Do You Really Know Your Own Limits?

You can’t expect others to listen to your advice and ignore your example.

A few weeks ago, I quoted author John Maxwell when he said, “All great leaders have understood that their number one responsibility is cultivating their own discipline and personal growth.” I gave you four tests you can apply to your own “discipline” or lack of it.

But what about your “personal growth” as a leader or potential leader? Have you recognized all the riches within you and around you… and are you taking advantage of them?

Many people aren’t. In one of my “Journey to the Extraordinary” programs, CEO John Jazwa related such a case. He mentioned that one of his employees had a significant body odor problem because… literally… he didn’t bathe. The man even lived in a condemned shack but didn’t have to.

When the employee eventually died, his shack was torn down. And there was money flying everywhere… money that had been stuffed in the walls. Ironically the man was surrounded by wealth but living in poverty.

And a lot of people are like that. They underestimate what they have. They underestimate their abilities. And they OVERestimate their limitations.

As Charles Garfield discovered at the Peak Performance Center in Berkeley, most people think they know their own limits. But much of what we know isn’t knowledge at all… but belief — erroneous, self-limiting belief. “And self-limiting beliefs,” says Garfield, “are the biggest obstacle to high-level performance.”

Take the 4-minute mile, for example. For hundreds of years, everyone “knew” that running a mile in less than 4 minutes was “impossible.” Articles published in journals of physiology “proved” the human body couldn’t do it. Then, in 1954, Roger Bannister broke the four-minute barrier. Within two years, ten other athletes had followed suit.

This is not to say there are “no” limits on how fast a human being can run — or on how much weight a person can lift — or how well anyone can do a particular task. The point is… you probably DO NOT KNOW your real limits. And as a result, you may be setting your limits far below what you could actually achieve.

There are two things you can do to make sure you don’t short change yourself. Or put another way, there are two things you can do to make sure you’re not saddled with limiting beliefs.

=> 1. Take stock of where you’re at.

Any smart person takes a periodic look at how well he’s doing in all the various parts of his life. He gathers the data and makes adjustments… when necessary. He doesn’t “wing it.”

So get out a paper and pencil. Think about your life during the last 12 months. Ask yourself the following questions, and write out your answers. You’ll probably find some areas of your life are in great shape while others are suffering.

Ask yourself some overall questions: **Am I better off now than I was this time last year? **Am I happier now than I was this time last year? **What goals did I achieve in the last 12 months? **Which goals did I fail to achieve but wish I had?

Ask yourself some financial questions: **How does my financial portfolio look compared to last year? **How satisfied am I with my salary, wages, or profits?

Ask yourself some work-related questions: **What progress have I made in my career? **How am I doing in terms of promotion? **How good are my relationships with my boss? Coworkers? Customers?

Ask yourself some personal questions: **How fulfilled do I feel? **Am I growing fast enough? **How has my personal life changed? For the better or worse? **How is my relationship with my spouse/partner? With my children? With my friends? **Have I done the things I wanted to do with my time? **Have I changed some habits that need changing?

With things written out in black and white, you’ll be able to spot the imbalances in your life. You’ll know where you need to focus your personal growth.

And then …

=> 2. Discover your talents.

As consultant Faith Ralston says, “Focusing on talents is not a luxury. It’s the key to thriving in today’s economy. The old rules aren’t working anymore. We can’t wait around hoping others will recognize or reward us. To thrive, we’ve got to recognize our talents and connect them to business results.”

Unfortunately, the losers in life dismiss their talents. They say, “There’s nothing special about me. I’m not particularly good at anything. I’m rather ordinary.”

Other losers fail to see their talents. They overlook the riches right beneath their noses. Such was the case in Darby, Montana for many years. People in Darby would look up at what they called Crystal Mountain, given that name because erosion had exposed a ledge of sparkling crystal that looked like rock salt. They even built a pack trail across it in 1937.

It wasn’t until 1951 that anyone bothered to stoop down, pick up a piece of the sparkling material, and really look at it. In 1951, two Darby men, A. E. Cumley and L. I. Thompson saw a mineral collection displayed in town. And they got excited.

On display were specimens of beryl, which according to the card, was used in atomic energy research. They immediately staked a claim on Crystal Mountain. Thompson sent a specimen to the Bureau of Mines in Spokane. They had found one of the world’s greatest deposits of the extremely valuable beryllium.

By contrast, the winners in life recognize their talents, their gifts, and natural strengths. And they find ways to use their talents… because when they use their talents, they feel energized during the day and fulfilled at the end of the day.

I hope you’ve taken the time to figure out your talents. It’s one of the pre-requisites of leadership. After all, you can’t expect anyone to listen to your advice or follow your example if there’s nothing to follow.

If you haven’t figured out your talents, or if you’re still in the process of doing so, ask yourself these questions:

**What are you already good at?

For example, you may be good at organizing. You can organize your desk, your closets, the projects at work, and even other people if they invite you to do so. In fact, one of my JOURNEY graduates realized her talent for organizing and turned it into a full-time consulting business.

**What activities do you enjoy the most at work? At home? Or in any social situation?

This is a fairly easy question. Maybe you enjoy planning activities, solving problems, or helping others. And the good thing about this question, it helps you spot areas where you’re already using your talents.

Just remember, happiness is not something you stumble in to. It’s something you get … when you use your talents.

**What would you choose to do — even if no one was paying you to do it?

Now you may automatically think of something like shopping, fishing, or golf. But they don’t count. Most likely, no one has ever paid you to do any of those things.

So look deeper. Look at all the income-producing work you’ve done over the years. And ask yourself which parts of that work you liked the most. You probably liked those particular parts because they allowed you to use some of your God-given talents.

**What do others see as your talents?

Don’t dismiss their comments. If they keep on asking you to do something, it’s because they see your talents in that area.

And if you’re willing to ask a few “Brave Questions,” ask them how they would describe you and your talents. Ask them to list the special skills and attributes you bring to every situation and interaction.

Ralston is right. “Focusing on talents is not a luxury.” It’s an absolute necessity if you’re going to move ahead in any part of your life. So get to work and start mining your talents.

Action:  Ask 10 people to list 10 talents they see in you. With your list of 100 items, see which ones get repeated the most. And you will be on your way to a clear picture of your talents.