Published on December 8, 2020

7 Ways To Break Boundaries and Self-Imposed Limits

7 Ways To Break Boundaries and Self-Imposed Limits

No matter who you are, there are limits and boundaries impacting you. Some are good, but some are bad. And the latter is the kind of boundaries you’ll want to break from.

Take poor Icarus, who famously said that “all limits are self-imposed.” Great in theory Icarus, but trying to fly too high towards the sun with wings made of feathers and wax for glue proves that some limits are good to heed to.

The issue we face in the 21st century is working out which limitations are good and which are holding us back—which keep us safe and which kill off our happiness, success, and even our health. You’ll have to learn how to break these boundaries to enjoy the benefits of not being limited.

Here are 7 ways to break boundaries and self-imposed limits.

1. Be Open to It

What you think is possible is absolutely accurate. The issue is what you think impacts your ability to think powerfully, so you trap yourself in your own quality of thought. Confused?

I worked with a client who categorically assured me that there was nothing that could be done. The first thing that must happen with any limitation is you have to break down the belief about it. You don’t have to believe it’s possible or know how to do it—just accept there’s going to be a way to do it. Let’s use science to prove this.

In a study on the Biochemistry of belief, researchers looked at the subject of “Man is what he believes he is” (a quote by Russian writer Anton Chekhov). They explored examples of how what happens in our minds impacts our bodies and our results in life.

“Receptors on the cell membranes are flexible, which can alter sensitivity and conformation. In other words, even when we feel stuck ‘emotionally’, there is always a biochemical potential for change and possible growth. When we choose to change our thoughts (bursts of neurochemicals), we become open and receptive to other pieces of sensory information hitherto blocked by our beliefs! When we change our thinking, we change our beliefs. When we change our beliefs, we change our behavior.”[1]

So, whether you believe it or not, it’s a fact. You can break free and break boundaries.

In Neuroscientist Joe Dispenza’s book, You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter, Dispenza looks at occasions where the power of the mind overruled what happened in the body. He looks at the story of WW2 Doctor Henry Beech who had the awful predicament where he ran out of morphine. It turns out the story is not true (as Shannon Harvey showed in her article[2]).


However, it is the case that Doctor Beech noticed that soldiers association with pain was very different to most since they saw the pain as escaping the front line—so, they were able to lower the amount of pain they felt they were feeling! See how powerful the mind is?

Again, you don’t have to believe this to be true. Just be open to the idea.

2. The Sayings That Count

Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory said:

“I often forget other people have limitations. It’s so sad.”

And he’s right. In my experience, it’s often the limitations that you can’t see that have the biggest impact.

I asked on social media what phrases everyone hated. I had over 150 comments within a few hours. I then asked, “What sayings do you love?” and struggled to get 8 comments in days!

The irony is that the negative phrases stop you from achieving great things and positive ones power up your ability to achieve what you wish to. Therefore, you should learn to know the sayings that count.

Clare is the leader of a highly prestigious team. The pandemic has hit them hard as it has for many, and Clare realized she was surrounded by people saying;

  • “There’s too much work; we have to work during the weekend.”
  • “I’m no good at working on my own. I can’t do it.”
  • “It’s not my fault; the tech/Wi-Fi/other departments aren’t up to this.”
  • “We have no choice about this.”

Look out for these. If you’re hearing a saying more than once, question it.

  • Is it true?
  • Is there nothing that can be done?
  • Have you looked at that one phrase and asked, “Is there a better way?”

If there isn’t a better way to physically work within this limitation, there will be a better way to view the limitation so that it doesn’t cause a limitation!


Clare’s team was the perfect example. We took each statement the team made and questioned its validity.

We saw that some people believed that there could be a new way of working (new processes and communications) while others needed a new way of thinking. And some firmly believed that unless the pandemic ends, they would be trapped in hell.

3. Growth or Fixed?

To change the phrases that help create limitations, you need to look at yourself in more detail. If you’ve read my lifehack articles, you will know I talk about the science of you (i.e., not fighting who you are but learning how to utilize that to be the best version possible). Some will hold on for dear life to the beliefs they have, unprepared to accept that there could be a different way. If this is, you don’t feel bad.

