By: Justin Foster
As a kid, I was never the smartest in the class, the most athletic, the most…anything, really. I went with the flow, but if I was honest with myself, I wasn’t truly happy. Something just didn’t feel right. I wanted to be great and achieve more. Looking back I now realize what was going on. I was being misled and sabotaged by my own thinking. I felt unsatisfied, disappointed and unfulfilled.
In Little League, I had a coach named Rick. I really liked Rick; he was positive, encouraging and helped me understand the game of baseball. He let me use my knack for speed to steal bases and make diving catches. He also told me I had potential. I initially was flattered by the expression – he saw something more in me.
Over the years, this became a theme in my life. Teachers, coaches, my parents and later, even college professors said the same, that I had potential. I came to realize that what they really meant was that I had abilities I wasn’t demonstrating.
Essentially, I was holding back. I wasn’t bringing my A-game. I was settling for being average. As it turns out, this was because of myths I believed about myself and about the world around me.
As you review 3 crippling myths that held me back from pursuing my full potential, ask yourself, “Do I believe this myth too?”
The myth of dreams – When I was a kid I dreamt of being a fire fighter, an astronaut or a famous musician. As I grew up, I learned about the real world, where you have to get a job, make a living and “put away childish things” as the saying goes. And so I did. I began to follow the paths that education laid out before me with no passion, excitement or plan in mind. The message was to do my job, to be a cog in society’s wheel and life would be fine. I got well into college before I realized this path wasn’t leading me much of anywhere, at least nowhere that brought any amount of excitement to Monday mornings. Perhaps it was time to dream again.
The myth of the lucky few – Hearing about my unseen potential began to feel like a backhanded compliment. My brain began to translate the words into a core message, “I’m not good enough.” I wanted to be the star pitcher, the spelling bee champion, the best player on the tennis court. I began to believe that maybe it just wasn’t in the cards for me to be extraordinary. Maybe I was capped at ordinary and should just stop striving for the impossible. My genes didn’t seem to possess the top shelf kind of DNA I had hoped for. It was time to settle. The worst part was, I had no hope that my ordinary status would ever change. I was locked in. Being extraordinary was only possible for a lucky few. Perhaps that’s why I was feeling unsatisfied and disappointed.
The myth of average – Don’t stand out. If you’re first, everyone is waiting for you to fail. If you’re last, you are guaranteed embarrassment. So, I began to do what Michael Hyatt calls “drift.” I began to act like the water flowing off the roof after a good rain. It follows the path of least resistance, flowing down the gutter, trickling across the driveway to the curb and to the culvert down the street. I began to figure out that it was easy to be average. I didn’t feel pressured to perform up to a high standard. I didn’t take risks, like AP classes or trying out for the varsity baseball team. “Why bother trying if I know I won’t be great at it?” I thought. Turns out there is a name for what was happening. Abraham Maslow called this the “psychopathology of the average.” I accepted my fate and made peace with being average. Perhaps I wasn’t seeing the world the way it really was.
In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin wrote, “Everyone has a little voice inside of their head that’s angry and afraid. That voice is the resistance–your lizard brain–and it wants you to be average (and safe).” My lizard brain was winning the battle in my mind by a landslide. Luckily, there was a shimmer of light. Deep down I knew I had to change what I was doing, what I was thinking. I discovered that pursuing my full potential wasn’t just for a lucky few.
The thing that made other people extraordinary wasn’t that they won the genetic lottery. The difference was in how they thought. I discovered that I, too, could escape average and that I could pursue my full potential. Through knowledge, skills and practice, I could unleash the potential that I had given up on. I decided to give up these crippling myths and start living with purpose, excitement and fulfillment.
Discussion Questions: What myths (these or others) have held you back? Are still holding you back? How did you overcome them?
To learn more about Justin and his work, visit his website.
Book: Linchpin by Seth Godin http://www.amazon.com/Linchpin-Are-Indispensable-Seth-Godin/dp/1591844096
Link: How to Avoid the Power of Drift by Michael Hyatt http://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-avoid-the-power-of-the-drift.html