Feeling Limited versus Setting Limits

on February 22 | in Individual Improvement | by | with Comments Off on Feeling Limited versus Setting Limits

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There’s only so many hours in a day and there’s only so many responsibilities you can fulfill simultaneously. There’s only so many goals you can reach for while still making any sort of significant progress, only so many people you can be close with, and only so many things you can be highly skilled at. These are all reasonable perspectives on the flash of lightning that is a human life, limits do exist. But that’s just the framework for the game, not the rules by which we play it.

When we set our own limits, we enable ourselves. When we internalize the limits others give us, we disable ourselves. It’s as simple and as difficult as that – it’s not always easy to tell where a cage wall came from.

Feeling Limited

We’re told that happiness lies at the end of a long and arduous trek up a career mountain and that life isn’t worth living without occasionally splurging and decadence. Our friends and family resist changes that seem to move us away, colleagues and clients express urgency that calls for no independent existence, and the community says specific things mean status and esteem. Visions of cage walls are conjured by people in their struggles all about us and it’s supremely easy to internalize those and start feeling limited.

Do you have a sense that you cannot overcome your current situation? Everyone has been there – and everyone will be there again. Here are my personal favorite tactics when I feel this coming down.

Identify Limiting Beliefs
When you can clearly see a thing in your mental landscape, it’s much easier to banish it. Not that it’ll disappear in a puff of smoke – that almost never happens. But, with the foe named, you see him coming every time and can raise your defenses. That doesn’t mean you’ll instantly be free, but it’s how we fight the good fight.

Identify and Confront Energy Drains
When we don’t let go of anger or resentment, we spend a part of every day’s energy maintaining it. Same for anxiety, fear, and simply negativity in general. Seek forgiveness and stillness in yourself, and you’ll have renewed energy to resolve your current difficulties and reach for the stars.

Have Faith
Whatever your spiritual path, simply have faith that everything will work out. I’m a strong advocate of meditation and affirmations, but I also pray for faith. It doesn’t matter if you do these methods or others. In the end, it comes to do this: just relax, it’ll be okay.

A Timeline Visualization
Stop and breathe. Relax and let the tension drain out of yourself. When you’re ready, mentally envision the current month – it’s a partial arc, with all your successes and trials on it as bubbles. When you’ve got it in mind, zoom back and exhale to the current year – it’s still a partial arc, but your successes and trials have become tiny. Zoom back and exhale to your life time as a half circle, and the successes and trials have disappeared into the overall smoothness of your mortal rising and subsiding. See that, at either end of the half circle, there’s a line stretching out – time before your life and time after. Zoom back and exhale to witness the timeline of mankind; your life itself is but a tiny dot. And, again, one last time – zoom back and exhale and see the truth, that all of humanity’s time disappears into the flatness of eternity.

Also, the always-excellent Steven Furtick sermonizes on the interaction of faith and false limitations:

Setting Limits

The thing is, internal cages are good things. When we have rules against specific behavior, we overcome bad habits. They’re also instrumental in overcoming the deeper pain of addictions. When we choose to not do certain things, we conserve energy that we can put toward the important stuff. And when we choose to go our own way despite social impulses to go into another, we define our own sense of morality and claim our destiny. We become fully empowered and stop chasing every shiny object that passes our view through setting limits. In all things, productivity is equally about eliminating unnecessary work and efficiency.

It won’t get better as you progress. The more successful you are, the more people will ask of you. It doesn’t matter how you define success, either – be it spirituality, parenting, wealth, fitness, or being the world’s best bubble-blower (which would be SpongeBob). So, the irony is that the more you can help, the more you will have to say no. Here’s the three areas I most frequently have to set limits on in my life.

Work: Know When It’s Done
Work is the most confining cage – nearly an addiction – among professional people. There’s a reason that “work-life balance” is a frequent topic. In the last couple of years, I’ve realized that work will never be done. Ever. If you’re at all good at what you do, there will be times of plenty and only perhaps time of scarcity. So why grind away your life into one long workday? Instead, set limits on it. When it’s done, it’s done – no checking email, no answering phone calls unless it’s clearly urgent.

It might help to consider your contribution in light of everyone else. Everywhere I’ve ever worked, I feel like a top contributor. Perhaps I’m lying to myself, but with that in mind it’s easy for me to shirk off additional weight when people try to lay it on my shoulders. I digest work deadlines in a different way because of that – I feel full of stress when I’m working and a deadline is on me, but the minute I’m done working it’s behind me… whether or not the deadline was hit. Being a top contributor, in my mind, powers the cage walls I set around work.

Wealth: Divide and Conquer
Personal finance is a huge topic. What is budgeting if not limitations on spending? In this area, I simply decide what is and what is not mine.

I generate new income, my wife saves income. We both diversify money into areas to bring in more income, set it to work. It’s absolutely the case that I’m not more entitled to make decisions than my wife is – because if she wasn’t managing how the money went out, it doesn’t matter what I bring in. You can be poor earning six figures and rich in the low fives – depending on how you spend. In personal finance, I believe in division of labor for couples. If you’re single, you have to split your attention – set an income goal, and when you get there stop and tighten your spending and investment (or you’ll either end up working to support your lifestyle or become a miser).

If you struggle with personal finance, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.

Creativity: Set a Schedule
I could spend all my non-work time writing and researching, I love it. Part of the whole addictive personality thing, perhaps. I can take pretty much anything and obsess on it. So I set limits. I blog in the morning, then meditate, then work, then spend the rest of the day with my family. You’ll never catch me writing after hours, although I used to. Of course I jot notes, but it simply wouldn’t be inline with who I want to be as a husband and a dad if I kept going past my daily allocation. On top of that, limitations actually help creativity.

I hope that this post inspired you to examine the limits in your life and to take control of them. Thank you so much for reading, and blessings to you and yours.

Keep on keeping on,

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