The age old advice that we should “know our limits” certainly seems like good workplace advice on the face of it: knowing your limits seems like the first step to effectively working within them. And perhaps this was all there was to be said on the matter on the days before psychology had blossomed as a field.
Now we have a huge number of studies showing that if you tell school-aged girls that women are worse at math than men, they do worse on the test than they do if you don’t tell them this. Telling people that they have limits can help limit them.
Now we have research showing that willpower is like a muscle that gets tired after repeated use. However, we also have research showing that the muscle either gets less tired or doesn’t get tired at all if you believe that willpower is limitless. Again: belief in limits creates limits.
Well now it seems that knowing your limits might be a great way to limit yourself. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should be entirely ignorant of your limits, or you might end up committing yourself by taking on tasks at work that are beyond your capacity. Instead of “know your limits”, then, it seems that best advice is, “within limits, don’t know your limits”.
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Colin is the Product Manager at WooBoard, a cloud-based peer recognition that promotes happy, motivated and engaged workplaces. To read more, you can visit their blog at www.blog.wooboard.com or follow them on Twitter @wooboard.