The great Michael Jordan first set this thought adrift in my consciousness in his basketball Hall of Fame acceptance speech.

He closed by saying, "One day you may look up and see me playing the game at 50." And as the audience laughed, he said, "Oh, don't laugh, don't laugh. Because limits, like fears, are often just illusions!"

We all hear those laughs sometimes. Perhaps they're out loud or maybe they take the form of a sideways glance that speaks volumes, saying, "you can't do that." Sometimes the laughs are our own, when our performance falls short of what we expected of ourselves.

The trick is to truly believe that limits, like fears, are just illusions. To walk this Michael Jordan walk, you'll need to keep these four things in mind.

  1. Setbacks are always temporary. Have the attitude that setbacks are merely short-term bumps in the road. View your setbacks as gifts. They are what will revitalize your commitment to what you want to achieve, and reassess what you are willing to sacrifice to make it happen. We are all open books of possibilities and none of us really know how good we are until we stop improving... so setbacks are the necessary roadwork for the ultimate victory.
  2. Don't get caught in the getting better to being bitter trap. Fear and limitations can easily shift your mindset from one focused on being better to one consumed with being bitter. Bitter is where improvement stops. Bitter plays the victim and the blame game. It's always THE OTHER GUY's fault. The OTHER GUY didn't give me a chance or isn't invested in my success. There are endless OTHER GUY excuses that cause us to give up control of our future to others. But, when we keep the control within ourselves, we can and do achieve what we dream.
  3. Faith, Fire and Focus. FAITH in our ability to excel, contribute and be a champion - someone who believes in himself or herself when perhaps no ones else does. Faith keeps us from settling for self-imposed limits, pushing us toward what we know we are capable of achieving. FIRE is passion, that intangible ingredient that trumps all else. If life was a game of rock, paper and scissors, passion is the wild card. Passion wins over just skill, it beats out better ideas, and it outruns commonly accepted stopping points. Passion has no accepted boundaries. FOCUS is the relentless preparation, flawless routines, and - to the exclusion of all else - envisioning only the successful outcome.
  4. Embrace other people as your "swim buddies". Limit- and fear-busting is hard work and we need buddies along the way so we don't drown, to know we are not alone, and that others are there to celebrate our successes. It is easy to miss how many people are pulling for you, are impacted by your setbacks, and truly happy for your success. Let those folks in.

According to Abraham Maslow: The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short. We are better than that. And we can change the story we tell ourselves and the ones we tell others when we truly believe that limits and fears are all in our heads.