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Mindful Bytes: Knowing Your Limits

Updated: Feb 25, 2022

I should start this blog entry with with an apology. The title is a bit of a ruse, at best a clever twist on words.

Knowing your limits is a subject that creates some valuable discussion. Helping set realistic goals/expectations, avoiding injury when it comes to exercise, keeping confidence high, understanding the importance of rest and patience and self kindness. All true.

But there’s a shocking lack of black and white rules on this health journey. To me, difficult problems are complex. Effective solutions usually involve a great deal of nuance and trial and error to figure out the right recipe of proportionality for success. If they were simple problems, they would have been solved long ago.

The term “knowing my limits” has been nuanced into a new area of interest for me on my journey (and why my title is misleading). So much of my changes have involved throwing away what I thought my limits were, and allowing myself to rediscover who I am and what I’m capable of without the burden of my previous experiences.

Of course that’s easier said than done.

I’ve made this point in multiple ways over the last 3 years and this is the latest version: I have a tendency to over value my previous experience. Sometimes that’s convincing myself “I know how to sustainably achieve my health goals” after no evidence in 20+ years supporting that opinion, resisting uncomfortable change. I had to try new mindsets I frankly did not want to attempt in order to bushwhack a path to wellness I had never been on before.

In this instance, over-valuing my previous experience means allowing my past experience to “limit” my future capability. Putting it more catch-phrase-like: I’ve needed to “unlearn” my limits.

There’s 20+ things I could list that I’m capable of now that the 361 lbs version of me would have said were literally impossible. All of them would have stayed impossible if I would have been faithful to what I thought was realistic and what I thought was possible.

Sandra and Rosie both have posted blog entries that make similar points to mine, so call this my addition to that helpful mosaic.

We are all on a journey of discovery, deciding mid flight that we somehow know the limit of our capabilities is just too short sighted, and underestimates our ability to change and grow. Of course thinking I can get rid of my loose skin by working out may be medically unrealistic, but how healthy I can eat, how far I can reduce indulgence, how fast I can finish 10k, or how long I can stay engaged in a healthy lifestyle are all things where my capability is way beyond “realistic” compared to the old me.

If there’s one piece of advice I can offer (that’s worthy of it’s own blogpost), try to shift your mindset to being more committed to the process than the outcome. Again it’s proportionality, I’ll always be motivated by outcomes. But truly challenging goals can take years to achieve and growth can feel like it comes at a snails pace. Feeling an increased connection to the process vs the outcome will eventually have you looking up from the work you’ve been committed to and marvelling at where you are now.

Unlearn your limits. You’re capable of so much more than you realize.