Do You Fight for Your Limitations?

Published on September 22, 2020 in

In early 2014 I had just accepted a job I didn’t really want. The problem was I didn’t really want the old one either. In a word, I was stuck.

After giving my notice, I shared the news with my first boss at the company. She pulled me into her office and closed the door.

After asking me a few questions, she mentioned that I might benefit from talking to a coach. I didn’t really know what that meant and was offended that she thought I needed help; however rather than say so I took the information she gave me.

I emailed that coach seven months later. As my husband says, sometimes things just need to be my own idea.

I made my first coaching call while pacing around the corner of 13th and Broadway in Manhattan. If you know New York, you’ll know this is a ridiculous place to take ANY call. I was desperate.

I had reached out to the coach because six months into my new job I realized it wasn’t working, and I had a sneaking suspicion that getting a new job wasn’t going to fix the problem.

It was the first time I was willing to admit this to myself.

I don’t remember what we discussed that day, only that I felt nervous and exposed on the corner and relieved and hopeful by the time we got off. We arranged to speak again, and two sessions later we got down to business.

“Karen,” she asked, “what is it that you really want the most?”

“Time,” I said, without hesitation. “I want time to take care of myself, time to interview. I want time for me, and time to think about what I want from my life. I want to work less so I can have more time.”

“And what do you see as your options here?” she asked.

This is where things got interesting, because I basically told her I didn’t have any.

“Well, I can’t work less because I work at a start-up. They don’t even offer maternity leave. I can’t quit my job because I don’t have enough savings. I can’t quit my job because working at Lululemon won’t cover my rent. I can’t quit my job because I need health insurance for my injury.”

I was so focused on what wouldn’t work that I couldn’t see what would. I was also fighting for my limitations.

She asked me a few more questions and I continued to push back on any idea that infringed upon my beliefs, so much so that at one point she stopped the conversation.

“Look, Karen,” she said, “if you’re not willing to work less or leave your job, then I really can’t help you.”

I was silent.

“Call me if you change your mind, okay?”

I hung up in shock. Eventually that wore off and then I was just mad. I spent the entire weekend fuming, which is to say that I spent the entire weekend thinking about what she said. And then an interesting thing happened:

I had a new thought.

“What if I could work less?” I wondered.

It had never crossed my mind in this way before, and that was it. That was the only seed of possibility I needed. For the first time in a long time I felt excited.

On Monday afternoon I called my coach back with my tail in between my legs. She was both surprised and thrilled to hear from me.

Less than six weeks later I had created a new role at work. I had also received a promotion, a raise and began working part-time (or at least that’s what we had agreed to. More on that another day.)

So what does this have to do with you?

I’m so glad you asked.

First, there are three key questions to ask yourself whenever you want to do something new and different. They are:

1. What do you want?
2. What will that get you?
3. What is in the way?

Now there are variations of this sequence, and they all net down to the same thing: what is your vision, why does it matter, and what are your limitations. This last part is critically important because your limitations are the #1 thing blocking you from what you want to create. And nine times out of ten these limitations are rooted in your beliefs.

The good news is beliefs can be changed in an instant.

Second, having someone see and interrupt your thinking is a game-changer. (We call this a pattern interrupt in coaching.)

We often can’t see how we get in our own way. In my case, when my coach shocked me into silence she allowed me to see just that. This helped me get clear on which limitation (of the two, those being “I can’t work less” and “I can’t quit”) was more flexible, and simultaneously consider a new possibility. It was uncomfortable, yes, but it wasn’t hard.

Sometimes change is easier than we think.

With that in mind, one quick and easy way to see a potential limitation differently is to turn your objection into a “what if” statement. For example, take “I can’t do this” and turn it into “what if I can do this?”

Do you feel the difference?

Third, if you aren’t willing to quit a job (or leave a career) as the first step in your process, that’s totally okay.

Given my own journey and that of my clients, it’s also very normal. Most people aren’t ready to approach this topic like ripping off a Band-Aid and not only is this okay, it’s great. It shows us where to redirect our efforts, because trying to force someone to do or see something before they’re willing rarely works.

Furthermore, the reason we fight for our limitations is because we (our egos) are convinced they’re true. We have no proof to the contrary yet because we’re not even willing to consider it, so the key is to see where there is some wiggle room and go from there.

Change is a process, not an event. And possibility is what pulls you forward, not fear or limitation.

Identifying and beginning to shift your limitations is thereby a critical piece to the puzzle. And there IS possibility beyond your current situation and limitations, even if you can’t see it or don’t believe it yet. I wouldn’t have a job if this weren’t true.

So in conclusion, my ask to you is this:

What if change could be exciting?
What if it ends up being the best thing you’ve ever done?
What if you don’t need to be ready, only willing?

And just in case you’re wondering, I left my former job (and career) six months after accepting the new role. Deep down I always knew it was a temporary fix, and that was okay. I just needed time until I was willing and able to see new possibilities.

One step at a time.

Inspiration and curiosity always serve a purpose.

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