The Freedom in Self-Imposed Limits
What does it mean to limit yourself?
That diet that you go on. The discipline of going to the gym each day. Making yourself get up instead of hitting the snooze button one more time.
Many of us put these limits on ourselves in the quest for a better, healthier, more fulfilling life. And, well intentioned as these limits are, often times they can feel like the come back and bite us in the behind. BUT (no pun intended 😉) These limits don’t have to feel limiting. When done right, limits provide us with greater freedom. They empower us, allow us to take charge of our own life, and let us carve out our own path. What could be freer than that?
The secret is in how the limits form, and the mindset you are in when you create them. I invite you to try out the following approach the next time you decide to limit yourself in the quest for greater freedom.
1. Ask yourself why you are putting this limit on yourself in the first place
For a limit to feel freeing, it must come from a place of abundance, not scarcity. And this abundance resides in self-love, not punishment. When deciding to make the call to add a new limit or restriction – whether its eating no more added sugar or stopping yourself from snoozing so that you can get up an hour earlier so you can get in that reading, do it out of love for yourself.
2. Remind yourself you are not telling yourself you can’t have or do something
Limits can feel…well limiting. And this all stems from how we approach them. Remind yourself that you are in charge of your own life – of the decisions you make about what you do and don’t do. When you limit yourself, remind yourself that it’s not that you can’t have or do something. But that you are choosing not to. So next time you go and reach for that chocolate bar and then tell yourself, wait – you can’t have that. Tell yourself you are wrong. You in fact, can have it. But you are choosing not to. It’s in your power. You get to decide.
3. Make decisions from your higher brain
What happens when that voice in your head creeps back up and tells you that you really do feel limited by all the rules you have but on yourself? Often times that little voice is that primitive part of our brain – you know, the one that kept us alive as cave people. And this voice doesn’t always know better – it doesn’t always know what you really need. It’s operating from an outdated system – one that is focused on avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. And in today’s world, there is a whole lot of immediate pleasure to be sought out. But this system doesn’t take into account the long-term effect of what those pleasures can do to you. Because this primitive brain lives in the day to day – in the moment by moment. It’s your higher brain that can help you make choices from that long-term perspective. This is why it is your higher brain you want to use whenever you make decisions.
4. Keep the reason for the limit at the forefront of your mind
There are instances in which you may feel limited and free and the very same time. This occurs when your two brains aren’t in sync – your lower brain telling you that you are trapped, you are really wanting whatever it is you limited yourself from having. And the higher brain saying, you chose to have that limit. The problem is it can be a lot harder to hear that higher brain when you got the primitive one screaming at you. In these cases, remind yourself of your higher brain’s reasoning. Sure, let that let the primitive brain have its tantrum, but without giving into it.
Here is what this could look like in action.
Have you ever told yourself that you were limiting your foods to just healthy options for the day, only to discover something delicious (a cupcake!) in your office break-room that very afternoon? And, have you ever felt limited because of it – you heard that primitive brain start telling you how that wasn’t fair that you “can’t” have one? This is a perfect opportunity to remind yourself of why you set that self-imposed limit in the first place. Remind yourself – I don’t eat cupcakes – I decided not to because the sugar is not healthy for my body, and I want a healthy body. Sure, I could eat it – but it won’t help me in the long run. I have the freedom to choose how I want to respond in this situation. And I choose to be healthy. Sure, my brain may throw a bit of a hissy fit. But, this is better for me in the long run even if it feels like crap right now. I am choosing to limit my foods based on my health, and what is good for my body. And that in itself, is freeing.