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Limits To Achievement
What can Man achieve? What are the limits?
What can Man achieve? What are the limits? Up to now this question has remained unanswered and we may never know the answer. The overall history of mankind, however, is unique testament to the fact that human beings have always been capable of achieving a lot more than has been assumed at any given time. The actual limits are never those that are set too quickly and too willingly by Man himself.
To a certain extent artificial limits are and have always been set for human beings in the interests of maintaining the status quo, in terms of the balance of power and ownership. On one hand, limits result from what an assumed humanity. The fact that human beings have nonetheless been able to go beyond these limits against all obstacles is even greater proof of their potential for achievement.
Even in the one area which historically has had a pioneering function in terms of achievement and achievement orientation - the economy - more limits are being set today than are being surpassed. This is not being done deliberately but de facto, because we have lost sight of a couple of basic truths. These truths have been sacrificed in favour of an apparent humanism in education and further training. Artificial and completely unnecessary limits firstly result from motivational theory. Secondly, limits are being set by the majority of attempts at personal development, which almost always focus on the wrong issue, namely eliminating weaknesses.
In the past, people didn't work because it was pleasurable, they did it because they had to and because they considered it as their duty. Although the essentials of work have not completely disappeared in developing countries today, they have been reduced and have been largely replaced by social welfare systems. While we may welcome this development, the idea of duty and awareness of duty have often been lost in the process, unfortunately. Anyone who appeals to a sense of duty is now dismissed as someone stuck in the past. By eliminating duty, however, you are also taking away one reason - possibly the most powerful reason - for human beings to explore their limits.
Anyone who only works when he feels like it and when it is enjoyable - i.e. when he is motivated - will not be very encouraged to explore or even surpass his limits once his motivation has ceased. Exploring limits is almost always arduous, it involves effort, sometimes with the sort of ultimate superhuman effort which shows and has always shown that Man can do more than he - and other people - feel that he is capable of. Surpassing apparent limits is something you will always find where human beings are not asking themselves whether they are motivated and expect pleasure but where they feel called upon to perform a task, to master a situation and to fulfil a duty. In such situations nothing could be more ridiculous, meaningless and cynical than the question of motivation and gaining pleasure.
A company would not be able to function at all if everyone only did things that they felt motivated to do. We should encourage people to stop worrying about their motivation and instead concentrate on focussing their abilities and strength to achieve tasks.
One example of an area in which unnecessary limits are being set and people are being discouraged from exploring these limits, in the broadest sense, is what in management terms is referred to as personal development. This is largely based on identifying weaknesses and making efforts to eliminate them.
We now have the most advanced methods available for identifying weaknesses and shortcomings and these have become almost inextricably linked to personnel matters and further training. However, this is precisely why we seem to overlook the fact that people can never become successful by eliminating their weaknesses but only by developing and fully exploiting their existing strengths.
The misguided but already very widespread and seemingly very humane philosophy of eliminating weaknesses is inherently inhuman. In reality it doesn't help people at all. On the contrary, it takes away their abilities to even identify their limits, let alone surpass them. Anyone who is able to eliminate their weaknesses - often with superhuman efforts - rarely manages more than a mediocre level of achievement. They reach a point - by which time they are normally physically or mentally exhausted - where other people without these weaknesses have started off quite easily. This involves enormous effort and the end result is pathetic.
All great achievements - in sport, in art and science, in economics and politics - are the result of uncompromising use of strengths which the people in question already have - at a basic level at least. These achievements have been made by people who were encouraged by other people or by themselves - not to focus on their weaknesses and to torture themselves by trying to eliminate them, but to "exploit the talents" that they had been given.
At some point - a long way off - everyone would potentially reach the objective limits of what they could achieve. Most people get nowhere near this point, however, because they allow artificial limits to be set for them by the false doctrine of the Zeitgeist.
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