Set Yourself Up for Success: Know Your Limitations
We all have limitations. Recognizing them is not a way to be hard on yourself or focus on the negative. Rather, it is part of taking a realistic inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing both is important to success.
Knowing your limitations may at first glance seem contrary to a personal growth message, but it is not. It is very much the opposite. Knowing limitations is a key to being successful at whatever you choose to do. Unrecognized limitations are your Achilles heel, your fatal flaw, the wrench in your cogs. If you don’t what know your limitations are, they will always trip you up.
When you start a job, you will know some skills, and other skills you will have to learn. The way to excel in a new job is to hone what you do well to higher and higher levels of expertise while incorporating new skills into your repertoire. If you’re unsure of your performance, you won’t be after your first review with your manager. He or she will happily let you know what you’re good at and what you need to work on. Your limitations will be spelled out clearly and, if you’re lucky, your manager will help you devise a plan to conquer them.
The reason the manager does this is not to be cruel or sadistic. Unless he is a complete buffoon, he wants you to excel at your job. He wants you to do well if for no other reason than to make him look good. Discussing your weak areas with you—so you can improve—is one of the ways he does that.
The performance review is a good analogy for figuring out limitations. Just as you do in a work setting, you can figure out your personal limitations for yourself and devise your own action plan for working on them, working around them, or accepting them, whatever the case may be.
Why is it important to know your limitations? The main reason is so you have an accurate self-perception, important because:
- If you don’t have an accurate self-perception, you won’t focus on the right issues. You can polish a car until the cows come home, but if it has a broken drive train, it still won’t get you anywhere. It’s often just human nature to focus on the problems with easy solutions. If this means ignoring the harder issues that really need work, then you risk seriously limiting your capacity for growth. Often these harder issues are our areas of greatest limitation.
- If you don’t have an accurate self-perception, you are probably also unaware of your talents. An inaccurate self-perception usually goes both ways. Improving your self-perception in any capacity is going to improve your self-perception overall. The more able you are to assess your self accurately, the more likely you are to become aware of weaknesses and strengths. There is no darkness without light, no up without down, no good without bad. Knowing one means knowing the other; assessing one will always shed light on the other.In this sense, you could start with your strengths and subsequently find weaknesses. However, it seems to work best the other way around in most cases. We learn from mistakes, we are motivated by pain, and we are more likely to achieve a well-balanced sense of who we are if we start with our limitations. That said, this is not an invitation to flagellate yourself. When working with shortcomings and limitations, always be gentle and sweet to yourself. Otherwise, you’ve missed the entire point of doing the work.
- An inaccurate self-perception makes true personal change very difficult. How can you grow at maximum capacity if hindered by unacknowledged limitations and weaknesses? The better you know yourself, and the more willing you are to know yourself at ever-deepening levels, the more likely you are to reach the heights of achievement you desire. Another yin/yang principle: the deeper you can dig, the higher you can fly.When you watch successful people talk about their success, note their impressive sense of self-perception, at least in the area in which they’ve excelled. This is not accidental; it is an integral ingredient of the success recipe. When this keen perception extends to wider areas of personal awareness, the successful person is usually also happy and fulfilled. Don’t hate or envy them; learn from them.
How do you figure out your limitations? This is a big topic, and one that I’m not going to attempt to cover in any detail here. The general method involves developing the regular habit of personal inventory. This usually means writing down the things you seem stuck on or bothered by and checking them out with a person whom you respect and trust… It doesn’t matter so much how you do it as that you devise some type of plan and commit to doing it.
Making a personal inventory a regular part of your life will enhance it in every way. You will improve not only your self-perception, but also your self-image, your self-esteem, and your personal and professional relationships. It’s also fun: Getting to know your self intimately is a lifelong adventure full of infinite challenge and never-ending amazement. Once on the path, you will continually surprise yourself with new insights, discoveries, and directions. To miss out on such an adventure is to miss out, in many ways, on the point of life itself.
The great myths about heroic adventures, and also most biblical stories, including Christ’s crucifixion and a-rising from the dead, are metaphors for this great inner journey of discovering and overcoming limitations. If you really want to be “born again,” go inward. That’s where it starts.