“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe.
I am struggling. I am struggling with the weight of expectations; those self-imposed and those thrust upon me by society in my formative years and now, by the whispers of social media. We are all told to “do more”, “be more”, “have more”, “love more” etc. The interweb seeks to unlock our true “potential” so that it can, ironically, deliver us the best, greatest version of ourselves, to ourselves. Our own personal Nirvana.
What is the truth, though? Where do we fit in, those of us that are not uber-connected millennials? Those of us who are children of hard-working parents, whose only notion of achieving their “potential” was to bring home the bacon each month? What does the notion of “potential” mean to me, an almost-forty-something single dad? And, importantly, what can I do to achieve my potential now?
What I have learned is that your greatest asset is…you. You are entirely in control of how you wish to perceive the world and the level of your involvement in it. So you wish to while away your twenties under a duvet, binging on reality TV? That’s your choice and a choice that becomes buried beneath habits as the days tick by. Some people I know still party hard into their mid-to-late 40’s. Again, that’s their thing. The point that I am failing at making is that our potential to achieve “something” is purely down to us. This is such an obvious point that we often forget to acknowledge it or deny that it is staring us in the face.
Honest self-reflection, meditation and humility are key tools in helping us understand what we what to achieve and how we are to traverse the journey to achievement.
We are awash, nowadays, with self-development gurus who try a myriad of techniques to motivate and encourage us to rise above the masses, become individuals and live this utopia of a life – away from the traditional ball and chain 9-5. I don’t necessarily think that this is all hokum but whenever there is an element of monetization involved, such advice is best taken with a pinch of salt. To truly identify our potential we must reach within ourselves and first determine who we are.
Honest self-reflection, meditation and humility are key tools in helping us understand what we what to achieve and how we are to traverse the journey to achievement. Whether these goals are personal or professional.
This is how I have tried to reach my potential in achieving a number of personal and professional goals. This is not a “method”; merely a reflection on my journey thus far:
- Identify, internally, what you want to do/achieve. Everything starts here. I do not employ any goal-setting techniques. I merely expose myself to an idea/potential achievement/goal and then, through a period of internal gestation and ensuring that my intention to achieve the goal is sincere, I make a firm decision to work towards the goal. The key point here is the intention. Making a sincere intention to try your hardest to achieve something should resonate with your values and the intention itself should feel overwhelming. For example, I made the intention a few years ago to lose 3 stones in weight and this was, initially, both frightening and overwhelming at the same time. But, I had made the decision and not looked back.
- Start. Just start. Action begets action. Yes, you’ll fall down and, yes, you’ll feel discouraged. But. Just. Start. Act. Using the example above: I joined a crappy gym, downloaded a workout plan (I knew nothing about moving weights) and started to work out three times a week. I’m not going to lie: it was tough and I wanted to quit every single day. But, perpetual action induces momentum and momentum brings results. Results bring joy. I don’t plan anything. I try to act as much as possible. And I always remember that doing something towards your goal, each day, is better than doing nothing.
- Analyse/assess. Once you have started, think about what you are doing. Is the journey that you are on conducive to who you are? Is the goal still one that you want to achieve? Constant reflection is key to determining whether you are not compromising your initial intention and that you are on the right track. Again, with my example: once I started to see results and my body changing, I reflected and determined that I wanted to tweak my routine to bring more enjoyment and further results. The contrary was also true: I once hurt my lower back doing squats. After resting for a couple of weeks, I tweaked my routine to remove any exercise that had the potential to affect that area.
- Remove all obstacles (or learn to go around them). Basically, don’t give up. People will always comment and be jealous of your path toward achievement. Water off a duck’s back. Stay focused. If an obstacle appears then move it if you can’t go around it.
- Cut yourself some slack. You can’t always work towards a goal. Life gets in the way or you simply do not have the skills to achieve. Go easy on yourself and identify what you don’t know or when you won’t be able to put the work in. Partner with those who could help or seek knowledge. Patience is key, here.
- Be humble. Once you achieve what you set out to do or you are enjoying the journey so much that you cannot help but express your delight to friends/family/colleagues, do so with humility.
I wanted to keep this short as I am still getting to grips with writing but I hope that the above helps in some small way.
Leave a comment below and let me know how you have achieved your goals – what your journey looks like and how you feel now that you may have reached a goal or two.