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Overcoming Self-Imposed Limitations

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

The 5K was a few weeks away. The men at this Los Angeles based treatment program had been training for 6 weeks for the 3.1 mile event and were already able to do this distance. For any of you thinking about training for a 5K, even if you have done no exercise in years, barring any significant physical limitations, you can do it! Couch to 5K in 6 weeks is a very achievable goal.

Getting back to the story and the lesson behind it, when I arrived at the facility, I noticed a new member of the team. Ben had been admitted just a few days earlier and wanted to be part of our 5K training community. We warmly welcomed him, and after some warmups and group discussion, began our route through the neighborhood. Everyone went at their own pace, with the agreement that we’d all wait for each other at the halfway point.

I ran with Ben. We engaged in friendly conversation and after 10 minutes, he mentioned that he was only capable of running one mile. I glanced at my watch and noted that we had already gone 0.9 mile. I listened to his breathing, and it was smooth. I looked at his stride. It was still strong. He was showing no signs of fatigue, so I just said “OK”. A minute or so later, we arrived at a traffic light, which forced us to take a short break.

“How are you feeling?” I asked.

“Fine”, he replied.

“Did you realize that we’ve already done a mile?” I watched the look of surprise and pride pass over his face. “Want to keep going?”

With a big smile, he replied “Sure”.

The light turned green, and we started jogging again. After another few minutes, I saw his pace slow and heard his breathing get harder. We dialed it back to a mix of walking and jogging. Ben continued at his new walk/jog pace and finished the route with a huge proud smile. The man who told me he was only capable of going a mile had just done three. The only limitation as to what he is capable of was in his head.

Think of your own goals. Are they big goals that feel like a stretch, or are they safe, comfortable goals? Do you tell yourself that you are only capable of a mile, set your goal at a mile, and then get to a mile and tell yourself “that’s all I can do” even though you want more for yourself?

Here’s a new way to talk to yourself as you set your goals and work to achieve them. “Although I believe I can only achieve this small goal, I’m willing to set a more challenging one. When I get to that first milestone, I won’t quit. I will continue moving forward. I may need to slow down my pace; I may need to take a few breaks; I may need to reach out to someone to encourage me to keep going; but no matter what, I will move forward. I will achieve my challenging goal.”

Your mind may tell you that you have limits, that you are not capable of very much. But you don’t have to listen. You are in charge of your mind. You can tell yourself that you are capable of more. You can go out and prove that to yourself.

I urge you to set a challenging goal that is meaningful to you, and to keep going until you reach it. Be the boss of your own mind. Soon, rather than working against you, your mind will work with you. You will be a new person. When self-doubt rears its ugly head, which it does even in thoughts of highly successful people, your new retrained mind will remind you “You can do it!” And you will.

You have the power to turn yourself from someone who sees your limits into someone who sees your tremendous potential!

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.”

Henry Ford

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