Some naturally cultivate a growth mindset and can think in a way that helps them explore new ideas. This can be good and bad—not so good for sticking to the plan as they easily get distracted by something else!

If you can’t imagine ditching the limitations that feel self-imposed, learn to listen to yourself more. I’ve never seen a fixed mindset person who couldn’t do this—who couldn’t break their boundaries and limitations.

Here are strategies to develop a growth mindset if you have a fixed mindset:

  1. Look for role models—ideally not those who have a growth mindset already but ones like you who epitomize getting the life they want.
  2. What do you notice about these role models—passionate fashionistas, structured, free-flowing, love/hate to dance, or love or hate chat?
  3. Really understand them. Having a chat with them is useful, so pluck up the courage and do it. You’ll be surprised how people are keen to help.
  4. Write the phrases you say, and ask yourself if they are good or bad for your success. This goes for all mindsets. Growth mindset people are just as likely to have things they say that limit their ability to get what they need. They may have beliefs that are without limitation when in fact, if they faced that belief, they’d see their lack of skill doesn’t match their growth mindset. Ever seen a poor public speaker/singer who thinks they rock? Exactly!
  5. Challenge and question. There’s power in questions. Da Vinci was a lover of questions. The key is to not force the answer,. Just explore what you think. The more questions you can ask, the better the quality of your thoughts.
  6. Start in a way that suits you. It’s no good telling you to start small if you love to be very busy. Likewise, if I tell you to go for it, that may scare you so badly you proverbially sit in the corner and shake!
  7. Go at a pace that suits you but no matter what, ensure that you schedule your plan of action into your life. Even things that seem intangible need time to be worked on. Often, in a client’s plan of action, there will be something like “explore how this thought impacts on work for the next 4 weeks.” If you don’t diary it, you won’t prioritize it.

4. Can’t, Won’t, Don’t, Try

We concentrate on the negative to keep us safe. Known as negative bias, it’s been a winning way for us humans since we first evolved to stand up and build a campfire. The issue is that our brains can trick us into believing what they say.

As you start to focus on the phrases you use and their impact, look out for these 4 words:

  1. Try
  2. Can’t
  3. Won’t
  4. Should

These words take up too much of your brain and stop you from breaking down the self-imposed barriers. In my new book, Taking control of your mind: Life hacks to resilience, confidence, and success, I look at the 6 archetypes that we fit into when it comes to hidden fear.

We all have fears, from billionaires to students, from CEO’s to happy, healthy individuals living life to the fullest. The archetype disbeliever has a habit of hearing and accepting every word in their head—good or bad. The good news is that once you start to spot these words, you can change your results.


Can you only “try“? “Trying” suggests you take a high odds view that it could fail. Change that to something like “I aim to do this, give it focus, and take ownership.”

‘I can’t.” If it’s fly like Icarus, then I’m with you. On the other hand, if it’s telling someone what you think, is it “I can’t,” or is it “I am scared to”?

“I won’t” is a great one. It can be used to power up your chance to beat your limitations and break boundaries or be used to hold those boundaries in place:

  • “I won’t let anyone hurt my family” is a powerful “I can overcome anything” mindset.
  • “I won’t be able to do that” holds you stuck fast in a way that doesn’t.

Lastly, “should” makes out that everyone and everything else is more important and that’s just the way it is. I’ve never seen this to be true.

Remember, you can’t break all the boundaries. However, even if you’re stuck with certain limitations, that does not stop you from changing your mindset to them.

For instance: “I should do this report because the whole company needs it” takes all your power away. Change it to “I act on this report because the whole company is relying on me.”

Do you see how one is powerless and the other powerful?

I coached a full-time carer who was building a business on the side, working part-time, and felt like everyone had control of their life. Reframing what they should do to what they did and how it made a difference was, without a doubt, life-changing. They went from seeing themselves as a victim to a superhero.

5. Seriously, Get Out!

Self-imposed limitations don’t like to go quietly. They are reinforced with outdated incorrect “facts” gleaned from the internet or friends. Trying to break through limitations and boundaries means you must be mindful of who you hang out with, both in your head, online, and in the real world. The right people will help remove the limitations, too.

