This post is meant to be a subtle reminder that self-limiting statements are simply rubbish. Let me explain how “the world is your oyster” through rejecting limitations. Please see the illustration below, let the blue “x” represent us. While the dome around the “x”, represents the limitations that we place on ourselves and allow others to place on us. In this post I’m going to explain what a “limitation” is through examples.
Imagine a world without this dome, then visualize the number of opportunities (represented by the white space) that lie before you, personal or as a business owner (this is unbelievably effective to keep in mind for sales calls/meetings). The good news is that this dome is formed of merely: ideas, thoughts, opinions, and perspectives – all of these can be altered. We intentionally keep this barrier around us to protect us from real and imagined or perceived threats. The goal should not to remove the dome, but to be aware of it to be able to weigh the actual risks from the fear of discomfort, change, the unknown, or fear itself. Rejecting limiting beliefs and tackling new challenges bring new outcomes and perspectives, seemingly increasing the world’s opportunities. Allow me to elaborate with four personal stories as examples. Please read through them and reflect on how this dome affects your decisions and actions. Please share via e-mail, I would love to hear your stories.
Example #1: Last summer a dear friend decided she would celebrate her birthday by signing a death waiver, strapping on a parachute, and jumping out of a plane. And, she asked her friends to join her. Just excellent. Before I knew it, I was just waiting around on a plane, waiting for it to reach the right altitude. We waited until we could release the plane door, be sucked-out into the atmosphere, pierce holes through the clouds to be able to touch the ground again. Ah, earth beneath my feet – that’s the way it should be!
So, was it really that bad? Not really, I would do it again. Jumping out of the plane does not feel frightening because my mind just couldn’t process what was happening – how often do we jump out of moving vehicles, particularly those 12,000 ft in the air? My mind just couldn’t register what was about to happen. However, prior to the jump I was uncomfortable, apprehensive, OK, and petrified. Hey, the anticipation of facing the unknown and the idea of conquering this daring adventure was a little unnerving. I also questioned my sanity: “What the heck is wrong with me… Why do I need to jump out of plane, again?!!!!!!!!”
Why was I scared? I was about to break out of the dome. The ideas, thoughts, opinions, and perspectives were scary. I kept repeating to myself and others, “I’m not the type of person who goes skydiving, I prefer calming and soothing activities, like yoga… I’m terrified of heights, I’d never be able to accomplish this, etc..” And I began to believe all of it. In reality, I actually knew very little about skydiving, but somehow I had already decided that it wasn’t for me. It was only something I had seen on TV, but never paid much attention to. So, let’s try to breakdown the fear:
The idea of jumping out of a plane- imagine it in your head? Humans don’t have wings (unless you drink Redbull). The visual of jumping out of a moving vehicle, from 12,000ft in the sky is scary because we’re supposed to feel earth beneath our feet. Because it is so scary-looking, the thoughts that run through my head are ones that validate the idea that this could kill me. Then, a friend asked me, “Esha, what if a bird pops your parachute? This is not for you!” My friends know exactly what to say to comfort me. Now, their opinions were based on their thoughts and ideas of skydiving because they had never actually done it themselves. They were perspectives.
I was terrified, but who wouldn’t be? As I drove to work that day, my eyes became a little moist as I said drove past a park where I played in my childhood – “I may never come back!” I thought. (This experience brought out a more sentimental and perhaps dramatic side in me)
It wasn’t easy to get myself on the plane, but once I was there, there was no turning back.
I did it! You know, it was actually not that bad at all. I felt glad that I kept my commitment and followed through by rejecting the limitations.
The world now looked like this, I had given myself a little more space to explore:
Example #2: A few months later, as I walked into the gates of an amusement park with friends, voices in my mind repeated, “I hate rollercoasters. Rollercoasters are scary and dangerous. Stay away from the rollercoasters.” I’d heard many stories of accidents – belts failing, old equipment giving up, etc. My friends said to me, “Esha, if you can jump out of a plane, this should be easy, no?” So, I joined them and waited in line, for all three of the rollercoasters there. And, I survived them all.
Now, my world looked like this:
Example #3: For years and years, I was told that India was not a safe place to travel alone, especially for females and, that the food would make me ill. I really wanted to go; however, these images became fears in my mind – “I can’t go to India because I will become ill and possibly be kidnapped. I’m not the type of person who takes risks like this. I am content traveling somewhere more safe.”
Recently, I met someone sporting a bright-coloured suit and top hat at an event. In a more conservative city like Ottawa, he really stood out, I had to get to know him. Turns-out he was visiting from San Francisco. We immediately connected – his appreciation for creativity and doing things differently was obvious. We exchanged experiences, knowledge, and stories including this study he shared with me: A divider was placed in a fish tank, giving the fish access to only half of the tank. The fish would swim within the area that was available to it. After some time, the divider was removed. However, the fish remained in the same half of the tank that it was used to. It never crossed to the area where the divider once stood.
Upon an inspiring exchange of ideas and thoughts over tea with this extraordinary character, I went back to my office and booked my flight to India. I departed in two weeks and returned alive, although with serious food poisoning I would be OK soon and my life had forever changed. India was absolutely magical – the people, the history, the art, the vibrant colours, and architecture – breath-taking.
My world now looked like this:
Example #4: About a year ago, I was preparing to celebrate my third-anniversary working at a large company, the job I had started after university. For my age, I had become very “successful” as many old schoolmates, friends, professors, parents, and other family members would say. But, why didn’t I feel “successful”?
After school, I started applying for jobs because that’s what most people do after school. Originally, I only chose to study business to be better equipped to start my own business. I let myself forget that based on what I was seeing around me. The idea of applying for jobs and working with a stable income brought me more certainly and ease and it allowed me to “fit in”.
Three years at my job just flew by. As I was telling a special entrepreneurial friend about my upcoming anniversary, instead of congratulating me, he said, “Esha, just quit that stupid job already.” Forward and rude, but exactly what I needed, a reminder that I was letting limiting thoughts make my decisions, thoughts such as, “I am not as open to risk as I thought, I’m just not brave enough.” or “I have failed as a business owner before, I will fail again.” I finally quit my job (no 3-year anniversary cake for me) and this is what happened to the dome after I realized that my lungs would still have access to oxygen after I made this decision:
We create a dome around us and allow others to ensure we keep it snug and air-tight. It acts as a barrier, blocking-off threats but also opportunities that may offer developments and improvements. These limitations are set based on excuses that we create to avoid discomfort that may challenge us. Of course challenges are not easy, people who encourage you to push yourself further are a key ingredient – I am thankful for the people who have been there to give me a little push when I needed it.
As we face new challenges, the domes around us continue to grow, allowing us to experience new things; however, the white space around it also seems to grow – how far do you want to go?
On a separate note, the next time I see you, remind me to tell you about the bandages on my hands in this picture:
Esha Abrol © September 2013