I’m no psychologist, but I am an observer of human behavior. In my experience, most of the limitations we set on ourselves come not as much from inside, but more often external sources.
Recently I did something that in my youth I’d never even imagined I could have done, a 100-mile bicycle ride. Known among the cycle saddle set as a “century” (meaning 100) ride, this was my second such event. During the first, in May 2017, I had barely trained 4 weeks and only managed the “metric” version, 100 kilometers, about 62 miles.
The first century ride I did began at 7 a.m., amidst a 36-degree cold snap, but I managed to work through it. The most recent attempt got off to a much rockier start for me, however. Less than a mile from the starting area, I was negotiating the entrance to a very wet, wooden bridge when I found myself crashing hard to the deck, the bike folded up on top of me.
I wasn’t hurt too badly, but this nearly one-thousand-dollar road bike didn’t do as well. Luckily, the event included a mechanic to the staff and he helped me get back up and running and I went ahead.
I share these stories because if I hadn’t believed I could do it in the first place, however, the set backs of both extreme cold on the first run and the crash on the second would have ended the endeavors before they started. I believe strongly that success and our aptitude begins with the attitude of the individual.
All of this got me to thinking about how many limitations we set on ourselves that begin from outside. One of the best, worst examples of how we, as a society, set limits on people right from the beginning are standardized aptitude tests.
I remember taking one of these “tests” sometime before my freshman year of high school. The idea was to help students and parents best determine a direction of study and potential career path. What it mostly did, at least for me, was illustrate how ridiculous these things can be. My favorite piece was that it said I have no musical attitude at all. I’ll leave that right there and you can go Google me.
Now, I’m sure there is a guidance counselor or other highly educated professional out there whose job it is to administer these examinations chomping at the bit to quote some statistic at me right now. But the reality is that these tests are just another way to categorize and limit someone’s personal potential.
We also have countless other, less scientific, outside effects, such as friends, family, and co-workers, who may constantly be throwing a wet blanket on your dreams or aspirations. Most of the time negative influences come from people who have little to no similar drive to achieve anything.
It can take a great deal of effort to combat the self-doubt and lack of confidence that can accompany such naysaying. I was lucky, my family never held me back from whatever I wanted to try, but I’ve had plenty of others who wanted to convince me I wasn’t good enough.
The overall concept here is that we generate a great deal of our self-confidence from what others say and how they behave toward us. It’s hard to stay focused on a goal when those around you are saying, “you can’t do that,” or something along those lines.
The truth is that, without regard to financial or educational status that might be required to accomplish some things, you can accomplish pretty much anything you set your mind to do. And even when there are more material obstacles, if you really want something, take the steps to make it happen with time and effort.
And in case you were wondering, I completed the latest century ride, July 14, 2017, a total of 102.2 miles, in 7 hours and 39 minutes. Not warp speed, but remember, if I can do something like this, you can do whatever you set your mind to do. It takes commitment, determination, and self-confidence. Ignore the naysayers and accomplish whatever you want.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com