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Work within limits, but... Outside comfort zone!

Posted 11/5/2018

I have been in Italy with my wife Laura, my mother-in-law, Teresa, and father-in-law, Paul, for three weeks now and it has been an amazing trip, so far. What I am learning, with every day I live, is that most of us live a life well short of what is truly possible. We are taught from a young age, by many people, to stay and work within our limits. Now, you’re probably expecting me to disagree with that statement, right? Sorry to disappoint you, I actually agree with it. The problem is, most people have no idea what their limits are nor how to stretch themselves to find out. So, I want to encourage you this week to explore your true limits.

The truth is, you and I have a limit and it’s not possible to go beyond it. Just like a bucket that holds 10 litres, if you put eleven litres of water into it, one litre will spill onto the ground, right? So then, the question is not, how do we increase our limit? Because it’s already massive. The question is; how do we believe more, act more and achieve more within the limit we already have? I want to tell you this early in the blog, just in case you lose interest before you get to the end; you have an incredible capacity and enormous limit. You just need to believe it and take action.

People will say they are at their limit, I have said it, and in fact you may have said it. However, we are never really at our true limit, we are just at a perceived limit. It is perceived because we have never really tested ourselves or pushed our comfort zone enough to see where our actual limit really is. When you look around the world at what some people have done, you will know that human potential is far greater than most of us believe about ourselves. We think it’s okay or understandable for others, but not us. Well, I’m here to tell you, in no uncertain terms, you have a limit far greater than what you currently believe. So do we all, by the way. In fact, with my help, my father-in-law Paul has stretched, moulded and redefined his limit over the last couple of weeks.

One of the ports that our Mediterranean cruise stopped at was Gibraltar. The day before we arrived, I had already decided that I was going to climb to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar. I told Laura and she said, ‘have fun, I’ll see you when you get back!’ I knew Laura’s mum wouldn’t be interested as she had a sore ankle. I then told Paul, and initially he was excited. He is a real history buff and wanted to explore more about the military history of this rock and its significance in the world war. He was excited initially because he didn’t realise I meant walk all the way, from the bottom to the top!

After he actually understood what I meant, he cautiously agreed to join me, but was very quick to make sure I knew he would not be going at a cracking pace. I reassured him, and off we went. It was a challenging climb, but we did it. I would stop every so often and wait for him, encourage him, enjoy the views and the history and then we would continue. The further we went, I could see and hear in his voice, with every step he took, the pride he felt in himself. When we got to the top he was so happy and a little surprised that he made it so relatively comfortably. He had stretched himself, got out of his comfort zone and now knew his limit was larger than before.

Expand your comfort zone, one step at a time!

I was excited for Paul, and he loved talking about his achievement. His comfort zone was now a little bigger and closer to his true limit than before, so I thought I may be able to test it a little further. A couple of days later the cruise ship ported in Sete, France. From the deck of the boat I could see a church sitting very isolated on the top of a hill. The church was Notre Dame and it was sitting on top of Mont Saint-Clair. We got off the boat, had a little look around the quaint little French town and I casually said to Paul, ‘Hey, I’m going to walk up to the church, you up for it?’ He looked at me with a disturbed look on his face and, before he knew what he had done, he agreed!

As we started walking, and the road started getting especially steep, he said to me, ‘How did I let you talk me into this, again?!’ I said nothing, just smiled and we kept going. The last part of this journey was the hardest, it was the longest flight of uneven stairs I have ever climbed. About halfway up these stairs, I stopped, waited for Paul to catch up, got my phone and took a short video explaining how I had dragged Paul up another hill. He looked into the camera and said, ‘This will be the last time!’ We made it, the view was amazing, Paul had just realised again that his limit was greater than he thought it was, and I can tell you, it was not the last time!

After the cruise returned to Rome, we hired a car and spent three wonderful days on the Cinque Terre. If you have never been there, I recommend it wholeheartedly. I had seen photos of the five towns in this national park area, but nothing can replace the beauty and experience of seeing them real time. Cinque Terre is Italian for five towns, and the five towns that make it up are, from North to South, Monterosso Del Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. They are all coastal towns, set on very rugged terrain, and, it is possible to possible to walk to each of them through some rough tracks. As soon as we arrived Paul looked around and was immediately scared. He looked at me and said, ‘We are going walking, aren’t we? I looked at him, smiled, ’How did you guess?’ I responded

We were staying in the middle town, Corniglia, the smallest but we believe the best of the five. So, on the first morning Paul & I set off on our trek to Manarola, which would be a two hour trek. We didn’t think it would be too bad until we got started, that is. Both towns are at or close to sea level, so it was surprising to us how high we climbed from Corniglia before we got to some level ground. As we trudged up the mountainside, it was obvious that Paul now knew he could do it, and, had far more belief in himself and his limits. He had sufficiently stretched his comfort zone and could now see what was possible for him. He also kept telling me that his pants were falling down because he was losing so much weight!

I am not taking credit here. Okay, I am taking some credit! Left to his own devices, Paul has admitted he would not have even attempted any of those climbs because of his perceived limits. I was able to encourage him to have a go and reassure him by saying that we would do it together, one step at a time. So now, I want to encourage you. What is it you are looking at right now believing it’s beyond your limit? What is the mountain you want to get to the top of? Is it a health issue, a money challenge, a business obstacle or a relationship problem you want to overcome? Just know you can get there, you have much more capacity than you currently believe and just one step at a time you will conquer it.

So, as I continue to enjoy my Italian adventure and drag my poor unsuspecting father-in-law up every hill I see, I want you to know, just as Paul discovered, your limit is far greater than you currently believe it is. Go for your dreams, you can get there if you know and believe they are within your limits. All you have to do is stretch yourself, get out of your comfort zone and take it one step at a time.