In 2001 Takeru Kobayashi, a 5.9, 128 pounds young man from Japan broke the world record in his rookie appearance in the world hot dog eating championship. The record had been 25 hot dogs in 12 minutes. He ate 50. In 2008 Ueli Steck, a Swiss mountaineer, broke the record for the fastest climb up the 9,000 foot North Face of the Eiger. Typically, a fast-moving mountaineer team usually takes 3 days to summit this vertical snow and ice climb. He did it in 2 hours, 47 minutes, and 22 seconds (check out the jaw dropping video).
Both are extreme examples of going well beyond the limits of what was thought possible. A lot of hard work went into establishing their records, but what they both had in common was that the two of them were immune to what are called “limiting beliefs.”
Limiting beliefs are those restricting convictions we hold about our abilities. These kind of beliefs stop us from trying something hard or force us to give up to early. Takeru and Ueli could have easily succumbed to the view their goals were not possible. They were able to reach their full potential by ignoring the negative messages, overcoming any fear of failure, and surrounded themselves with positive people.
The following graphic describes how limiting beliefs are formed and how they can be overcome.
The external messages, such as, “you can’t do it”, come from others or society in general. These messages are based on people’s false perceptions, stereotyping, or simply projection (that is, because they can’t do it, you can’t either). Positive external messages come from coaches or mentors.
The internal messages, such as, “I can’t do it”, are usually fear based. Your mind starts making up stories that you begin to believe. You need to create messages that are based on what motivates you. Determine the “WHY” by asking yourself, “what will I get out of effort?”
Direct feedback is what you get when you fail, “I tried it, but it was just too hard.” You start to assume you can’t do it based on just a limited amount of attempts. To reach your potential, you need to take the input from these failed attempts and then learn from it. Ask yourself – “what did I do right, what will I do next time?”
Keep in mind that we all have limits and it can be difficult to discern what they are at times. Many people (myself included) don’t know when to quit. When you reach your full potential and you still have not succeeded, you have to accept reality and move on (checkout The Upside of Quitting). What I’m encouraging you to avoid is quitting before you even start.
What are your limiting beliefs?