Last fall I was running in a marathon near the shore in Cape Cod. A mild, autumn morning had morphed into a full-blown rainstorm complete with biting winds and sudden foggy mists obscuring the path in front of us. I was still glancing down at my watch every few minutes to make sure that I was on pace despite the storm. During one of those moments when I was glancing at my watch I looked up to see a literal wave of water rising and crashing right into me. The ocean had crashed so hard against the tiny bridge we were crossing that it had almost pulled us back in with the tide.

For a moment I couldn’t breathe; I was so drenched that it looked like I had taken a swim in the rain. I was freezing and still had 20 miles ahead of me to the finish line. I pulled my sleeve over my watch and didn't glance down at it again. It didn’t matter anymore how fast I was going; all that mattered was that I find a way to not give up.

That wave, like so many other sudden waves in life, taught me that I know how to move forward when a wind is pushing me backwards. It taught me that even when I get knocked down or soaked or thrown off course, I can find a way to pick myself up.

There is a powerful tenacity of the human spirit inside us all. We can learn how to access that tenacity and go beyond the limits that we place on our own minds.

Jim Kwik, a renowned learning expert and speaker, recently published Limitless, a book that teaches us about reaching beyond our self-imposed limits so we can learn and grow to our full potentials. Kwik suffered a brain injury as a young child and had a breakdown in college from overworking himself as he tried to keep up with his classes. To cope afterwards, Kwik developed different methods for learning and strategies to change our limiting mindsets about our abilities.

Kwik defines a LIE as Limited Ideas Entertained. He presents seven lies that are commonly believed about learning and then the truths that we can use to remove the limits of our mindsets.

LIE #1: Intelligence is fixed.

Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford, describes the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset: “In a fixed mindset, students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset, students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.” (Carol.S. Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, 2006)

Our intelligence can be shaped and improved, but it depends on our ability to develop a growth mindset. We can begin by examining the way we speak to ourselves. Do we tell ourselves that we are slow readers or bad at math? Or do we tell ourselves that we aren’t skilled at this subject yet? The truth is that it’s not how you smart you but rather how you are smart. There are so many different kinds of intelligence, and our intelligence is ultimately a combination of our perspectives and actions.

TRUTH: Intelligence can be both developed and shaped according to our mindsets.

LIE #2: We only use 10 percent of our brains.

There is no scientific evidence to support this popular claim. The neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman was once asked in an interview: What if there was a way of accessing 100 percent of our brain? What might we be capable of? Dr. Eagleman replied: “We would be capable of exactly what we are doing now, which is to say, we do use a hundred percent of our brain.” (Eric Westervelt, “The Myth of the Misused Brain is 100 Percent False,” NPR, July 27, 2014)

What Kwik recommends we take away from this debunking of the ten percent myth is that we have all the power in our brains available to us right now. But just like some people work out and get more out of their bodies than others, some people use their brains better than others.

TRUTH: We can learn to use our whole brains in the most effective and efficient way possible.

LIE #3: Mistakes are failures.

Many of us don’t come close to reaching our potentials because we are so scared of making a mistake. Instead of seeing our mistakes as proof of failure, we need to start seeing our mistakes as proof that we are trying. Learning from our mistakes transforms them into stepping stones towards our goals. And remember: we are not our mistakes. “You make mistakes; mistakes don’t make you” (Jim Kwik, Limitless, p.97). What defines us is not how we make our mistakes but rather how we deal with them afterwards.

TRUTH: There is no such thing as failure. There is only failure to learn.

LIE #4: Knowledge is power.

Although knowledge is important, we need action in order to make it powerful. Knowledge is not power; it only has the potential to be power. We can read books, listen to podcasts and attend online seminars, but if we don’t apply what we have learned then our knowledge is useless. “It’s better well done than well said. Don’t promise, prove” (Jim Kwik, Limitless, p. 98).

TRUTH: Knowledge X Action= Power

LIE #5: Learning new things is very difficult.

Learning something new should be a little uncomfortable, otherwise we're mainly reviewing what we already know. In the same way that trying to cut wood with a dull blade is painfully slow, trying to learn something new with weak motivation or inefficient methods makes learning feel more difficult than it actually is.

The key to making learning easier is breaking it down into small, simple steps. The most important part of any learning process is the consistency; learning something new requires patient, repetitive effort.

TRUTH: Employing new learning methods can make learning easier and more enjoyable.

LIE #6: The criticism of others matters.

The fastest learners are young children because they don’t care what other people think about them. When they fall, they pull themselves right back up – hundreds of times – because they want to walk and don’t care who is watching them fall in the process. As we grow older, we are not only ashamed when we fall, we are afraid before we even try something new that someone will criticize us.

Creating the life we want can be scary, but regret is even scarier. “One day we will take our final breaths and not one of other people’s opinions or your fears will matter. What will matter is how we lived. Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from…Don’t allow other people’s opinions to run or ruin your life” (Jim Kwik, Limitless, p. 102).

TRUTH: It’s not other people’s job to like or respect me. It’s mine.

LIE #7: Genius is born.

Many of us view genius as an innate trait that we either possess or lack. But as Daniel Coyle found through his research of experts across many fields, greatness isn’t born; it is grown. In his book The Talent Code, Coyle shows how through deep practice, motivation and master coaching, anyone can develop a talent so deep that it looks like genius. But genius leaves clues behind, and those clues are disciplined methods that we can all learn.

TRUTH: Genius isn’t a gift we are born with; it is a trait that is developed through deep practice.

Learning is a lifelong process as we fall and pull ourselves up, sometimes hundreds of times. But like children who are determined to walk, we can keep uncovering the limiting beliefs that block us from moving forward and change them, one truth and one step at a time.