Do you have big dreams? Big goals? Do you want to find your limits? Even push yourself beyond them?
People who want to accomplish their biggest goals need to find their limits and go beyond them. The limits of what you think you can accomplish are a comfortable, secure place where growth is hard. Why is growth hard in comfort? Because discomfort provides motivation to fuel the fires that keep you working toward something bigger.
Furthermore, many people have self-imposed limits resulting from their own beliefs rather than a reflection of their reality. That’s why, when you wan to push yourself harder than you ever have before, you need to start with…
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1. Dismantle your limiting beliefs.
What are your limits? Are they realistic? Are they something imposed on you by reality? Or is it just something you believe because of what people have told you? And by people, we’re talking about the other people in your life as well as yourself.
What do you tell yourself about what you can and can’t accomplish? Why do you tell yourself these things?
Do other people tell you what you can and can’t achieve? That might be family members or your spouse? Are they supportive or dismissive of your goals?
“I’ll never be able to get my graduate degree.” Why not? Who told you that?
“I can’t get that promotion at work.” Who says? What makes you think you aren’t capable enough?
“I’ll never be able to bench press 3000 pounds.” Yeah, you’re probably right. That’s a pretty reasonable limiting belief since powerlifters can’t even do that.
Examine your limiting beliefs and determine whether they are objective or subjective. An objective belief is backed by facts and data. A subjective belief is about what and how you feel. It’s not reasonable to think you’ll ever be able to bench press 3000 pounds based on the facts and data. It is reasonable to think that you can improve your physical health and increase your ability to lift, though.
2. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals.
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for a common, effective method of goal setting. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This goal-setting method is powerful because it will put you on a forward trajectory and keep you there, so long as you keep setting new goals once you smash your previous ones.
A S.M.A.R.T. goal is:
Specific – I am going to improve my grades by studying an additional hour per day.
Measurable – Did I study or not? If yes, great! If not, then I need to stick to my goal.
Actionable – Am I able to study that extra hour a day? Can I make the time?
Relevant – Will my goal help me improve my grades? Studying more is certainly relevant.
Time-bound – When am I starting to study more? How long am I studying more?
S.M.A.R.T. is a simple framework that is excellent for accomplishing the goals that will take you to your limits and beyond. So when you meet your goal, look for the next one, and keep going!
3. Work on your goals a little each day.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. So unless you’re fabulously wealthy with infinite resources, chances are pretty good that you’re going to need to build your empire brick by brick. That takes time and regular effort if you want to reach the peak of your capabilities.
One good way to do that is to adopt the approach of “No Zero Days.” That is, there is not a day that you don’t work on your big goals, at least a little bit. It doesn’t have to be anything major! It can be fifteen minutes dedicated to doing one small thing that will get you closer to that big thing that you want to accomplish.
The key word in this statement is “work.” It’s great to gain knowledge by reading, listening, or watching content that will help you push yourself to the limit. However, you must keep in mind that all of that knowledge is completely useless if you never use it.
You need to do the work. You need to implement what you learn. So get out and exercise, study, or learn new interview skills, apply for that new job, or whatever it is you’re aching to do. Go do it! A little bit every day; as little as fifteen minutes.
4. Look for bigger challenges.
You’re on your way now. You’re setting S.M.A.R.T. goals and knocking them down. Every day you’re doing a little bit more work to get yourself to those big goals that you want to accomplish. But, the more you accomplish, the closer you get yourself to the edge of your limits. So, what do you do next?
You look for the next big challenge on the horizon! You look at everything you’ve been building on in your life and see how you can push it further. What is the next big thing you can look for? Maybe it’s competition? Or getting a better-paying job? Or being able to afford a long vacation?
Look for the goals that excite and even scare you a little. That tug of fear or intimidation means you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. And once you get comfortable with that tug of fear, you’ll be able to take yourself further than you may ever imagine.
5. Find your motivation.
Why do you want to push yourself to the limit? That’s a question you’ll need to answer if you stand a chance of achieving it.
Without the relevant motivation to do something – and in many cases to keep doing something – you won’t get very far in the pursuit of your goals.
Do you want to push yourself physically? Why? What is the driving force behind your desire to run faster for longer, or to lift heavier weights or do more reps? Is it for health reasons? Is it to achieve a more sculpted body? Is it to attract a date? Is it for the mental health benefits and feel-good chemicals?
Are you trying to push yourself in terms of your work or career? Why? What makes you want to put in more hours working or studying? Do you want to reach the top of your field? Is it a highly competitive industry in terms of jobs where you need an edge to secure employment? Is it for the money and the lifestyle that money can give you? Do you want to make a difference in the world?
Knowing your ‘why’ when it comes to aiming high and pushing yourself hard will help you to persevere when you might otherwise have stopped.
6. Embrace the unknown.
The uncomfortable fear of the unknown keeps so many people from achieving their dreams. They start getting uncomfortable, may not believe in themselves as they should, and retreat back to their place of comfort.
You cannot do that if you want to push beyond your limits. You must be courageous, embrace the unknown, and boldly stride forward. You must remind yourself that you are intelligent, capable, and can overcome the obstacles that lay in front of you.
And even if you do reach an obstacle that you can’t overcome – you have the internet! Surely, someone somewhere has faced a similar obstacle as you! There is an answer out there somewhere. Look to learn from the experiences of others to navigate the waters you’re unfamiliar with.
