How to go beyond your limits

April 7th – 6.45am – Paris, Gare Du Nord. 

Welcome to a very cold Parisian morning. DNCE’s “Cake by the Ocean” is playing loud in my headphones. Both French and British officers checked my passport at Eurostar customs. I am headed to London for a 4-day motivational marathon. I want clarity on one question.

“Why are some people outstanding at what they do?”

Some people are just “insanely great.” They seem to have found a recipe for success, a recipe that helps them to push beyond what others can achieve. If that recipe was encoded in their DNA, the rest of us might as well give up and accept our limits. But it seems that most outstanding people weren’t born that way. Each of them has decided to become great and taken steps to transform themselves into what they want to be.

If greatness is a learned behaviour, then it’s something to which we can all aspire. So why, with a moderate effort of will and a little homework, don’t more people achieve outstanding?

Of course it’s a complex question, but I believe there’s one factor above any other that blocks success: the fear of failing. Fear holds us back from making all sorts of decisions, whether in our work or private lives. We naturally tend to say, “I can’t do it,” “I’m not qualified,” or “that’s too complex for me.” It’s easier for us to play it safe rather than fighting for success and risking failure.

Fear is a natural human impulse designed to protect us. But, in modern life, the majority of fearful impulses are generated by things that will make us uncomfortable rather than seriously harm us. And, very often, making ourselves uncomfortable is a side effect of seeking out positive change. Fear can be a signal we’re doing something worthwhile.

When we’re too comfortable, we risk settling into passive routines that smother our potential. The path of least resistance can be almost irresistible. Remember all those New Year’s resolutions that barely lasted beyond the first week of January? Making promises to ourselves is easy, but keeping them is hard because it requires us to face our fears and change.

The good news is that there are easy techniques we can all use to overcome this challenge. By transforming our outlook from negative to positive, we empower ourselves with a mentality that invites success.

“Coach the brain to make the impossible, possible”

Create a Positive State

We all have friends who, no matter what life offers them, can put a negative spin on things. They’ve created a negative state and repeated it so many times it’s become a habit. I know few of this people. Their negative perspective doesn’t just affect them – it brings me down too! But if negativity can be contagious, so can positivity.

It’s proven that smiling is positively contagious. It makes us feel good! Music can have the same effect. Smiling and listening to music that makes me happy are easy things for me to incorporate into my daily life. And when you work to exist in a positive, peak state, it becomes routine. You know it’s working when people around you embrace your energy, reflect your smile, echo your positive attitude. They feel rewarded by your state and so do you.

For many people, a positive mental state can be stimulated by a physical effort. Many people do a quick run, jump, throw their hands up in the air. Even something as basic as breathing correctly provides more oxygen to the brain and causing a great feeling.

Take a few moments each day to find the physical triggers that help you achieve a positive state of mind. In this state, you’ll find challenges begin to seem much more manageable as you focus on the solution, rather than the problem.

Take massive action

You’ve already taken a big step: you’re thinking about making a change. Now the daunting task is to move from “I’ll do it some time” to “I’ll do it now.” By far the biggest obstacle for excellence is to overcome that little voice that tells you, “I’m not good enough,” or “Not sure I can do it.”

Instead of fighting with your fear, embrace it, live with it and transform it into motivation.

Track your progress

You must monitor your progress. You need to learn if what you are doing is working or not. Keep adjusting until you start to get the results you want. Once you feel you have achieved your goal, reward yourself. That’s important! You need to transform your achievement into a positive moment stored in your brain. A moment that you can retrieve later when you are striving towards your next achievement.

By modelling excellence in ourselves, by coaching ourselves to move beyond our comfort zone, we teach the brain that little repetitive changes will become a positive habit and shape your new you. Most leaders have become exceptionally good at coaching themselves and devising routines. They create a methodology and they stick to it because they know it works.

Start modeling your brain in a new way.

  1. Focus on what moves you – find your passion
  2. Put yourself in a peak state – condition your brain to feel emotionally great
  3. Map – what others successful people do
  4. Embrace fear – don’t fight it
  5. Create rituals – waking up early, go running, yoga
  6. Take action – NOW, don’t wait till tomorrow, momentum is critical
  7. Track progress – weight loss or running progress, for example
  8. Appreciate progress – find your rewarding ritual
  9. Help others – help others to grow, you will feel great

Image: Red Bull

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