Why Identifying Limitations That Are Holding You Back Is Key to Freedom

An Army Reserve soldier climbs a rope ladder during an obstacle course.
Army Reserve Soldier Spc. Matthew E Drawdy, public affairs specialist, 335th Signal Command (Theater), climbs a rope ladder during an obstacle course on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, Aug. 9, 2017. (Sgt. 1st Class Brent C. Powell/U.S. Army Reserve photo)

Teammates, today's topic is about limitations. It's about understanding the difference between limitations that are discovered, versus limitations that are self-imposed. Understanding this distinction is critically important to you, to me, to all of us.

Everyone has limitations. I know that I will not be running a four-minute mile in my lifetime. I know for a fact because I've tried, vomited and tried again, again and again (vomiting all along the way). I now realize that 5 minutes, 20 seconds is the best I'm going to do -- and I'm absolutely comfortable with that.

I discovered my running limitations over years of trying and winning such prestigious high school cross country awards as: "Swifter than the Continental Drift Award" or "Faster than a Growing Hickory Tree Award" (actual awards I received at my cross country awards dinner in high school). I can sleep at night, knowing that I'll never run a four-minute mile, because I know in my heart that I have given everything that I was willing to give it to try to conquer this limitation. I discovered this limitation on my own; I didn't take the word of my coach or my friends. (They said I'd never break six minutes.)

However, there's another kind of limitation that is much more insidious, and if you're not careful and cognizant of it, you may commit one of the great travesties in life; that is, self-imposing limitations. I call it "one of the great travesties" -- hell, you can call it a great sin -- for no one should accept someone else's limitation as their own. Ask Lance Armstrong if he'd be happier right now if he had accepted the first doctor's recommendation to give up cycling.

I use the word "insidious" because self-imposed limitations creep up on you. They come from credible sources, such as doctors, friends or even fathers. They're not trying to sabotage your chances of success intentionally. In most cases, they usually are trying to protect you from "failing" or perhaps from injury. They're passing along limitations that they've either discovered or have chosen to accept as true, because they heard it from someone they trusted. The trick is to identify the self-imposed limitations from the ones you've discovered and accepted as fact.

We all have limitations. After all, there's only so much time each of us has to pursue goals in our lives. (And in my four-minute mile quest, I was unwilling to move to Kenya, lose a hundred pounds and be chased by lions in an attempt to break my 5:20 mile limitation.) The key is living the life we want by determining which limitations we are willing to accept, versus the ones we willingly commit to crushing.

When you identify the limitations that are holding you back from living the life you want, congratulations because you, my friend, have just discovered your path to freedom. What are you waiting for? Go find some limitations worth crushing. And let your teammates know the joy you've encountered from conquering them.



Alden Mills, creator of the Perfect Pushup, is CEO of Perfect Fitness. Mills went to the Naval Academy and later became a Navy SEAL. After retiring in 2000, he earned his MBA at Carnegie Mellon. His ultimate mission is to inspire everyone to pursue their own dreams. For more from Mills, check out www.perfectonline.com.

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