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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Exploring Our Limits

The following exerpt from Terry Orlick's book- "Exploring Our Limits" was part of todays Psych II lesson on humanist psychology and goal setting. I think it is a great exerpt which makes us think about how we can have the ability to open up our potential or the ability to limit our potential.

     My personal experiences as a competitive athlete have been rich ones. There have been some memorable highs which remain with me. Some involved achieving personal goals, others involved the sheer joy of being absorbed in the experience. One of my achievement highs was when I first did a quadruple twisting back sommersault on the trampoline. Some might say-- so what? Who cares if you can spin your body around in the air four times before coming down? What difference does it make?

     It may not make any difference to anyone else, but it made a difference to me. It was important to me, and that was enough. It was kind of neat doing something that very few people have ever accomplished. Although I never started out with this as one of my goals, over a period of about eight years, it began to happen bit by bit...half twist...full...double...triple...three and a half...three and three quarters...quadruple! I remember an exciting feeling rushing through my body...a satisfaction in having explored my potential in one small seemingly meaningless, but personally meaningful, area of existence. I had stretched my personal limits, or at least thought I had at the time.

     The desire to do your personal best, to excel, to attain the highest standards of performance, to be supreme in one’s chosen field is a worthy human ambition which has led and can continue to lead to increased standards and personal growth. If no one was concerned with the quality of their contribution, their work, their product or service, our society would take a turn for the worse. Yet high levels of achievement and excellence in any area do not come easily. The trail is hard and steep. There are numerous obstacles to overcome and barriers to push forth. Becoming a highly skilled person in any field, athletics, art, surgery, science, writing, teaching, or parenting, demands commitment and sacrifice.

     The greatest barriers we confront in our pursuit of excellence are psychological barriers which we impose upon ourselves, sometimes unknowingly. My failure to even attempt a quintuple is a good example. Somehow I had come to believe it was “impossible”. Perhaps it was like the four minute mile. At one time this too was viewed as an impossible barrier...until it was broken by one man...and then almost immediately by a host of others. It wasn’t the physiological make-up of runners that changed; it was their psychological knowledge of what was possible. As man’s beliefs about limits change, the limits themselves change.

     While travelling through Southeast Asia I had the opportunity to see barefoot men walking across hot beds of coal. Incredible heat was generated by those glowing embers and yet they emerged unblistered and unscarred. Is such an “unbelieveable” feat within the capacity of “normal” human beings? How many of us will ever call upon this capacity? How many of us even believe that it is possible? Therein lie our limits. These men are made of the same flesh and blood as you and I. It is their belief that is different. Therein lies their strength.

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