6. Plan With Confidence

To break these limitations and boundaries, create an action plan, decide who will keep you accountable, and monitor self-belief and confidence. Don’t do the “Go for it and you will fly” mindset. Unless you’ve got ears like Dumbo or magic like Peter Pan, no amount of positive thinking is going to make you fly—okay, if you really want it, you’ll find a way to get your hands on a James Bond jet pack!


Build yourself first before you break down your limitations.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” —J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

7. Unboxed

Contrary to what many experts will tell you, I’m not a huge fan of personality testing. If you love them, be mindful that you’re agreeing to be boxed up. You may have tendencies and natural ways of behaving, thinking, and reacting. However, that doesn’t define what you can be.

Holding onto a formula, for instance, that says “People like me don’t sit on the board of directors” restricts the ability to power up your mind and break boundaries.

A powerful time I saw was when a client said, “it’s impossible to earn more money in a pandemic!” Within 5 months, breaking that limitation means that person has made 500% more money and is likely to double that again. That’s the power of your mind.

Final Thoughts

It’s not easy to break boundaries and limitations, especially if you are not mentally prepared. You can start with these 7 tips to break your self-imposed limits to help you achieve your goals and live your life to the fullest.

Remember: if you believe it to be true, it is. So, choose carefully what you choose to think.

More Tips on How to Break Boundaries and Limitations

Featured photo credit: Aditya Saxena via


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Mandie Holgate

International Coach, Best Selling Author & Speaker inspiring people around the world to success.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

If you are like most people, you probably have big goals and dreams that you would like to succeed in — you want to be the top in your career, live a healthy lifestyle, or flourish in your relationships.

Everyone dreams of a positive future, but most people don’t realize the secret to a truly successful life:

You determine your future in the way you spend your everyday moments. If you want to be a successful person, you must consistently develop good daily habits. As Aristotle pointed out:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.

Building positive daily habits is a huge challenge, but can you imagine the amazing things you could accomplish with just a little commitment and determination?

Creating lasting, healthy habits is the real key difference between people who are successful in life and those who are unsuccessful.

You might be wondering which specific habits make the biggest difference. Not to worry, I’ve compiled a comparison list to help you get a jump start on a successful future.

1. Successful people embrace change. Unsuccessful people fear change.

Change is a constant for all of humanity, and it is important that you develop a positive relationship with it.

When unexpected or unwelcome changes arise, ask yourself how you can embrace it instead of running away. A few practical ways to reverse a change-fearing mindset include:

  • Take a moment to recognize and address any fears associated with the upcoming change.
  • Communicate with a person you trust about your negative feelings toward change.
  • Practice positive thinking, which you can read about in the next section.

2. Successful people exude joy. Unsuccessful people think, say and do negative things.

A joyful, positive disposition can seem like a distant reality in today’s cynical world, but it may be easier to achieve than you think. All you have to do is notice the good things around you and practice being thankful.


Mindfulness and gratitude are not just buzz words – choosing a positive attitude can honestly change your life. Many studies have found that thankfulness leads to greater happiness. Furthermore, research indicates that gratitude may even have a lasting positive impact on the brain and overall mental health.[1]

3. Successful people forgive others. Unsuccessful people hold grudges.

As a human being, you have likely been offended or hurt by others plenty of times. Don’t give in to the temptation to hold a grudge. Let it go.

Note that forgiving someone does not equate to giving up your boundaries (which are very important) or even admitting that the offending party is right. You should choose to let go for your own peace of mind.

4. Successful people track progress. Unsuccessful people just criticize.

Some kinds of criticism, such as constructive criticism, are good for personal and professional development. The kind of criticism I’m talking about is the pessimistic, nagging, unhelpful variety. This is the kind of criticism in play when you are unfairly harsh to yourself or others.

Toss unfounded criticisms aside and consider tracking your “wins” or your progresses, no matter how small. Take mental notes or keep a progress journal.

If you have a solid sense of what you have achieved, you will be less tempted to be hard on yourself.

5. Successful people share information, data and ideas. Unsuccessful people hoard.

If you have useful information or generate brilliant ideas on the regular, your first instinct may be to keep it all to yourself for personal gain and solo recognition.

Instead of hoarding bright ideas, share them with your team. Your talents will be on display for the team, and the team will be able to support you and make your ideas a reality.

