How to Stop Self-Imposed Limitations

I can’t, I shouldn’t, I’d love to but…

I was lucky enough to have some time off over the Christmas period and my family went away with some friends of ours.  Accumulatively between three families, we had six kids with us, ranging from 5 to 12 years old.

Holidaying with three couples and six kids made me notice how many times we all said ‘no’.

“No, don’t do that.”

“No, you can’t eat that before dinner.”

It’s not surprising that the word No featured regularly with six excited boys under our care!

What was surprising however, was how much we adults said No to ourselves.

“No, I shouldn’t…”

“I can’t”

“I would love to but…”

 It came up in our everyday conversation all the time:

“I can’t eat that.  I’ve put on 5 kilos!”

“I’d love to read but I better take the kids to the beach”

“I’d love to take the kids to the beach, but I should get started on dinner.”

“I can’t do that! I’m too old!”

Then when we started talking about our obligations to our careers, workplaces, families and friends, the shouldn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t and can’t’s picked up momentum.

The realisation of how much of our lives is impacted by obligations, rules and limitations, was a shock to me.  A lot has been written about “the working woman” and the pressure to “have it all” – a great career, well-behaved kids, a happy marriage and a healthy body; however I heard the same self-limiting words coming from the men.  Regardless of gender, it seems we are all restricted by what we perceive to be obligations.

It was sad.

So on my first day back at work in 2015, I decided to say Yes. And what a big Yes it was!

I decided to accept an offer to join a team of entrepreneurs on a trip to Antarctica. This trip was going to push me out of my comfort zone and give me the opportunity to talk about innovation and disruption with over one hundred other like-minded, risk takers.

There were a lot of reasons to say no to this; I had just come back from leave, my business needed me, my children needed me, I have a lot of work on at the moment, I didn’t have the clothes required for Antarctica, yadda, yadda, yadda…

What I realised though, is that there are always a number of reasons to say No to anything. What is crucial is to understand what a real limitation is and what is self-imposed.

When I realistically assessed my situation I found:

  • My team are talented and capable of managing the business while I am away.
  • My husband is amazing and is capable of looking after our children while I’m away.
  • My children are resilient and are capable of being away from their mother for two weeks.
  • My friends are great and I can source and borrow the weather-appropriate clothing I need from them.

There were no excuses left.

I am on my way to Antarctica right now!

I remember having similar thoughts when I decided to go to Uganda with The Hunger Project back in 2012 – a trip which literally changed my life!  If I had said no to that experience, I wouldn’t be the Chair of The Hunger Project’s Victorian Development Board.  I wouldn’t have met so many amazing and brave women.  I wouldn’t have been so inspired that energised to make the big decision of rebranding my company.  So many wonderful outcomes were born from that one trip. 

My wish for you all is that you start 2015 by saying yes more.  If you realistically assess your circumstances and “obligations” you will find that by giving more credit to the people closest to you, you can greatly reduce those self-imposed limitations. So do your best to reduce those limiting words and really think about the unnecessary rules you are enforcing on yourself. 

You might just end up surprising yourself.