 miles in a single day, giving everything in me, but couldn’t break the barrier. Then I lost 20 pounds by adopting a healthier approach to eating and miraculously broke an 8-minute mile without doing anything else differently. It was the added weight that was keeping me from increasing my pace, not a limit in my ability.

Oftentimes you can’t overcome a limit because outside factors are preventing you from doing so. In my case, it was 20 extra pounds of weight. In your situation, it may be an overbearing employer, your proximity to the donut shop, or depression. 

Every time you see a barrier in front of you, evaluate all the forces working to keep that limit in place. Your ability to defy the barrier will depend on your ability to address all the factors maintaining it. Start making notes right now about what you see!

Rule #3: Understand that limits may adjust (or cease to exist) over time

Our collective understanding of human limitations has naturally changed over time. Some of this is a result of research and science, and other reasons include the natural progression of mankind. 

If you are unable to achieve something today, it does not mean you will not be able to achieve it tomorrow. Because limits are typically formed from a complex web of circumstances, psychological forces, and objectives, the minute one component changes, the limit itself is altered. 

This is why Einstein’s opinion on insanity is not always true: sometimes doing the same thing every time will result in a different outcome. Run five miles every day and you will get in better shape. Read ten minutes every day and you will improve your vocabulary. 

Rule #4: Defying limits is usually a solo adventure

Steve Jobs once said, “the people crazy enough to believe they can change the world are the ones who actually do it.” The clear majority of people, however, do not believe they can change even their own circumstances. 

When it comes to defying limits, it’s critical to realize that you may have to go it alone, because the uncharted territory is almost always charted by people who didn’t agree with the masses.

Rule #5: Believe that you can defy your limits

The research is there, if it’s important to confirm what you should already know to be true  – your beliefs about yourself impact your ability to achieve. 

If you believe you can defy a limit, you are more likely to do so. Conversely, the more you feed the negativity associated with failing to overcome your limits, the more likely you will constantly struggle to test your own limits.

Bonus Rule #6: Don’t Fake it ‘til you make it; repeat your future until it becomes reality

Many of us grew up hearing that if you wanted to be something significant, you should “fake it until you make it.” No, that’s actually bad advice. When you fake overcoming limits, you never truly take the time to face or overcome them.

Instead, repeat that you “can” and “will” overcome your limits. In doing so, you are reinforcing your mind’s ability to overcome by telling it that you will overcome your limits. In time, and with other actions towards that outcome, you will overcome your limits! 

IT’S UP TO YOU

Your future is dependent not on someone or something else- it is dependent on you. Start with asking yourself: “Am I limited?” If the answer is “yes,” determine if the limits are changeable, uncontrollable, removable, or perceived. That will get you moving in the right direction.

Don’t let someone else tell you that you can or cannot do something. If you want to defy your limits and live a life that is virtually unstoppable, implement these five rules and see the world as your playground.