Stronger limits lead to greater freedom and success. It sounds ironic, sure, and I might never have resonated with the idea if not for a bad breakup and the wisdom of a quirky pianist.
One day I came across this gem from Chilly Gonzales: “I look for a limit on the piano that will focus me in, rather than be faced with the blank page of all 88 keys. When you’re composing, you need those obstacles.”
It got me thinking about the limits that defined my life, and the success I wasn’t experiencing. After reasoning that I had at least 88,000 personal keys, I got more serious about creating limits for my success in all areas. Then, my life bloomed. Now I have the privilege of helping others improve their lives by setting challenging and creative limits.
If you want to improve your success, consider these five limits:
1. Limit yes
We have a limited amount of time and energy, so limit yes to the instances where you can say, “Hell Yes.” Otherwise, you waste precious energy on uninspired people and activities.
If someone invites you to waste time or do the same thing with the same people, whip out that no. Don’t be shy, because no is the only thing standing between you and an extraordinary life; it is one of your strongest limits. If the thing in question conflicts with your need to grow, or your personal time, flex that no.
“Thanks for thinking of me, but no. I have other plans.” Nothing more needs to be said; no apologies required. You can’t be happy saying yes when you’re sorry saying no.
“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” – Albert Einstein
2. Limit external directives
Tired of your days being hijacked by emails, social media, and text messages? Try limiting how much time you spend looking outside for direction. When in doubt, look within. Your life and your dreams are decided by two things:
- The amount of quality time spent reflecting on what is best for you and the people you love. And
- The amount of undistracted time you have to focus and unleash creative energy in pure, productive flow.
Facebook doesn’t know what is best for you. Or at least, I don’t think they have an algorithm for that yet. Any person who emails you certainly won’t be the master designer of your life plans. Your highest achievements are decided by you and you alone, so limit things that distract you from you.
3. Limit information
Information: what you take in shapes your formation. It is the substance of entertainment, from music, to television, to movies and books; all of which are forming who we are every moment.
We are consuming information more rapidly than ever, but when that information is bad, it consumes us. After I looked back on my failed relationships, I saw that I regurgitated the idea of romance that is portrayed in music and movies. And I paid for that information.
So take a good look at what you want your success to be. Then compare that life to the information you consume. If there is a conflict, make the choice that favors your highest development no matter how hard that may be. Limit your information to the stuff that inspires you to succeed, to be adventurous, to take smart risks, and to improve your character.
4. Limit friendships
Limit friendships to the people who challenge you to grow, and who inspire you to be a better person. This one is extremely difficult to do, but it will lead to your greatest breakthroughs in life.
We form such devoted attachments to our friends through emotional experiences, intellectual similarity, and mutual good will. But when we become so attached to friends who live uninspired lives, their behavior informs our character.
So choose friends whose freedom you want to emulate; otherwise, they’ll restrict your potential to succeed. Choose friends you feel uncomfortable being stagnant around, and encouraged to succeed by. With good friends, you’ll create an invaluable culture of success to grow in.
5. Limit definitions
This one seems like a no-brainer because definitions, by definition, are limited. But mass opinion has a strange and morbid effect on common sense.
Take success, for instance. How many people go on to accomplish every business goal they dreamed of only to lose their families and happiness? How many millionaires “succeeded” at the cost of personal joy and satisfaction?
Take the time to redefine success (and any other important word to you). Make success holistic, and have it include your goals for family life, love, play, work, income, lifestyle, and any other facet of life that involves your happiness. Then you won’t sacrifice the good life for your business “success.”
“There’s no limit to what free men and free women in a free market with free enterprise can accomplish when people are free to follow their dream.” – Jack Kemp
If your life is an engine, then limits are the valves and pistons strategically placed to keep you moving forward. If you’ve been spinning your wheels when it comes to success, take a deeper look at the limits that can set you free.