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Are your parameters real?

You are living under false pretenses. We all are. You conduct your life and make decisions within constraints and limitations that are often mere illusions.

Your “parameters” are the boundaries within which you operate. Sometimes those parameters are real but some you make up yourself. In order to perform at your best, it is important to recognize which are which.

At the end of 2020 I decided to try to shed 20 pounds because I had gained the dreaded “COVID 19”. When I researched methods of losing weight healthily and sustainably (no short-term or extreme diets), it looked like intermittent fasting would be the best way to go. The most promising method would require me not eating between 8 p.m. and noon the next day.

“No way!” I thought. I loved breakfast too much. I was always hungry when I woke up and looked forward to my cereal or eggs and toast. I was also in the habit of snacking at night, which I enjoyed. So I thought I couldn’t give up those joys and even if I tried I would be miserable and turn into an unbearable grouch.

But I was desperate to lose the weight so I gave it a shot. Funny, but after a few days I got used to a morning routine of two big glasses of water and a mug of coffee. After that I didn’t get hungry until 11 so I only felt the pangs for about an hour until lunch. And eating just before 8 p.m. meant I didn’t go to bed hungry, and I slept better since I didn’t eat around bedtime. (For the best rest it is best not to eat within 2 hours of going to bed).

Did it work? I actually lost more than the 20 pounds I was aiming for. Woo-hoo!

What I had previously thought to be parameters - limits on what I could do - were mostly habits and false mindsets that I could change. I just had to test those parameters and sure enough - they weren’t limits after all. They were illusions.

Some parameters are real, of course. Think of a project manager’s constraints. She doesn’t have unlimited time or money or resources. The stakeholders have created expected outcomes that her project must achieve. There are policies and regulations to which the project and those involved must adhere. Those are actual parameters - real constraints on what can be done within the project.

But she may also have false parameters that are limiting her success. Often these are not explicitly stated but felt at a subconscious level. She may feel limited by her intelligence (“I am not smart enough”), or her lack of experience (“I’ve never done this before”) or her availability (“I don’t have enough time for this.”)

Most of the time we underestimate our ability to grow, improve, and mature. We look at our current selves and think, “This is who I am, and I’m not that good.” That may be true or false, but even if true it is not a good indicator of who you can be if you want to.

Do you ever tell yourself:

I am too old

I am too set in my ways

I don’t have enough time

I don’t have enough energy

I am not special enough

I am not educated enough

I am not disciplined enough

I am not ready

I am not good enough

I don’t have the will-power

The key to breaking through your illusionary self-imposed parameters is to catch yourself. When you want to do something or make something happen but find yourself coming up with reasons why you can’t, try testing that limit. See if it’s true.

This is not meant to be a rah-rah motivational message, but an encouragement to give yourself more credit than you do. We humans are pretty amazing and can do some incredible things. Test those limits you think you have and you may surprise yourself.

Think well and be well.

- Steve Haffner

Want to learn more about improving your decision performance?

Click here for my free book, 7 Strategies for Making Better Decisions


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