Does this sound like a trick question? It’s not meant to be. It is a natural human trait to operate within the realms of what we think is possible. Why is this? From a young age we are conditioned to work within our limitations. This generally happens from the best of intentions from our parents, teachers etc who don’t want to see us get hurt, or don’t want to see us fail. We develop a sense of limitations in many areas of our lives and most of us tend to live within them. We do this to stay safe, to have a sense of certainty in the outcome of a given scenario. There are most definitely those out there that are built to challenge any limitation that is thrown at them... these people are generally high achievers. The degree that you are willing to challenge these so called limitations will govern how far you will go in any particular field.
However, our beliefs on what is possible for us will often change when others go before us. Have a think about the following examples of limits which have been blown away. Both are very different, and both have a different story to tell about limitations.
I am sure most people would have heard about the 4 minute mile before. Up until 1954, it was thought that it was impossible for a human being to run the mile distance in under 4 minutes. Roger Bannister was an athlete who set out to challenge this limitation and after many attempts, he finally did it on the 6th of May, 1954. This was a feat which had been attempted for decades and which no-one could achieve, but through his belief and dedication, he challenged it and he finally got it. All his hard work finally paid off. Do you know how long his record stood for? 17 days. John Landy broke it 17 days later. Not only that, but it was broken numerous times in the following few years. Why? All of a sudden the limitation of ‘impossible’ had been removed and it was achievable.
Have you ever heard about George Dantzig? He was a mathematician from the USA, who is the subject of a famous story during his university days. The story goes that Dantzig was late for class one day and saw two mathematical problems written on a blackboard. Assuming these were homework assignments, he wrote them down and set about solving them. According to George these problems were a bit tougher than the usual assignments, but nevertheless he plugged away at them and a few days later he handed the ‘assignments’ back into his professor for assessment.
6 weeks later he was visited from his professor who was very excited to tell him that he had just solved two of the most famous ‘unsolvable’ problems in statistics. In the hundreds of years before him, many had tried but had never been able to solve them. However, he didn’t know these assignments were ‘impossible’. To him they were just homework. He worked it out without any thoughts about limits. He didn’t know that he wasn’t supposed to be able to solve it.
Both of these stories highlight how limitations can and will always be broken. Whether it be through resolve and determination or shear ignorance of your ‘supposed limitations’, when we go in with an expectation that we can succeed, then we eventually will succeed.
Have a think about some of the limits you have imposed on yourself and challenge yourself to exceed them. Challenge your old beliefs.
Have a great one…