6. Successful people are humble. Unsuccessful people talk more than they listen.

Humility is key. The ability to listen to other people, really listen and understand, is essential to success in both work and relationships — and to listen you have to be humble.

Everyone has experienced the frustration of being in a one-sided conversation. When someone approaches you with a question or concern, put your own world aside for just a moment and give them the kindness of your full attention.


7. Successful people take risks. Unsuccessful people take the easy way out.

The next time your heart is racing and you want to walk away, consider embracing the risk. You never know what might happen if you take a chance.

Embracing risks looks like accepting the speaking engagement even though it seems a little scary. Success takes the courageous route, not the easy route.

8. Successful people learn, improve and read every day. Unsuccessful people stop learning.

Instead of binge-watching a show tonight, save an hour before bed to read a book and expand your mind.

Unsuccessful people are afraid to be flexible – they don’t challenge themselves to learn new things. Avoid this pitfall by exposing yourself to new thoughts and ideas every day.

9. Successful people handle problems well. Unsuccessful people act before they think.

The next time you run into a problem or even an emergency, try to work through your initial panic reaction with a few deep breaths.

Instead of acting rashly, think through your next actions as quickly but as logically as you can.

Learning to handle problems thoughtfully is an absolutely essential tool in the successful person’s toolbox (that’s you!).

10. Successful people accept responsibility for their failures. Unsuccessful people blame others.

Along with a previous tip about humility, this is one of the hardest things you’ll ever learn to do – but also the most rewarding. When you’ve failed, you must fight the urge to pass the blame. Successful people are able to fail honestly and gracefully.

And, hey, don’t feel bad about failing. Some of the most successful people in the world have failed too many times to count. It’s all a part of the process.

You can check out this article for more tips on how to fail well:


How Failure Helps You To Succeed and Grow

11. Successful people work with passion and commitment. Unsuccessful people have a sense of entitlement.

A short and sweet lesson for you:

You should never expect to achieve the things you want without working hard.

Follow your passion and stay committed to pursuing it. Work hard and stick to your habits every day. You’ll earn your reward.

12. Successful people spend time with the right people. Unsuccessful people think they already know it all.

A lot of people miss out on useful relationships and information sharing because they think they can do it all alone.

Spend time with people who inspire you, spur you to be a better person, and remind you that you can’t go it alone.

13. Successful people make to-do lists and maintain proper life balance. Unsuccessful people waste their time.

Ah, time management. Unsuccessful people never master the art of organization and planning.

Here are a few tips for you when it comes to time management:

  • Make to-do lists. Seriously, this will help you. Make time to do it every morning, evening, or whenever you are able.
  • Keep track of your time. Are you happy with the way you are currently balancing things? What changes can you make?
  • Keep a calendar full of your long-term goals (see next tip).

14. Successful people write down goals and think long term about their burning desires. Unsuccessful people get distracted every day.

Why is it so important to keep a long-term goal calendar? Here’s the deal:

The things you are passionate about today need a backbone.


Give your passionate ideas sustainability by writing down goals and staying on task instead of succumbing to distraction.

15. Successful people compliment others. Unsuccessful people try to bring others down to their level.

There is no greater confidence than saying “no” to sudden jealous or envious feelings and choosing to sincerely admire someone’s talents instead.

Unsuccessful people live in a world driven by competition, but successful people know that building people up is far more rewarding than bringing them down.

16. Successful people want others to succeed. Unsuccessful people secretly hope they fail.

In the same vein as the point above, this tip is all about good intentions.

Care for the people around you. Encourage them toward their successes. Hoping that others fail will not help you at all.

17. Successful people know their purpose and mission. Unsuccessful people don’t know what they want to be.

The last thing that differentiates successful people from unsuccessful people is one of the most important:

Keep your mission in mind.

Don’t be swayed to and fro by passing emotions and events. Know who you are and pursue your dreams wholeheartedly.

Final thoughts

Above all, stay confident. Truly believe that you can be and are successful. Strive to prove it in your day-to-day habits and activities!

What are you waiting for? Choose one of the habits above and get started today.


Featured photo credit: Unsplash via


[1] Berkeley University of California: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain

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