If You Want To Know Your Limits, Go Beyond Them

“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have mastered, you will never grow.”

– C.R. Lawton


Eugen Herrigel wrote a classic little gem called, Zen in the Art of Archery He writes in his introduction that:

[blockquote]“…all arts, as they are studied in Japan and other Eastern countries, are not intended for utilitarian purposes only or for purely aesthetic enjoyments, but are meant to train the mind; indeed, to bring it [the mind] into contact with the ultimate reality.”[/blockquote]

In other words, archery is not practiced for the sake of hitting a target. Nor does a dancer dance just to perform rhythmic movements of the body.  These practices are used to bring the conscious mind into harmony with the greater subconscious mind, which is far more important than the practice itself.


To master an art, technical knowledge is not enough.  You have to transcend the art so that the art becomes “artless art” that grows out of the subconscious mind.  In archery, this occurs when the hitter and the hit become one, and the archer is no longer aware of himself as separate from his target.

In the Zen tradition, this process is the same whether it is with archery, swordmanship, flower arrangement, the tea ceremony, dancing or any other fine art. Inevitably the process is an internal one; however, feedback from the outside world is absolutely necessary to prove ones mastery of the internal process.  The implication of the process is as Miyamoto Musashi described, which is “to know one thing is to know ten thousands things.” (The Book of Five Rings)

If you wish to achieve self-mastery, find a pursuit that brings out the best in you.  Surfers know this.  They seek out the biggest waves – the ones that offer the most challenge.  For in the waves that challenge them, they find growth.  They know that they will have to call upon every ounce of skill, and courage, and determination to overcome the wave and ride it.  In this challenge, they come to know the true limits of their capability.

I believe this idea applies to any human endeavor.  For me, personal coaching is the pursuit that brings out the best in me.  I practice a form of intuitive coaching which requires me to align myself with my client’s purpose.  I have to become in tune with their mind and spirit in order for me to understand their true intent.  My coaching is like a form of mental judo, and like in judo I can’t be afraid to surrender my energy to redirect the energy of my client to them achieve their aims.

This form of coaching requires a lot of faith both from the client and myself.  As their coach I am not afraid to lose myself to truly help my client find their way.  I am not afraid because I know I can find myself again.

This process can be mentally and physically exhausting.  But in the end, for me there is no greater feeling than helping another person get what they want out of life.

I am happy to go the edge with my clients because it is on the edge where the greatest growth occurs.

What have you done recently to stretch you limits or extend the edge of you comfort zone?  If you care to share, drop a comment below.