7. Supplement your weaknesses.
No one can be good at everything. It would be a very boring world if they could. Understanding your weaknesses will help you find your limits and push your boundaries because you can develop strategies to supplement them.
Let’s say you’re a very busy person. You have work and studies going on. It’s a lot to deal with, and you often find yourself being spread thin. In that case, you may be using your time ineffectively to keep up with everything else you want to do in your life. For example, perhaps you want to work on your physical health, but you just can’t seem to find the time. Learning time management skills and scheduling out how you spend your days can help you reach that next level.
Or maybe you want to get into college, but you have a hard time studying traditionally. Maybe you can hire a tutor or find additional tutorials online that can help you learn things more effectively.
There is no shame in having or acknowledging your weaknesses. On the contrary, acknowledging your weaknesses so you can find ways to supplement them is one of the strongest things you can do.
8. Find a mentor or coach.
A mentor can be a valuable asset in finding your limits and pushing past them. The biggest problem with limiting beliefs is that they are often self-imposed. One way to get around those self-imposed limitations is to hire a coach or find a mentor that can help push you past them.
It’s good to have someone who is outside of your head to help you analyze your goals, find strategies you may not know about, and provide some cheerleading when you find yourself faltering.
An experienced person who serves as a guide can help you avoid obstacles, find solutions to problems you may not be aware of, and make better decisions on your path to success. Most trails have already been blazed, at least partially. You have your own path, but plenty of people have walked similar paths in their lives. There’s no reason you can’t learn from those people and use it as a springboard to take yourself to the next level.
It’s easier than you think to find a mentor or coach. If your goals are fitness related, you might want to consider connecting with a personal trainer in your area – fill out this form to get quotes from trainers in your area.
If you just want to push yourself harder in general, a life coach can be a great idea – use this form to find one in your area, or one who can work with you over video chat.
9. Do the work.
Do the work. All the hoping, dreaming, planning, researching, and analysis means nothing if you don’t actually invest the blood, sweat, and tears required for success. You have to do the work.
The more you focus on the work that needs to be done, the less room you leave for self-doubt to undermine your progress. When you’re doing the work, you actually meet the challenges you’ll face and find solutions to them to let you progress. Reading and planning can help you get started, but you can’t plan for every eventuality.
And furthermore, it’s not good to spend too much time trying to plan for every eventuality. What if you spend the next six months researching and the problem that comes up is something you never considered? What was the point then? Right, there wasn’t one.
Research and prepare, by all means. But don’t lock yourself into months or years of analysis paralysis as you wait for the perfect time to strike. There’s no such thing as a perfect time. You probably won’t be comfortable if you’re reaching and pushing your boundaries.
And if you do feel comfortable, your goals probably aren’t big enough.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Where are my limits?
Your limits are almost certainly farther than you think they are. Whether it’s physical exertion or mental stamina, you can push yourself harder than you might imagine.
This is partly because modern life is – for many, at least – easy. Easier than for previous generations. This easy life doesn’t encourage us to find out where our limits are. We don’t have to.
An easy way to find your limits is to try to make little improvements on your prior performance on a regular basis.
Did you run 5km in 35 minutes today? Try to get this down to 34 minutes by the end of the week. Then to 33 minutes, and so on. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you cannot improve any further. This is your limit.
Maybe you make products for a living. Try to make one more than the previous day. Keep doing this and you’ll discover the maximum number you can realistically make in a day.
Should you achieve some impressive feat of strength or speed or endurance, use that as your new benchmark, not only for related goals, but to everything. Did you hike a mountain by walking for 17 hours straight? Did every muscle in your body ache for days afterwards? Did your feet literally bleed? Then the next time you need to push yourself hard, you can say, “Sure, this is going to be hard, but it’s not going to be ‘mountain hard,’ so I can definitely do it.”
When you know that you have pushed yourself harder than you could have imagined, subsequent trials will seem easy.
Finding your limits in terms of achievement is largely to do with overcoming the mental limits that you place on yourself. If you keep telling yourself that you can only do X, then that’s all you’ll be able to do. Instead, if you recognize that your actual limits may be well beyond what you assume you can achieve, you’ll push yourself until you reach those higher levels of performance.
One of the keys is to not accept ‘good enough’ as being good enough. If you want to stretch your limits and do more, you can’t get into the mindset of thinking that something is enough if you know you could probably do more, or do it better.
When should I respect my limits?
You may want to keep pushing your limits farther and farther, but you do have to know when to respect your limits or even cut back a bit.
In terms of physical limits, you should be aware of how your body responds to the amount you push it. If you keep getting little injuries after a period of physical exertion, your sustained limit might be lower than your one-time limit.
For example, you might be able to get your 5km time down to 25 minutes, but do you get shin splints that then prevent you from running for days or weeks? Then pace yourself to finish your runs in a couple of minutes over this limit. This means you will still need to push fairly hard, but you won’t hurt yourself in the process.
When it comes to mental limits, if, for example, you find that working on your new business for 15 hours a day, 6 days a week means you can’t sleep at night (even though you’re exhausted), you feel anxious, and you don’t enjoy your work anymore, it’s a sign that you’re burnt out and need to scale back your working hours.
Always be on the lookout for the signs that your body and mind are giving you that show where your limits are in terms of prolonged effort.
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