“I’ve never seen you live up to your full potential.
You always reach the summit, but you never take off in flight.”
That’s the challenge I received from my best friend one day as we were talking about my career and life decisions. Proving… once again… that she is — indeed — my best friend. Calling me out for failing to live up to my full potential. Reach a limiting belief or ceiling and then pull back.
Always fearful of going from good to great.
Never courageous enough to fully step outside of my comfort zone and learn to fly.
Because of this challenge, the past 18 months have been rife with challenges. I have stepped up and out of my comfort zone and into an arena of learning to speak my truth. Recognised when I am pandering to others’ expectations of me, rather than my own.
Eighteen months relearning to express who I am, aligned with my values and dreams. Choosing daily in favour of the life I want to build, not just the life I have.
It starts off with a realisation that even though life throws us curveballs, we get the opportunity to choose:
- What will I think?
And if the results of those choices do not live up to our hopes, dreams or expectations: we learn to make better choices. We change our actions and responses to stimuli.
But, to do this, requires awareness. Mindfulness of our thoughts. Recognising stimulus and reaction, two separate things. Rather than reacting (without fore-thought), we must respond (notice the stimulus and choose our response). Consciously choose the response – what will I think? say? feel? do?
When I am not mindful, an event happens, and my emotions, gut or thoughts simply follow the shortest neural network with a habitual response. X triggers Y. And yet, I have a choice:
“Between stimulus and response… there is a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. In our response, lies our growth and our freedom.”
When I am mindful, I pause before I react. I give myself time to think – for my brain to engage. I intentionally choose how I will respond. During this pause, I have time to consider a heart response: compassion. I can turn on my rational brain and think things through: “what options are open to me?” This is an opportunity to delve deep into courage. I can ask myself what new response I would like to explore. If the definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting a different result, then the mindful response must lead to new results.
This opens up possibilities for a different emotional response as well: How will I choose to feel about this? Will I allow this situation to trigger my anger? Or do I wish to express a different emotion, replacing anxiety with excitement?
This is where our conscious (and unconscious) power lies. In the pause – in the space.
Most of us, however, simply react. And then we don’t like the results. We blame the situation. We blame other people. And we fail to recognise that the results that we have are directly related to the choices and decisions that we have made.
Our power lies within that choice – within that decision making. It is only when we own our responsibility – “I reacted, rather than choosing to respond” – that we can change the outcome. “These results are mine: they are the direct result of the decision I made.” When we are able to say this, then we have a chance to change the outcomes!
We say “just breathe” – but do we do it? How many times a day do you stop to breathe, just for a minute? Or three long, deep, easy breaths. Before you check-in: how am I responding throughout the day? Am I choosing my responses, or simply reacting to stimulus? Do you need to do this every hour? Every two hours? When you first get to work, at lunch break and an hour before you go home? What are you choosing?
Unfortunately, most of us are afraid of releasing old patterns of behaviour and choices. When we choose a new course of action and start making new choices that we have never had before: we will get new & different results. Nevertheless, since we’ve never made these choices before, the outcome is uncertain. Where will these new choices take us?
We have to release our knowing and certainty. We have to be willing to embrace new labels and new identities. In order to get to where you want to go, you have to let go of where you are. What do you need to release and let go of? A “title” that I have held for the past 20 years and to which I have somehow attached “This is who I am”? What if this is a friendship?
It is the same when we release an old habit. While we know the bad consequences of an old habit, we also have benefits of that old habit. If there weren’t any benefits, we would never have adopted this habit. Perhaps the benefit is “I can avoid my real feelings and anxieties.” “I can keep on my mask.” Perhaps the benefit is that we can avoid responsibility – it happened and I reacted. If it hadn’t happened, then I would not have reacted this way.
Nonetheless, in order to build a new dream, we have to release the old. We have to release the old excuses. And release the old reactions to stimulus. We even have to release and let go of the benefits. Sometimes, this is a case of releasing good in order to have the best. Are you ready to be great, and to do great work?
As we become proactive, rather than reactive, we identify the opportunities for change. What path are we choosing? How do we know that this is the right path of opportunities?
Is this the choice that allows me to reach the summit and choose to take off in flight as the best possible version of me that could exist in the world today?
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
Choosing our opportunities
Choosing “best” requires, that we have our values and vision identified. Best, in many ways, is an idea or definition that we hold in mind. Nonetheless, it is also a value that we hold in our heart. And I would say, that best also has an element of security & safety that we hold in our gut. For this, then, we need alignment.
“Are you motivated? Are you coherent? Is your intention aligned? Are you feet, tongue, heart & wallet congruent? That intention shines through.”
― Peter Guber
For much of my life, I was busy studying and learning, trying to write my own path, follow my passions – but at the same time busy trying to please others. And while I would learn and grow, and climb mountains, I would always stay on the ground, because I didn’t want to leave others behind. The need for acceptance. Avoiding pain.
And yet, painfully unhappy. While my heart wanted one thing, my head said another. And I would play it safe. Pulled so many different ways, never getting off the ground.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do, are in harmony.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
I was miserable.
What I thought, what I desired, what I said and what I did – disjointed and clearly lacking alignment.
We find alignment in mBraining when we allow our heart to listen and heed our head and our gut. When we open the channels of communication to happen easily and effortlessly between our multiple intelligence centers. Honoring our feelings, wants & desires; listening to our rational & logical mind, allowing it to make meaning, analyse and record for us; and still listening to that still voice of instinct, safety, self-preservation, and core identity.
I say “easily and effortlessly”. But if we are used to the head and logic ruling the show, it may take consistent hard work to reach the stage of easily and effortlessly. If our heart is constantly swamping us with emotional outbursts, or our inner critic is constantly chattering and overwhelming us with nasty chatter – you might not find alignment easy at the beginning. If you have patterns of safety and security hijacking your plans, you may need to spend more time incorporating fun and lightness.
But you can learn it!
Alignment: when your wants, needs, thoughts, and core self (identity) all agree upon one course of coherent action.
There is an immense, painful longing for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are and what this life is for.
― Saul Bellow
It’s not enough just to identify purpose and passions. The plan for achieving these must also provide security and safety – the need for self-preservation must also be met. Alignment happens when we live according to:
- safety & security
And we move forward based on the alignment of all of this.
Reaching full potential
The only way that I can reach my full potential, dare to jump off the summit in flight, is when I am absolutely certain that everything is in alignment. Head-heart-gut. That my thoughts, feelings, words & actions are completely in alignment with my dreams and goals. That every part of me is on board and not dragging my feet.
We achieve our full potential when we listen to all of our inner wisdom. Our”intelligence centers” have all been heard and are in agreement: head, heart, and gut. This inner wisdom is the amalgam of our desires, gut instinct, our mental intelligence, all working together to carry out our dreams, goals & plans with consistency.
“The big challenge is to become all that you have the possibility of becoming. You cannot believe what it does to the human spirit to maximize your human potential and stretch yourself to the limit.”
Are you ready to maximise your potential and stretch your wings?