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We all have them, things we’d like to do but don’t do because, well, we don’t do. Why we don’t do is too often rooted in what I call self-imposed limitations.

Sure, there are things we wish we could do that we can’t do—I’ll never play golf like my firstborn son, let alone Phil Mickelson. I’ll never sing like Josh Groban. I’ll never snowboard like red-haired Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White. All of these talents are, though developed, God-given. I don’t have the physical athleticism or vocal cords, no matter how much I’d work to develop skill with the physical coordination or “pipes” I have, to play sports or sing at a world-class level. And by the way, I’ll never look like Tom Selleck in his prime.

When I talk about self-imposed limitations I’m not referring to an infinite list of different talents rooted in our DNA. Nor am I referring to legitimate obstacles all of us face from time to time in our lives, e.g. finances, health, work commitments, etc. When I say self-imposed limitations I mean choices we make that keep us from accomplishing things to which we aspire, all the while simply using the talent, time, and mental/physical capacity God gave us.

On a fairly regular basis I hear someone say something like this: “I’d love to go to New York City.” Me, “Why don’t you go?” Them, “Oh, I can’t.” Me, “Why?” Them, “I don’t know; I just can’t.” When I dig deeper I discover they can’t because they won’t meaning there’s nothing really stopping them other than their own ability to turn desire into action.

Sometimes I hear, “I’d really like to travel to the Holy Land.” Me, “Hey, come and go with us.” Them, “Well I’d like to, but you know, I’m not able to go.” Now it’s possible some factor, like those I mentioned earlier, does indeed prevent them from going. But usually this isn’t the case, at least not in the long run in terms of a plan that could be developed for a future trip. Usually the “not able to go” gets back to their sense that somehow this dream is just a dream and they don’t really want to take the steps or make the sacrifices to fulfill it.

Or it could be something as simple as “I don’t like Chinese food.” Me, “OK, have you ever tried it?” Them, “No, maybe once.” Me, “Oh, well then why don’t you try it and see if you can find a dish that you like?” Them, “Not me.” So they never push the envelope of their assumptions, thus never experiencing anything new that might turn out to be at least a one-time-fun if not a lifetime enjoyment.

I’m not being critical of these folks, but I’m chagrined for them. Because I think they’re willingly denying themselves access to the incredible world God gave us. I know it’s a free country, so more power to ‘em. But I still think they’re missing out due to self-imposed limitations. Why?

--Insecurity or low self esteem. --Inability to make a decision. --Risk aversion. --Fear or perhaps anxiety. --Discomfort with change, uncertainty. --Lack of confidence. --Feelings. --Laziness. –Other?

Overcoming self-imposed limitations isn’t impossible. It may be difficult. It may take sacrifice. It may be challenging. But it isn’t impossible.

Overcoming self-imposed limitations is more a matter of transforming attitudes than actions. Change your attitude and the action will follow. How do you change your attitude?

First, I believe there’s nothing within me that’s beyond the reach of the Spirit of God. There’s no attitude I can develop through learned behavior, or even sprung from my own evil nature, that the Spirit cannot enable and empower me to change, or that he can change. Submit your attitudes to the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart (Proverbs 37:4).

Second, I believe “feelings” can get in the way of attitude change. We don’t “feel” like we can do this or that. But feelings, it seems to me, are ways we lie to ourselves, or ways the Father of Lies, Satan, lies to us. One thing I learned years ago from a pastor’s sermon, actually the pastor who conducted Sarah’s and my wedding: “Behavior changes feelings.” In other words, do something about cleaning the garage and you’ll begin to feel better about the garage. This sounds contradictory to the idea that action follows attitude, but I don’t think it is. You have to change your attitude about your feelings, take action, and your feelings change too.

Third, aspire, dream, develop your vision. If you don’t dream dreams you’ll never accomplish anything special. Once you dream, do.

With so much in the world beyond or seemingly beyond our control, it seems a shame we allow things to control us via self-imposed limitations. Here’s to unbridling our freedom.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

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