“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”
~Thomas Alva Edison~
Most of us can accomplish much more than we think we can. Unfortunately, very few of us test the limits of our capabilities due to unsubstantiated restrictive beliefs. The truth is that there is no grand rule book with published lists of what each of us can or cannot accomplish. Therefore, many of the limits that we perceive are self-created.
For illustration, I would like to present 3 examples that can help you to visualize the concept of mental restriction.
The Chained Elephant
For some, self-limitation is the legacy of a restricted upbringing. In other words, limitations were instilled within them as children and have now become an ingrained way of thinking. It is like the parable of the chained elephant.
As the story goes, an elephant can be conditioned to accept restraint from a very early age. The key is to initiate limits when he is very young by placing a chain around his leg, which is then attached to a stake. As he struggles to free himself, he quickly realizes that he does not have the strength to overcome the chain. Once the elephant becomes an adult, even if the chain is removed and replaced by a mere rope, the elephant will not attempt to escape because it continues to believe that it cannot break free. It is obvious that the elephant could, at anytime, uproot the stake or break away from the rope but it never occurs to the elephant to re-test its adult strength.
Like the captive elephant, humans can become bound by blindly adopted thoughts and beliefs passed on by others, and by limitations that no longer apply.
Trapped Inside of “The Box”
Another way we limit ourselves is by thinking within limited parameters. We often approach problem-solving using the same thinking that has been “boxed” and labeled as “the way of doing things.” The problem is that we become limited to the ideas that are provided within the box.
Albert Einstein was one of the most innovative thinkers of all time. What made him unique was his unwillingness to be confined by outdated modes of thinking. While his contemporaries continued to use the old Newtonian theory (which confined their perspectives) to answer modern questions, Einstein’s ability to think outside of accepted parameters allowed him to expand his perspective, ultimately leading to a giant leap toward the theory of relativity.
We’ve all heard the saying, “think outside of the box.” When it comes to designing our lives, the box represents a limited perspective. Un-limiting ourselves frees us from the box of conventional thinking. It engages our creativity and ingenuity which then allows us to customize unique solutions for our unique problems. Always remember: doing things the way they’ve always been done limits us to the same outcomes that have always occurred.
As Free As a Bird
Now, I would like you to shift your thinking from confinement and limitation. Instead, visualize a bird flying in the sky. Focus on its freedom of movement. Now, draw a mental circle around it, placing the bird in the very center. Next, mark a point on the outer edge of the circle. Now mark another point. Then, another . . . and another. Pretty soon, you will realize that there are infinite points on the circumference of the circle. The circle represents the 360 degrees of options for the direction in which the bird could fly. Even if the bird does not recognize this breadth of possibilities, it doesn’t negate the fact that these possibilities exist.
If you are able to visualize your life in this way, then you will realize that your options are literally limitless, even if you cannot see all of the possibilities. Our lives are so dynamic – continuously unfolding – that there really is no reason to believe that you don’t have options for the way you live your life. Or that you only have two options . . . or three.
There is a paradox in the fact that we can accomplish more than we think we can; it is unfortunate, yet fortunate. It is unfortunate because we often limit our own potential (and miss opportunities) due to the beliefs we adopt. However, fortune lies within the possibility of overcoming the limits in our thinking and achieving much more than we ever thought we could. Un-limiting ourselves is about freeing our minds from the unsubstantiated, self-imposed limitations that keep us from venturing beyond what we know (i.e., our comfort zones) and recognizing that many possibilities exist beyond the ones we can see.
The key thing to understand is that nothing is written in stone regarding the options we have for our lives. Un-limiting ourselves simply means accepting that we CAN, which then primes our thinking for the next step of figuring out HOW.
- Which do you recognize in your own thinking – the elephant, box, or bird?
- How often do you search “outside the box” for life-design solutions?