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Are we limited by success?

As you know, we are said to be limited by our beliefs. What holds us back is our belief system which keeps us from using our full ability and capabilities. The argument goes on to say that if we were to remove our limited beliefs, then we would attain our full potential.

For example, if some teacher promises to improve our memory, so we can remember the names of everyone we meet, remember playing cards, the formulae for the amino acids, etc, then we might not at first thought, consider we are being offered a limiting belief. Supposing the teacher was offering a true and achievable promise that we would be like the man studied by the Russian psychologist Luria, the Mnemnotist. This man had almost total recall. He could remember trivia from years previously. He could remember the exact words said and everything related to the time.

Yet he did have specific limitations which arose directly from his great ability to remember.

He struggled recognising people. Now I sympathise with this as I am quite used to walking past people in the street who I know very well, but do not notice them until they speak to me. But the Mnemnotist's problem was different. He had difficulty because he said that we had so many faces. The shape of our faces does change considerably as we express different feelings and moods. We can express a micro-face which might be our initial disagreement which within a fraction of a second we change to something more socially acceptable. He remembered faces perfectly, but he remembered them all specifically and in detail. Perfect memory, strangely enough is a limiting ability.

A few years ago, I had a discussion with a speed-reading instructor. He said his organisation had done some research on their courses. (I can't remember the figures, so these ones are purely illustrations of the principle.) He said if they promised to teach people to scan at 4,000 words a minute, they learned to scan at 4,000 words a minute. But if they didn't promise anything, some people would learn to scan at 10,000 words a minute. Although the teachers made a big promise, which they kept, it was a limiting promise, at least for some people.

We can also be limited by our perceived solutions.

There was a certain pious man who lived by the river. The river began to flood so he prayed to God to save him.

The water level rose and he went upstairs to avoid the water. A boat passed and offered to rescue him. The man refused saying he had prayed to God and he had perfect faith that God would answer his prayer.

The water level rose and the man, still full of faith, clung to the chimney pot on the roof of his house. A helicopter flew down and offered to take him off. He refused. He had his faith in God.

The water arose above his head and he drowned.

When he got to Heaven the pearly gates were shut.

'Why are the gates shut?' he asked, 'I have been a pious man all my life.'

God said they were shut because the man had rejected him.

The man denied it. How had he rejected God. God said, 'I sent you a boat, and you rejected my help. I sent you a helicopter and you rejected my help.'

In a secular sense the man had limited himself by his belief of what God would do. He imagined he would make the water go down, whereas other solutions were offered (and he rejected them, because of his fixed idea).

I think the above story illustrates how we might be limiting ourselves in life.

How often might we think that the solution to our problems might be ... gaining promotion ... winning the lottery ... marrying that wonderful person ... curing our illness ... becoming beautiful .... getting rich.

And if we do not achieve these things we might feel cheated or believe we have failed. Yet have we? Consider another limiting ability. Suppose you considered yourself a master of communication. And you failed in an important communication task. You might consider yourself a bit of a failure. Yet consider the opposite could be true ...

Suppose you succeeded in all your communication objectives. Suppose you got everything you wanted ... that is you could achieve every whim. Would this be Heaven or a nightmare?

At first thought, it might sound like Heaven. But have you ever wanted something desperately but later realised you did not want it after all. Even felt a great sense of relief that you didn't attain it?

Now please note that I am not being negative here. If you actually attained what you wanted, then this would indeed be good. The real issue is, if you attained everything you THOUGHT you wanted.

If we believe that the solution we have in mind, whether it be that God will make the river go down, or we will gain that promotion, is the ONLY answer then we are limiting ourselves. And we probably discount and refuse all the other possible options, which might provide us with what we really want.

I have quite a good natural memory. I remember lots of things quite easily. But I think I have a good memory because I can remember the times when I forgot things!

Most people who believe they have good memories have this belief only because they cannot remember all the times they were wrong! They can't remember the disproof.

True experts tend to be diffident. Suppose an excellent negotiator claimed they always succeeded in negotiations. Would this be believable? Or would it sound like self-delusion?

When we think of limiting beliefs, we probably think of negative, irrational beliefs, which hold us back. But all beliefs, solutions, successes, and abilities can be and, probably are, limiting.

Perfect communication ability can be just as limiting as poor communication ability. The true road to success, for example, lies with both successes and failures. In fact, many successful people claim that they attained success only after a long series of failures.

Sometimes people fail in one thing, try something else and succeed. Can we really say they failed before? If they hadn't failed there, they would never have done what led to their success. This means that failure and success are not very useful words.

To overcome limitation whether this is due to ability, solutions or beliefs, we need to embrace the opposites. Limiting beliefs are not only negative beliefs. Positive beliefs and abilities can be limiting too. By understanding this we can escape from limitation!

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Most Recent Revision: 20-Mar-99.
Copyright 1998, 1999 Ken Ward,
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