We live in a world of limits.
We live in a world of opportunities, too, don’t get me wrong. But it’s virtually impossible to access those opportunities unless we commit to being brutally realistic with ourselves about our limitations.
It’s true that we’re often mistaken about our limits. We often have far more energy, far more resilience, far more creativity, and far more determination than we think we do. Our culture has a way of conditioning us into thinking we’re more limited than we are, usually as a means of selling us things we then think we need.
(And make no mistake: anyone who tries to convince you that “there are no limits” in this world is big time selling something.)
But the fact that we’re often mistaken about our limits, that we frequently underestimate and deprecate our true resources, doesn’t mean that limits don’t exist. The straightforward fact of the matter is that, at any one time, we have a finite amount of energy; a finite amount of focus; a finite amount of money; a finite amount of knowledge; and a finite amount of time.
For all practical purposes, we don’t have the universe at our disposal every time we feel like embarking upon a project.
We must pick and choose which opportunities will make the most of the resources we DO have available at any one time.
Instead of pretending like “there are no limits,” it’s far more useful to focus on coming to terms with the fact that we do have limits— and to learn how to intelligently allocate our resources so we don’t overextend ourselves.
Why is it so important to be real with ourselves and others about our limitations?
Because the most productive thing you can do with ten dollars is very different from the most productive thing you can do with a hundred dollars.
The most productive thing you can do with five minutes is very different from the most productive thing you can do with five hours.
The most productive thing you can do at the beginning of the day, when you’re well-rested and have a reserve of physical energy to draw upon, is very different from the most productive thing you can do at the end of the day, when you’re tired and your body is yearning for sleep.
Being realistic about limits is not “pessimistic” or “defeatist.” It’s not denying that the universe is abundant and that we can come much closer to our goals and dreams than we may have ever thought possible.
Being realistic about limits, in fact, is about being fundamentally optimistic, albeit from a reality-based perspective: it’s trusting that there will be more time, energy, and money available in the future, so I can use this limited chunk of time/energy/money available to me now in the most intelligent way possible.
A lot of people don’t like to think about limits. It bums them out. Acknowledging limits means we can’t do everything we want to do, when we want to do it. A subset of people deal with this fact by, essentially, throwing a temper tantrum, and demanding that reality conform to their preference that they be allowed to do what they want, when they want.
There is a subset of people who really will try to convince you that all limits are an “illusion.” That your “scarcity mindset” is fooling you into thinking there is only a certain level of abundance available to you. That if you’re anxious about overextending your resources, that’s proof that your limited worldview and past programming is holding you back.
Again, to be clear: it’s my view that we can do, have and be far more than we think we can. Some of the limitations imposed upon us by past programming are definitely illusory. But we don’t do ourselves, or anyone else, any favors by pretending that we can have everything we want at the moment we want it, despite our present level of resources.
Our resources are limited. We can deny this fact; we can rail against this fact; we can behave as if this fact is not true.
But believe me when I say: reality doesn’t particularly care about how we respond to the fact that limits exist. It will still continue to impose limits on us, whether or not we like it.
Fortunately, all of us have magnificent minds that allow us to make intelligent decisions with our resources— to the extent that we’re being realistic with ourselves about our present limitations.
If you ask your brain, “What is the best use of the limits I DO have right now?”, instead of fervently wishing you had no limits, your brain WILL provide you an answer.
If you ask your brain, “How can I augment my resources, so they stretch a little further, so I’m not as constrained by these limits as I have been in the past?”, your brain WILL provide you an answer. (That’s actually a great question to ask— it’s far better to think about how to expand your resources a little at a time so you’re less smothered by your limits, than simply pretending those limits don’t exist.)
I know I sound like a broken record on this point, but it’s a point that bears repeating again and again: self-esteem cannot be built upon a foundation of self-deception. Denial of reality is fundamentally incompatible with health self-esteem.
Self-esteem can flourish only in an environment in which the real world is seen, acknowledged, and dealt with to the best of our ability.
Don’t get freaked out by the fact that limits exist. They don’t exist to intimidate you. Rather, think of limits as a useful guide to how you can allot your resources intelligently.
Thank goodness limits exist.
Thank goodness we don’t have to pretend otherwise.
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