The Importance of Going Beyond What We Think We’re Capable Of

mocha moments

You have to push… – young Japanese woman encouraging my friend’s daughter to stretch herself.

Simple yet powerful words…words of encouragement…wise words that remind us that only when we put effort in, do we really begin to get the results we want in our lives.

“You have to push…” My friend repeats these words often to me, during our regular morning telephone chats. Whether we’re talking about exercise, or about the event I’m planning for June 2015, or about taking time for self, she responds with “you have to push”.

We laugh. She says it often. But we both know that if we don’t push we’re not going to get those results we say we want.

How often do we know for sure what we’re truly capable of? Our imaginations run wild with reasons why we can’t, it’s too hard, I won’t do “that” – but have we really tried? Do we know for sure?

There is a verse in Proverbs 26:13 that always gets my attention: “The lazy man says, “There is a lion in the road! A fierce lion is in the streets!” This is our imagination at work. We don’t want to explore… experiment and perhaps fail, so we come up with reasons including ferocious animals that may be out there somewhere waiting to get us!

I started to tell myself that I wouldn’t have enough time to write this article. I have a flight to catch in an hour and a half. How often do you say that you don’t have enough time? Is it time you need more of, or grit?

In an Inc Magazine article by Jessica Stillman called “Never Say I Don’t Have Time Again”, she says “Your busyness is often unstucklargely in your head and down to inefficient time use or lack of clarity about your priorities and your actual schedule.”

How can you get real? Author Laura Vanderkam offers this simple but radical change that will force you to stop sleepwalking through “busy” days and make more conscious choices about how you’re using your hours:

Change your language. Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a CHOICE. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.

Often before even trying something we say things to ourselves that simply aren’t true. “I’d never be able to speak in public.” “I know that if I lose my job I’m going to have a nervous breakdown.” “If I don’t get this promotion my entire world is going to collapse” “I simply don’t know if I’ll be able to move on with my life if something happens to him/her.” None of these things are sure to happen but we obsess about them way before time – AND let them keep us back from taking action in the present moment.

Og Mandino offers these questions to contemplate: “Why should I throw now after maybe?  Can tomorrow’s sand flow through the glass before today’s? Will the sun rise twice this morning? Can I perform tomorrow’s deeds while standing in today’s path? Can I place tomorrow’s gold in today’s purse? Should I concern myself over events which I may NEVER witness? Should I torment myself with problems that may NEVER come to pass?”

If you truly want to know what you are capable of, you need to PUSH beyond your comfort zone. But first you need to know and understand your circle of competence. Warren Buffett says “There’s a whole bunch of things I don’t know a thing about. I just stay away from those. I stay within what I call my circle of competence.”

Here’s a simple guide based on Buffet’s own analysis of trying and failing often enough to come up with a strategy that brings him the results he wants:

Ask yourself the following 3 questions.

  1. What are you interested in?
  2. What do you know now?
  3. What would you like to know about and are willing to learn?

In my own interest to lose weight I needed to come up with a strategy that worked for me. I had tons of limitations in my head as to what I was capable of doing. I didn’t think that I could do more than 20 minutes a day. I rationalized that this would be enough. I didn’t want to change how I was eating. I rationalized that I was making “ok” choices. Of course nothing happened.

But then at Christmas time I got a FitBit as a present. Nathan Chandler describes in his article about the FitBit, that “it is a physical activity tracker designed to help you become more active, eat a more well-rounded diet, sleep better and ultimately, turn you into a healthier human being.” It basically records my steps (with a goal of 10,000 steps a day in order to reach my goal weight by May 2015). It didn’t change my life immediately. It’s not magic. I still needed to do the work. But when I started (doing perhaps 7,000 steps per day) I slowly began to feel differently. Day before yesterday I did 20,438 steps! I’m not doing this every day but my point is that before I pushed, I would have said that I’m probably not going to be able to do that many steps in a day! Since I’ve upped my activity levels AND started eating on a smaller plate, I am seeing the results I want – that is – I’m FINALLY losing weight.

I’m of the opinion that we all need to push in our lives. We can’t stay where we are. Contemplate these words by Mark Nepo: “Just how often do we cripple ourselves by not letting love with all its risks teach us how to fly? How many times do our hearts stall because we won’t let the wingspan of our passion open us fully into our gifts? How frequently do we search for a song of guidance that can only come from inside us?

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