The difference between knowing your limits and short-changing yourself

A rather personal post today, after an unintentionally long  absence.  Read on and you’ll understand why.

“You can’t do that.  You’re insane”

I have deliberately messed up my work-life balance this year, adding study to my already hectic life. And of all things, I’m attempting a law degree. Yes, it’s one more ball in the air, and a really big one. Friends and acquaintances who have heard of my endeavour have fallen into two camps – the first who think I’m crazy and the second who’ve congratulated me on my lofty scheme.  Both camps having valid concerns and I admit to wondering myself whether I had lost my marbles, but now that I’m about three quarters of the way through the semester and still chugging along, I think I might not be so crazy after all.  So why did I do it?

Stepping stones

Image Credit: Phil Parsons via Flickr

Living without regret

It was not easy, making this decision.  I reviewed the variables, tried in my perfectly rational way to assess the cost-benefit, worked through the logistics.  But there was no clear cut answer.  The turning point came when I thought about the issue in a completely different way, asking myself whether I would regret doing this?  Then it became perfectly clear.  Even if the decision to proceed was not the right one, I wouldn’t regret having tried.  At worst, I’d decide it wasn’t right for me and I’d have incurred some fees, but it would be a another stepping stone in life’s journey.  On the hand, I would almost certainly regret NOT doing it.

Testing the boundaries of “impossible”

In attempting the slightly insane, I wanted to test the boundaries of “impossible” and wanted to prove to myself that they are that little bit further that I think.  This was unknown territory.  The last time I did formal study was doing a post-graduate diploma fifteen years ago, and I coasted along one subject at a time.  I say “coasted’ because I didn’t have half the commitments I do now. Today, I’m older, I’m a parent of young children, I run a business and most of the time, I’m tired.

I had doubts and I was afraid.  Still, I decided to go ahead and I started the semester with a full load of four subjects.  The rationale being, that I don’t know what I’m capable of until I actually give it a go.  Four weeks into the course, I hit a wall and realised that I had taken on more than I could chew.  Four subjects was too much and I was paying too steep a price for it.

The greatest danger for most of us is not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim low and reaching our mark ~ Michelangelo

Knowing your limits

I decided to drop a subject and carry on and while it is still a challenge, it is a manageable challenge.  It made me wonder about all the helpful comments I got at the beginning, about taking it easy, about easing myself into it one or two subjects at the time.  I have a contrary view.  I believe that once we get stuck in a comfort zone, it is incredibly difficult to get out.

I had one chance to use ignorance to my advantage.  If I start on one or two subjects, that’s where I would stay.  Conscious also that time is not on my side, I realised that plodding along at one or two subjects per semester would mean a degree that would take up to ten years to complete – a thought I couldn’t bear!

So my strategy was to jump in with both feet and eyes closed!  The result is that I know what my genuine limit is, and it’s not an imaginary one constructed by my mind – a little less than I aimed for but more that I and everyone else thought was reasonable in my circumstances.  And, I’m happy with that outcome.

On reflection, I wonder how often our comfort zones define what we think are our limits.  What do you think?

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I’m a business coach passionate about helping women make the impossible possible! Do get in touch. I would love to have a chat to see how I can help.

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