I was a young student looking for a well-paying job to support my family and my studies. On that day, I found myself in the head nurse’s office at the nearby nursing home for the elderly.
I had never worked in that area, and frankly, I couldn’t really have imagine myself being a nurse. I was so squeamish that I hardly drank twice from the same glass, not to speak about assisting old people with using the toilet, or taking out and cleaning their dentures. Anyway, this was the best paying job opportunity for students and I desperately needed the money. At the end of the conversation the head nurse asked me with a serious tone: “Gabor, are you aware of what you are getting into?” I replied: “Probably not. If I was, I wouldn’t be here. But I want to start on Monday.”
I had no idea what a great impact that sentence would make on my later life. I started to do something that was completely outside the box of my limited thinking about myself and my abilities. The result was amazing. I had a very stable job for the next three years, I overcame my finesse, became one of the most popular student nurses and learned so much about life and death, that it actually changed my whole thinking. It was the most effective personality development class I ever attended.
We all have our limited ideas about ourselves. “I am not educated enough for that job.” “I am not brave enough to start this project.” “I am too old to build up a new career.” “I am just a woman, how could I..?” “I am just a man, why would they choose me?” “I am not the kind of person to…” “I am usually number 3 or 4; the first place is always reserved for somebody else.” Do these sentences sound familiar to you? Then you probably have the same limited view of yourself that I had as a student.
There is a fine line between people who become really successful and are appreciated for their accomplishments, and those who never make that decisive step, who remain in their secure lives, and never live out their full potential. The first group dares to overcome their boundaries. They are brave enough to explore themselves from new angles, they hit the road less travelled, and break through that ceiling that hinders their growth and fulfilment. Does that sound like a second-rate motivational speech to you? Maybe. But the Bible is full of encouragement to set your goals high and to repaint your limited picture of yourself:
“Let the weakling say, ’I am strong!’” Joel 3:10 (NIV)
“The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.” Deut 28:13 (NIV)
Now let us go a step further. There are many people who are brave enough to overcome their boundaries, but they don’t have a clear value system, an ethical guideline that helps them to differentiate between good and bad. They want to have everything, but then they get lost in the forest of possibilities and involve themselves in things that, instead of contributing to their personal growth, ruin their character and distort their personality. Pay attention to the second Bible quotation: “If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God…” If you want a secure base for your life, if you measure success not only by earthly but also by heavenly means, then it is not enough just to overcome your boundaries. There are also ethical principles, lines that you shouldn’t cross.
This way of thinking became my personal decision-making pattern during the last 20 years. After finishing university, I applied to a scientific conference as a workshop speaker. I was inexperienced, and I didn’t really know if my findings were such a big thing in the wider perspective or if it was just a new discovery for me. I started my presentation and I got really scared as I saw one of the leading experts in the field sitting in the first row and listening to my thesis. But I had already learned that growth comes through overcoming my boundaries, so I took a deep breath and continued my speech.
To my surprise, that professor came straight up to me after the presentation and congratulated me. She said that my observations were so good that they needed to be shared with the wider society. We exchanged cards and I went home with a very good feeling. Two weeks later I got a phone call from that professor. She connected me with her publisher and asked me to write a book about my research. She even wrote the foreword. I had never written a book before, but I already had a pattern.
I chose to see being afraid of writing a book as just my own mental limitation. It is a boundary inside of my mind and I am not obligated to respect that boundary. After all, what can go wrong? The worst thing is that I waste a half year of work on something that will not reach the success that I hoped for. So what? But what if it works? What if it becomes a success and thousands of couples around the world will be enriched by my writing? Actually, this is what happened.
With the help of this pattern (overcoming boundaries without crossing the lines), I expanded my abilities and my view of myself more and more and it all started with a simple question: “Gabor, are you aware of what you are getting into?” and a simple answer: “Probably no. If I was, I wouldn’t be here. But I want to start on Monday.”
A few years ago, I celebrated my 25th class reunion with my high school classmates. We talked about our lives and evaluated what we had achieved in the past quarter century. Again, I observed a fine line between two groups. There was a large group who spoke about broken marriages, unsatisfying jobs, financial difficulties and health challenges. Sadly, they ended their reports with the disappointment that as teenagers they had so many dreams about their future lives, but they suddenly realized that they needed to let those dreams go.
There was also a smaller, second group. Their eyes shone while they were talking. They talked about nice families, beautiful houses, fulfilling careers, and great achievements. This group ended their speeches with something like this: “I had a dream as a teenager, about how my future life would look. But I am so thankful that this dream wasn’t realized, because the life that I live now is far better than I dared to dream in my high school years.”
To which group would you like to belong? It’s time to overcome your boundaries, without crossing the line.