I’ve spent many years leaving a lot of my potential on the table. There have been stories I wanted to share, advice I wanted to offer and ideas I wanted to discuss. Sometimes it was just too hard to do.
The criticism of the internet and the courage I hadn’t quite found held me back. Yes, I still used some of my potential, but not all of it.
How do I know? Because now there is no holding back. Each time I hit publish, even if it hurts me, terrifies me, or makes me emotional, I do it.
The same goes for life. Rather than walk away when changing my career gets hard, or haters come out with their pitchforks, or someone I care about hurts me, I accept the brutal truth and take small steps.
Unfortunately, I am no gladiator, but on the tough days, somehow, the art of taking small steps has been useful.
Your potential is unlocked when you accept these brutal truths:
1. We all feel like giving up
The moment you quit feeling as though you are the only one who has ever wanted to give up and accept that it’s normal, something starts to change.
Your mind finds it easier to keep going when it is shown factual evidence that supports this reality. That is why I watch videos and read books of people from all walks of life who have wanted to give up.
Consistently doing this has trained my brain to understand that wanting to give up is normal, and not giving in is where the growth, accolades and success lies.
2. Most people are caught up in their own struggles to notice yours
This one holds immense power.
It is so easy to delude yourself and think that everyone is actively taking a seat in the audience of your life, and watching your every move and listening to your every word.
That is not the case. It is difficult to be a human being because when you’re born, you sign an unofficial, invisible agreement with life that guarantees you will experience struggle. It’s what you signed up for.
That everyday struggle that we all experience takes most of our attention — meaning, we have little time, energy, or focus left to take a look at what color pants you’re wearing or notice if you made a mistake.
3. Everyone has an opinion
That doesn’t make it right.
People will tell you what you can’t do but they’ll rarely tell you what you can do.
An opinion is based on someone else’s experience of the world and that may not be yours. In fact, that experience doesn’t have to be yours. What you experience is based on the opinion you form in your mind, from the evidence the world presents to you, gained from your experience in life.
It’s nice to hear opinions and feedback. Just don’t be held back by them.
4. Comfort numbs pain — discomfort allows you to grow beyond pain
Whether it’s food, a warm house, a cigarette, a glass of wine or watching a movie at the cinema — these experiences that make you comfortable help to numb the pain of your everyday life.
It’s okay to experience comfort at some level as long as you remember that only seeking comfort and avoiding discomfort is guarding you against unlocking your potential.
Uncomfortable situations force you to grow and that is how you grow beyond your current level of pain or at the very least learn to exist with the pain for now.
5. Standing ovations are rare
Most of the work you do in life will be a flop, go unnoticed, or miss the mark.
That is completely fine. Focus on getting enjoyment and meaning from your work and the standing ovations will become an added bonus as opposed to a search for the holy grail that you’ll rarely find.
6. Selflessness compounds your potential
There is only so far you can go when you live from a place of selfishness.
Making your life about more than you unlocks a different type of potential. Selflessness creates teachers, coaches, mentors, advisers, parents — all of which you can become and find your potential in.
The feeling you get when you are in service of others gives you extra fuel in your tank to keep going with the inevitable rejections, failures and shortcomings find their way into your life.
7. Time goes quicker than you would like to admit
Unlocking your potential takes time.
Throwing away time is so easy to do and we are all guilty of it. How much of your time have you wasted not living up to your potential? The answer is brutal and may overwhelm you.
You have probably wasted some of your time but at least you haven’t wasted your whole life, yet.
You still have time and that’s the best reason to stop wasting it and unlock more of your potential. It hurts to know you have been lazy or procrastinated, but it hurts even more to ignore that fact and pretend everything is great.
The truth is useful. I was lying to myself for years before I began to dissect some of the points in this article and validate it with experience.
It’s time to live to your potential that has been sitting idle. If not now, when?
99% of all thoughts are useless but they’re still controlling your life.
I know something about you without knowing you. I bet you spend A LOT of time in your head.
You know, thinking, worrying, stressing, freaking out — call it whatever you want. I call it a preoccupied mind. And with what?
99% of your thoughts are useless. William James put it best:
“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”
All my life I’ve been obsessed with practical things. Practical philosophy, practical knowledge, practical books, practical work, and practical advice.
That idea comes from Pragmatism, a philosophical tradition that started in the 19th century in America. Charles Sanders Peirce, who was a Harvard professor, is considered as the “father of Pragmatism.”
But it was William James, a trained physician turned philosopher, who really defined the philosophy.
About thoughts, worry, and stress, William James says:
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
Pragmatism believes that the mind is a tool. Your mind should work for you,not against you. People who don’t master their mind, don’t believe it’s possible.
They say: “I can’t help but thinking these things.”
Well, you can with enough practice. It’s a skill.
In other words: You have the ability to decide what you think. Or, you can choose NOT to think.========== ===========
And that is one of the most important and most practical things you can learn in life. Before I learned that skill, I would spend hours and hours inside my head.
Just think about how much you think.
- “I wonder what my boss thinks?”
- “What happens if I screw up and lose my job?”
- “Does she love me?”
- “I think he doesn’t care about me.”
- “I just keep failing.”
- “Why does my life suck?”
- “Why is my life awesome, and other people’s lives are not?”
- “What if I get cancer?”
- “I don’t care about my job. Is there something wrong with me?”
- “I can’t finish anything. What’s wrong with me?”
And the list goes on. That is all REAL shit. That’s stuff people tell me when I ask them what they worry about.
You know what those thoughts do to you? Guilt, anger, suffering.
I just have one question for you: What’s the practical use of your thoughts?
Yes? I’m waiting. Still no answer? Exactly.
Thoughts have no use. 99% of them that is.
Which thoughts are useful?
- Thinking about how you can solve problems. A problem is just an unanswered question. Put your brain to use and think about how you can solve problems. There are a lot of those on this earth.
- Understanding knowledge. That mean this: Try to internalize knowledge and think about how you can use that knowledge to improve your life, career, work, relationships, etc.
That’s it. You can ignore every other thought.
If you’re constantly thinking, it’s because you haven’t trained your mind yet.You HAVE to get out of your head.
If not, you go mental. Everyone will. No exception.
Also, you’re probably thinking so much that you’re missing out of life. Did you notice the sunshine this morning when you woke up? Or the raindrops? Did you notice the smell of your coffee? Did you feel the texture of your cereals?
If your answer is no, you definitely need to get out of your head. Stop thinking and start feeling.========== ===========
Now, you might think: “How do I train myself to stop thinking useless thoughts?”
That’s where it starts. Every time you start drifting off, become aware of it. Just observe your brain. Step outside yourself and just observe the crazy shit you’re thinking about.
Don’t judge. Don’t think you’re stupid. If you do that, you’re thinking again.
No, what you want to do is say this to yourself: “Ah that’s a cute thought. Now, let’s get back to reality.”
“If you can change your mind, you can change your life.”
― William James
Are you back to reality? Do you feel your eyes reading the letters on your screen? Do you feel your phone in your hand? Are you thinking about how you’re going to apply this information to your life?
Great. You’re USING your mind, and it’s not the other way around. Now, keep using that brain of yours.