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The importance of challenging your limits

Jul 04, 2022

Working it out

I’ve recently joined a gym. My fitness routine had been somewhat lacklustre up until that point and seeing as my health- physically, mentally, and emotionally is high on my priorities, something needed to change. If it didn’t, I was going to feel increasingly frustrated with myself. A friend mentioned she’d joined a local gym and went to the Circuit and HIIT classes and something clicked – this was to be my new regime. I loved doing the Joe Wicks home workouts but having done nine months of them, I was seeking something different, and I had succeeded in my quest.

Taking out a monthly gym membership means not only the classes are available, but a Personal Trainer also worked with my friend and I to put a programme together to set us on track to get the results we want to achieve. I think I had set myself a target but the PT was going to help us smash that… My friend and I go to three classes a week and do the programme workout twice a week. Doing this with a friend means we keep each other accountable. And the thing is, my friend doesn’t have a mobile phone (surprising I know!), so if ever I have a moment of weakness and can’t be bothered or don’t feel like going to a class or workout at the last minute, I can’t drop her a text to let her know- I need to get over myself and just go!

They say every day is a school day and I really am learning a lot about how our muscles respond to different exercises, and the fantastic staff at the gym are brilliant at educating and informing us, as opposed to them looking like buff individuals who could just let us get on with it whilst perhaps we don't quite do things correctly.

The other day, I noticed on the side of one of the pieces of gym equipment, the following:

Escape Your Limits!

What an amazing affirmation! It really is food for thought because do we challenge what we think our limits are?

Realistic vs Stretching

During The Winning Edge course, we ask participants to think of stretching goals. Notice I didn't say realistic. Of course, if you want to walk on water, or go back in time and have dinner with Martin Luther King Jnr, that's unlikely, so yes, realistic in that sense. But what does the R in SMART goals represent? Do high achievers set realistic goals? No, they set achievable but stretching goals. They don’t think about limits, they think about exceeding.

Whoopi Goldberg won the best supporting actress Oscar for Ghost the movie. When she received the award, she very emotionally said she'd dreamt of that moment since she was a 10-year-old. At the time she told her mum of her ambition, only two black people had ever won Oscars. So, could it be said that hers was perceived as a realistic goal at that point?

There are so many examples of people achieving great things that were ‘unrealistic’.

Here’s a question you should never ask yourself before setting a goal: ‘How?’ Never ask how. If you want to know how you will achieve your goal before you set it, your subconscious will go looking in the luggage of your life to see evidence of your ability to achieve it and in the case of Whoopi Goldberg, and countless others throughout history who have, and continue to achieve amazing things, there wasn’t any evidence to say they’d be able to achieve their dream.

Something you need is absolute faith you can do it, absolute faith in yourself and self-belief and if you can’t find that, then pick an easier goal and get over yourself.

Asking the impossible

If you needed to suddenly raise £250k to fund life-saving treatment for someone you know, do you think you have the know-how or the network of people right now? Perhaps not. However, strong belief triggers the mind to find the how. Remember, the how is the journey from here to where you want to be.

You may be familiar with the story of George Dantzig. As a student, he was studying statistics. His lecturer had always put the homework for that week on the board before the lecture. Dantzig arrived late, saw the problems, and noted them down, assuming them to be the homework assignment. According to Dantzig, they "seemed to be a little harder than usual", but a few days later, later than he might normally hand in his homework, he handed in completed solutions for both problems, still believing they were an assignment that was overdue. Six weeks later, his University lecturer- Jerzy Neyman, excitedly told Dantzig that the "homework" he had solved were two of the most famous unsolved problems in statistics. Having arrived late to the lecture, Dantzig had missed hearing Neyman tell students that as he was going away for two weeks, there wouldn’t be any homework but for their education and interest, he’d put two so far, unsolved statistic problems on the board. Over time, the story has almost become an urban myth but is testimony to the power of positive thinking– when you don’t know what’s impossible, you give it a shot and can get amazing results.

Strong belief triggers the mind to find the how– rather than to question if something is possible, believe that it is and your brain will get to work figuring out the how. An open and resourceful mindset will spot the possibilities and the opportunities as they present themselves to you.

So, if you programme your brain with limits, it’s like a self-imposed glass ceiling.

Running up that hill

The brain works by gradations- we can get more out of it than we realise because we never ever quite use it to its potential. We very rarely reach our optimum level in so many facets of our life– physically, mentally and emotionally. But we can make our brain work for us. Imagine you’re out on a run. Let’s say you were running as fast as possible; maybe you were wanting to smash a PB out on a 10k run. You’re almost home and feel worn out, with not much left in the tank. Then you look behind you and find a large dog out loose, just inches from you, and he doesn’t look like he’s a friendly fellow. Do you think you might the find the ability to run just that bit faster? Do you think in that instance, you might just escape your limits?

I know that I’ve gone out on my bike for a long ride, thinking I’ll do about, say, 20 miles, really pushing myself. But I’ve managed to take a couple of wrong turns and wondered how on earth I’ll have the energy to make it home. But of course, I do. Because I want to get home more than I don’t! That’s because the amount of energy at our disposal is in direct proportion to our desire to do what’s coming next.

One participant on a Winning Edge course once gave a great example of this by saying: “I have enough energy to play 36 holes of golf on a Saturday- but if my wife says let’s decorate the kitchen this weekend, then it all disappears pretty quickly!”

We hear of soldiers carrying their comrades to safety, only to find out later that their legs were shot up too. We have incredible depths of energy and ability if we have enough belief and desperately want to.

So, when you think you have limits and wonder whether you can exceed them, the question to ask yourself is: “Is it that I can’t or is it that I don’t want to badly enough?” If you want to do anything, just find a big enough emotional benefit, and you’ll find a way.        

Set yourself some stretching goals because who’s to say what’s possible…

I’ll leave you with the words of Josie Bisset:

“Dreams come a size too big so that we can grow into them.”


Do you find that you set yourself limits? Is there a story you tell about yourself with self-limiting beliefs? How about if you get curious about those beliefs and challenge them, changing the narrative. We can help with that.  

The Mindset Coaching Membership can help you understand the tools and strategies needed to get your mindset in check. With Masterclass Teachings + Coaching + Accountability, we will help you to create the life you want. Find out more here.

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