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What Stops us from Exploring, Developing and Maximising our Potential?
I’m not particularly gifted (sigh) but I am pretty driven. I choose to be proactive, focused and disciplined (mostly) because I’m fascinated by what we human beings can achieve when we commit to exploring our potential and when we don’t allow our thinking or emotions to get in the way of our possibilities. In some ways, I guess my drive and determination come (in part) from my lack of inherent ability.
Who knew that being not-very-talented would have an upside?
Growing up, I wasn’t a great athlete, student, musician or a great anything for that matter. I was good at a few things (okay, eating), average at a few more and pretty crap at a whole bunch of things. For all the money my parents spent on years of guitar lessons, I should be frickin’ Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix and Slash all rolled into one. If only there had been some musical ability in the mix, I could have been anything.
Based on what I still remember (and can still play), I think my parents invested somewhere in the vicinity of four thousand dollars per chord. Having said that, if you ever need somebody to belt out a horrible acoustic rendition of House of the Rising Sun at your next party, I’m your guy.
What do you mean – “no thanks”?
And if, per chance, something is in need of repair at your house, whatever you do, don’t ask me to fix it. Sure, I may look handy but don’t be fooled; as a repairman, I’m about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike. Combine my total lack of technical and mechanical aptitude with my enormous-for-no-good-reason ego, my enthusiasm, my unwarranted optimism (about my potential to fix things) and my ineptitude with tools – and I’m sure to create more havoc than harmony at your place.
The strange thing is, part of me always thinks I’m going to be able to fix whatever it is I’m taking apart – despite my abysmal track record. It’s the one area that I don’t seem to learn in. Maybe it’s my over-developed optimism-gene kicking in. Fortunately, I’ve always had girlfriends with great mechanical aptitude. And large forearms.
Enough about me.
Your Best Life
When it comes to the matter of creating and sustaining our best life (whatever that means to each of us personally), the question we should ask ourselves is not, “how much potential do I have?” but rather, “how much of that potential am I currently using?”
Earlier this year, I published a fantastic letter I received from Mel – one of our readers and part of our community. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you take a peek. Her achievement of creating and maintaining such a significant change in her world is inspirational. She lost 56 kgs (123 lbs) and has kept it off for a year and a half. But more important than the weight-loss (in my opinion), is the fact that she has also created and maintained amazing change on many levels beyond the physical.
After years of stopping and starting. Of wasting time. Of not reaching her goal. Of living in a body which embarrassed her. Of feeling self-conscious. Of hiding in her house. Of crying. Of avoiding people. Of pretending to be happy. Of shortness of breath. Of poor health. Of chaffing. And of walking to the letterbox in the dark… Mel changed. Massively. She transformed her body, her thinking, her habits, her behaviours and her life.
Her entire reality.
Now, we could spend hours debating and discussing why it took her so long (to change once and for all) but the pertinent question for this chat is:
Did she always have the potential to create amazing change?
Of course, the answer is yes. She didn’t wake up one day and miraculously possess more potential. No, she woke up one day and started using what had always been there. And to keep using it no matter what. What she didn’t always have was the mindset, the awareness, the discipline or the momentum – but she always had the potential for incredible transformation.
For a range of reasons, there was a time when she was not (genuinely) ready. Not prepared to pay the price. Not willing to get that uncomfortable. Not willing to face her fears. The potential was there but it wasn’t being exploited – kind of like the guy who buys the amazing car and then leaves it in the garage because he’s too scared somebody might scratch it. Or resent his success. Or steal it when he’s not looking.
And when Mel created the right internal environment – when she got to that point – she opened the door to something that was always there: her own personal world of amazing. Her potential.
You and Me?
The amount of inherent potential you and I have is finite but how much of that potential we use is completely optional. Isn’t that great news? Of course, there’s no way of knowing, measuring or quantifying exactly how much potential we each have – or how much of that potential we will typically use in a lifetime (various figures like three percent get thrown around) – but it’s my belief, observation and experience that most of us don’t use most of what we have.
So the next obvious question is…
What Stops us from Exploring, Developing and Maximising our Potential?
A bunch of things but mostly, it’s a fear thing.
Fear of failure. Of embarrassment. Of being judged. Of the unknown. Of being ridiculed. Of the commitment required. Of the potential pain, discomfort and risk. The day we decide that we’re prepared to deal with those inevitable realities of the human experience, and the day we stop trying to keep everybody except ourselves happy, is the day the transformation begins.
Personally, I’ve spent years making mistakes. Taking risks. Being criticised. Embarrassed. Judged. Labelled. Liked. Disliked. I’m okay with all of it because where there’s discomfort, there’s growth. There’s learning. And in the middle of it all, I found me. Despite many protests, I went to university (for the first time) at thirty-six. After being told that I wouldn’t get a book published, I wrote my first book at thirty-seven. I did my first (regular) TV gig at forty-two. I didn’t know what a blog was at forty-one. I’ve had two failed businesses. In order to build my speaking skills, I did hundreds of presentations for little or no money. For years. Some of them were horrible. I was horrible. My ‘apprenticeship’ into the world of professional speaking was a ten-year journey. I could go on, but I don’t want to bore you. Needless to say, my failures lessons far outweigh my triumphs.
In some ways, the ‘safest’ thing for me to do would be to not share my thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs in such a public way. Some people don’t like it. Doing what I do – sharing my philosophies with a large audience – means that I will be criticised, disliked and uncomfortable on a regular basis. That’s okay, I’ll simply choose to live, laugh, love and learn. Because I can.
One of my favourite mentors at university (Dr. Paul Callery) once told me:
“If you don’t want to offend anyone, then say nothing, do nothing and be nothing.”
I’ll finish today’s post with a message I often share with my charges:
I don’t care how young, old, fat, fit, tall, small, genetically gifted, intelligent, qualified, skilled, experienced or inherently talented you are (or aren’t), all I care about (in terms of you creating lasting change in your world), is what you do with what you’ve been given. You can’t change your genetics but you can change how you use them. You can’t change your chronological age but you can change what you do (choices, behaviours, habits) at your age. And in the process, you can lower your biological age. You can’t change other people but you can change how you behave and react around them. You can’t alter your level of natural ability (potential), but you can determine how much of that ability you tap into, exploit and develop. You can’t change your past but you can change the way you let it influence and impact on your present and your future. That is, you don’t need to be limited by, defined by or determined by your history (as many people are). Your history doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about your potential and is often a poor indicator of what’s possible for your future. If you’re like many, then your achievements – or perhaps lack of achievements – are more a reflection of your fear (to take a chance and get uncomfortable) than they are a reflection of your potential.
And finally, don’t allow your self-limiting, over-thinking, fear-influenced mind to stand between you and happiness. You are good enough, talented enough, courageous enough and definitely worth it.
Enjoy your journey.
And your potential.
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