17 February 2013

How To Reach Your True Potential

Have you ever felt frustrated that you could do so much more, be so much more? You’re doing what was expected of you in life, but there is something missing. There are no easy answers; many issues come into play, including fear and (lack of) confidence, along with various practical issues. You may hear your inner voice telling you, “I wasn’t that good at school”, “my skills are limited”, “I don’t know how to be anything else”, “I’m terrible at interviews”, “I can’t do that because I have to pick the kids up from school”. That inner voice is relentless; it could go on indefinitely if you let it. The problem is that if you listen to it, you can be sure you will never develop to your true potential.

Inner voice and plateau

I didn't say developing to your true potential was easy, and your first obstacle is that inner voice – I’m fighting it too. I’m enthusiastic, even passionate, about my life journey, but recently I found myself stuck on a plateau from where I could not move.  Many are in the same situation as I was - trying to break out, but feeling trapped. Thankfully I was overwhelmed with the desire to escape this plateau which was imprisoning me, preventing me from developing my potential - moving on.

Nobody was going to present me with a nail file hidden in a cake, and I couldn’t hope for keys – that only happens in stories – right?  I had to work out what prison this was, and who had passed sentence.  There were no bars, no guards, no one actually restraining me, yet I was stuck; as are many of us for my situation was not unique.  This was a prison of my own making - I had passed sentence.   I could have blamed the situation, those around me - but the truth is that it is only ourselves who can determine whether we move forward, or stagnate. It is only ourselves who can free us from our plateau, for it was ourselves who put us there.  There is always a way; it is just a question of finding it.

Query the judgements holding you back

We are all capable of passing such judgements upon ourselves, and we do so frequently – in fact, daily.  Those judgements prevent us progressing and developing to our potential – although we may not realise it.  “I can’t drive on a motorway”, “I can’t speak publically”, “I can’t walk into a room full of strangers”.  You probably recognise this thought process – and it is an infinite one; that inner voice again.  The question to ask here is why can’t you? 

Anyone can physically walk into a room full of strangers and talk – unless you have a physical handicap which prevents you.  So what is stopping you?  Often the answer is that fear is holding you back from your potential.  Fear is a natural bodily response.  What the body is telling you through fear is to be careful, to protect yourself.  It is not telling you refrain from the activity which caused the fear.  If we refrained from every activity which provoked fear no one would ever mount a bike, a roller coaster, enter a car, a plane, take those first steps while learning to walk, enter into their first school...  In short, we could not live our lives.

Fear amplification

It was fear which was holding me back - my own fear – but it was more than that. My fear was embedded in scars. I was carrying negative past experiences around with me, which amplified my beliefs of “I can’t”. No one was telling me I couldn’t move on in my journey, but I believed I couldn’t. I believed “if I try to do this, something bad will happen – because something bad once happened in the past.” “I can’t do this because somebody once told me...” My scars were twisting my logic, and as a result I had sentenced myself to be chained to the spot for eternity by my own fear.  

If you really look at people who are happy or have succeeded in their journey they have many things in common. They don’t have an absence of fear – they feel fear just as we mere mortals do. They may well be just as scarred as the rest of us, re-enforcing their fears. I am not the first to think about this concept; as Mark Twain once said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” We shouldn’t let out past scars dictate our futures - if you throw the dice twice, it is unlikely to throw up the same number.  If the first or second number doesn't suit - throw it again.  After all, "character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries." - James A. Michner.

You are always the master of your own destiny – but box clever with yourself

We don’t want to be stuck, so we must overturn the judgements we've passed on ourselves.  Be careful, but don't use your fear as an excuse not to act.  But it’s not that easy is it?  Knowing it is your own fear holding you back doesn’t break those shackles, because there were no shackles in the first place - undoing them won’t set us free.

I decided to pass another sentence upon myself to replace the void – an alternative and motivating sentence.

I sentence myself to:
  • follow my heart 
  • muster the courage to defeat my fear
  • allow myself not to be perfect (this is a big one for me – I used to be a lawyer!)
  • enjoy life
  • to be to be a first rate version of myself – and not a second rate version of someone else (see The Garland Approach)
I now have a sentence of goals which illicit good feelings within myself – the good feelings are the key to making new avenues open for all of us. I feel myself starting to move towards my new sentence and  moving away from my plateau – a by-product of my new desires and goals.  Once you pass your own sentence, you will in turn find that moving towards it unwittingly moves you away from your own plateau.

Your turn

If you feel stuck (or even if you don’t) – try and work out what fears are holding you back. Is the past bound to repeat itself? How do you know – do you have a crystal ball? Appeal the sentence that you have put upon yourself – what new sentence do you impose? Does it illicit good feelings? Remember the scope of your new sentence is limited only by your imagination. Why not share it with us?

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C. S. Wimsey. All Rights Reserved.
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