Your potential self
To imagine a life you create is one of the most exhilarating feelings you can get. Even better is the rush that comes in the middle of the day, late at night, or even in the wee hours of the morning. The heightened emotions urge you to list all your goals and to make a plan: a plan for success, a plan for a productive you, a plan for a better life, a plan for whatever it is you want. You probably went to bed feeling like from this day on out, you will slay every single living moment for the rest of your life. So, did you?
Often times, despite our best intentions, the plans we make serve to escape the present. Try to recall what you were doing the last time you experienced this rush. Were you in a classroom listening to a monotonous lecture? Were you at a work meeting? Or were you in the bus, bored, impatiently waiting to get home? Sadly, although we already hold the power to create our own potential reality, we use it only as a means to escape the one we’re currently in. Eventually the days go by and we postpone tasks to the ever-famous “tomorrow-land” and send our journey to success into oblivion.
What is the potential self
This little voice you hear whispering “I wish I could/had/was” is your instinctive capacity of knowing who you are truly meant to be. It’s that voice too shy to speak out loud sometimes or the voice we dismiss thinking that it is crazy or irrelevant. But let me tell you something: just as our bodies are smart enough to communicate hunger, thirst, fear, fatigue, excitement and so on, our mind and soul communicate their deepest desires too. Our potential self is already part of us. It’s who we are, even if it is still dormant. Just how powerful or impactful this voice is in our lives reflects how much we live in concordance with our potential self. The more dissonance between your actual and potential self the weaker the voice.
Your potential self is the gateway to living life with meaning and purpose. The potential self is the self that will give you strength, confidence and the respect you owe to yourself. Some of you might have noticed a pattern in your life. Feelings of emptiness, wasted days and complete loss are the times in your life where you are not actively pursuing any concrete goals. In contrast, feelings of bad-ass-ry, accomplishment and boost in confidence are followed after finally signing-up to the workshop/course/sports team you wanted. It can be as simple as learning how to cook, or learning that dance move you think looks totally cool. Whatever it is, it brings you that much closer to your potential self.
Putting the pieces together
As every other human being on this planet, you are complex and made up of an intricate web of identities. Your past experiences and actions have shaped you. Your actions of today build on the foundation that you are. If our purpose in life is to constantly work on ourselves and learn more about who we are, then it’s almost like we are a puzzle waiting to be put together, piece by piece. Most of the pieces will be placed by us, a few with the help of others. Sometimes they will be placed despite us. Some get to finish the puzzle, others die before putting all the pieces together. Some pieces are monumental, others are less impactful, yet necessary.
The difference between your “life puzzle” and your typical board-game puzzle is that if you don’t like what a piece is projecting, you can change the next piece. As you grow and change, so can your life puzzle. You can shape it into whatever vision you desire. All you need to do is put the pieces together.
1. Take control
The difference between task and ego orientation when pursuing goals is that task orientation requires you to focus on the task itself whereas ego orientation focuses on your perceived ability to perform the task. The former fosters learning and improvement and the latter serves to demonstrate one’s ability and willingness to put in the required effort.
If you are anxious thinking about a skill or goal, you are probably ego-oriented. Think about it: when you know you can do something well, you tackle it head on, confident and fearless. When you doubt your abilities, a knot forms in your stomach and avoidance ensues.
Personally speaking, learning a new skill becomes more difficult (emotionally) with age because we are more likely to make it an ego-thing than a learning experience. When we are kids, we can spend the whole day trying to figure something out without fear of wasting time or failing. So this time, focus on the task itself rather than on your ability (or lack thereof). If you are here reading this post, it’s because you are willing to work on yourself. This requires discipline and patience, as well as a willingness to LEARN.
2. Know what your goals mean
Writing a list of goals is not enough. Writing vague goals such as “be happy” or “feel accomplished” is even worse. You need to know what statements like “feel accomplished” mean to you, as they differ for each individual.
3. Face your enemies: List your obstacles
Now for each goal, write down possible obstacles that have either prevented you in the past, or make you reluctant to start/continue. Here are some examples that might relate to you as well.
Surprise, surprise… For most of us, money is a huge obstacle when pursuing lifelong dreams and business aspirations. Many need to work to be able to pay the bills and have a little pocket money. It’s easy to think that you will never have enough to create the life you want for yourself – for a long time that’s what I believed myself. I realized soon enough however that it’s not that I didn’t have money, I was just spending it on things that had no value.
Allow me to elaborate: It was easy for me to realize that I don’t need to be a millionaire to have what I want (although it would make things easier and quicker), I just needed to prioritize. There is no need to take on 3 different classes for different goals. Pick one that speaks most to you right now and start putting money on the side. You’ll notice that money will be spent either way, whether on 5$ coffees and 15$ lunches, or clothes you’ll hate in a couple of months. Expenses like these seem harmless in the moment, but they add up quickly. So if your money is going to go somewhere, it might as well be in a 200-300$ class or equipment/tools you need. The difference is that the former is a wasted expense whereas the latter is an investment. An investment in yourself.
Time is money and money is time. Busy schedules and spontaneous life circumstances often push us to adapt and be flexible with our schedules. Usually, whatever needs to be done gets done, but our personal life tends to be left out. It’s easy to dismiss our own personal goals and deadlines that we set for ourselves. Basically what I’m getting at is: You don’t find time, you make time. If something is important to you or necessary, you will make time for it. Remember, you cannot do everything at once: start small. Pick ONE goal. It’s easy to stay up until early morning when watching a series or going out with friends, so why do we become “too tired” or “too busy” for our goals?
Mmm, how comforting is that zone? Very, I know. I admit that staying in that zone is occasionally the better choice. However living versus vacationing are two different things. While it is good to take a break every once in a while, even more productive than we realize, staying there because you fear the uncertainty of the outside world should never be a reason to remain stagnant. Since everything nowadays is available to us (as in no hunting and gathering), we can focus on challenging ourselves in different ways. Explore the world. Do not prevent yourself self-growth because you fear rattling the cage. Yet the comfort zone is just that: a cage.
You know when evil tends to paint a perfect picture of a life so as to keep a person imprisoned (I’ve seen it in several shows yet none come to mind at this moment)? You’ll soon find out that if everything seems perfect in your life, but you are unhappy or unfulfilled, it’s because you are living the illusion of a good life. It’s time to get back out there and make some waves.
There are so many times I’ve prevented myself from going after what I wanted because I was afraid to put myself out there. I was afraid of people seeing me, of people getting to know me and not like me, of embarrassing myself, afraid that I was a hinderance to others, afraid of…. Ughhh. If I finally made changes in my life it isn’t because I woke up fearless. Actually, I woke up fed up of letting this fear debilitate me from living my life. And guess what? The more you do something, the less fearful you are. If you are afraid of something, that is enough of a reason to do it.
The more you get involved in different situations and communities, the more easy it is for you to adapt. You are also learning to develop yourself and grow as a person. I still get scared, and meeting new people still makes me anxious. Yet I do not let it control me anymore.
We all make excuses. The reason is simple: it is not a priority. If you are content with the way things are, that’s perfectly fine. However, if you feel restless and guilty hearing yourself constantly make excuses, or on the defensive when someone questions you about how you’re spending your time, then you know you want to make it a priority.
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