Writer and director James Cameron (Titantic, Avatar, and the Terminator) says it best at the end of his Ted Talk on Ted.com:
Don’t put limitations on yourself; other people will do that for you.
I typically show this Ted Talk to my university feature writing students each fall after they read a piece about the iconic director. We discuss the profile article, the writing style, the use of feature techniques, and then we talk about James Cameron—as he is portrayed in the article.
You see, when you read an article about someone, it’s from that one person’s perspective. And sometimes, he or she doesn’t get all the details, facts, and nuances correct from that interview process. Nevertheless, we walk away with a portrait of James Cameron that seems rather different from the Cameron we see in the Ted Talk. (Hence, the reason why I tend to show it in class—to see two perspectives.)
But what Cameron says at the end, that we shouldn’t put limitations on ourselves because other people do that for us, is so very true. The world is competitive, and sometimes all we need to do is focus on our goals and make plans to achieve them. As soon as we begin to doubt ourselves or decide that we cannot do something, we’ve limited ourselves.
For example, this strategy doesn’t just apply to professional goals. It can apply to personal goals…little goals that you set for yourself such as improving your exercise routine, bettering your eating habits, or losing weight altogether are fully within your own control. For me it was all three. For a while now, I’ve battled weight issues as I’ve watched it go up and down, and finally, I decided to do something about it. The bottom line is this: prior to this summer, I didn’t take the time to make it a priority in my life. I put others first. I put work first. I put writing first. I compromised my own health because I didn’t think it was important enough and I thought it couldn’t be done.
As of this writing, I have lost 20 pounds this summer, and I continue to work at it. When the semester begins, I won’t stop the practices I’ve put into place that are working because it’s important to me now and I’m reaching goals. I still have more to go, and the drive to succeed has now exceeded the limitations I put on myself.
The same is true for any goal you want to accomplish. Another example I can share with you is writing my third novel, a passion I have had since I was a teenager. I wanted to complete the writing of it this summer, and the draft is done. I have moved on to the editing phase and hope to publish this contemporary romance/women’s fiction novel in the fall.
I’m sharing all of this because I know you can do it, too.
Don’t put limitations on yourself.
You owe it to yourself to set goals and achieve exactly what you want to achieve.
Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.