If You Always Put Limits on What You Can Do…
The quote that we’ll be looking at in this post is best illustrated through this story about Bruce Lee and screenwriter/producer Stirling Silliphant…
“If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.” – Bruce Lee
I will keep it brief with this post, as the above story has more wisdom than I could possibly provide. This quote from Bruce is perhaps his most inspirational. It gets to the heart of our many of our struggles while also addressing what we need to do and who we’re capable of being.
Bruce teaches us not to put limits on ourselves, not to box ourselves in, not to succumb to self-doubt. We’ve all been there, we hear what the workout is for the day and we cringe. There’s no way we’ll be able to do it. It’s beyond our own capabilities. Once this self-doubt seed is planted, it’s going to be an uphill battle. Sometimes we throw in the towel and decide to not even attempt it. Other times we muster up the courage to at least get started although we “know” that we won’t be able to finish.
Our mind has already told our body that it won’t make it. Many times we do fall short and give in to our limitations. Occasionally, however, we’re able to muster up an incredible inner strength and power, and we use it to transcend our own expectations. This is where the magic happens. In these moments, we are truly alive. We’re pulled out of our daily auto-pilot and put directly into the moment.
And if we’re able to do this consistently, we begin to slowly dissolve our limits and reduce self-doubt. Say what you will about CrossFit, but every day people show up and push their own limitations and boundaries, and it ends up changing them not only physically, but also as human beings. And it’s not exclusive to CrossFit. Bodybuilders, endurance athletes, martial arts, and yogis all have opportunities every day to push beyond their limits and create stronger versions of themselves.
What I like about this piece of wisdom from The Dragon is that he not only speaks about the dangers of placing limits on our physical practice, but he shows us how this behavior can spill over into other areas of our lives. I would propose that how we carry ourselves under tough physical conditions is who we truly are. If we break down in a workout, or shy away from physical suffering, that is indicative of how we’ll behave, and who we will be, in other trying circumstances in our lives.
And although our physical practice is the easiest and most literal area of our lives in which we experience limitation, we must be cognizant of it in all areas. We must also be aware of self-imposed limitations in our work, in our relationships, and in our morality.
I also think that it’s important to occasionally really test ourselves and put it all on the line, to engage in some sort of feat of mental/physical endurance that is way beyond our normal daily practice. For some people it’s running a marathon. I have several friends who take it to another level and run ultramarathons (running 100 miles in approximately 24 hours, sometimes less). For others it’s doing The Murph, or other extreme CrossFit workouts, or it’s going to SEALFIT Kokoro camp. For some people it’s doing traditional Native American sweat lodge or sun dance ceremonies, or it’s going on a pilgrimage. Some people climb mountains or hike incredible distances.
The stage that we choose isn’t important, the fact that we give 100% of what we have to it is. We must push ourselves so far beyond our comfort zone that we become a different human being. The strength that we gain from it will most definitely spill into all aspects of our life, making us a wiser and stronger person. And as Bruce says, we must literally have to be willing to die in order to push beyond our limitations. This idea alone is worth plenty of careful consideration and reflection.
We each will have opportunities today, in our physical practice or in another area of our life, to tear down our own perceived limitations. I suggest that we seize those opportunities and do the work that’s necessary to grow and move beyond our own plateaus of being. The reward will undoubtedly be worth the struggle!
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