What percentage of your resources and effort are you currently operating from? Right now, with only your current knowledge, abilities and beliefs, how close are your actions compared to your absolute best? For most people this percentage would range somewhere between five and thirty-five percent. A few remarkable individuals have periods of up to fifty or sixty percent. I doubt many people here could say they regularly operate at a level of eighty or ninety percent, never mind one hundred percent.
Clearly there is enormous capacity for us even in this moment. Keep in mind I’m not talking about the entire span of human potential. I personally believe that the true expanse of human potential is infinite, so asking what percentage you currently are of that amount is sort of a null question. Instead I focus on the velocity. I’m specifically referring to how much of the resources you currently have available are you using to maximize your own growth and improvement. The sad truth is that most people only move at a tiny fraction of their capacity at any given moment.
This isn’t a new discussion. If you’ve read even a single self-help book, you’ve probably heard this fact blared at you, as if you weren’t painfully aware of this aspect of your own life. I’m not here to repeat a message you’ve had pounded into you from an early age. Instead I’d like to explore exactly why we fail to act in a fraction of our capacity and how we can utilize more of that power. I personally believe that there are three major aspects that we all need to work on in order to unleash more of that dormant force sleeping within us. These three aspects are courage, drive and purpose.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
- Ambrose Redmoon
Fear debilitates us to using our full potential more than anything else. Malcolm Gladwell, best-selling author of such books as Blink and The Tipping Point, pointed this out so clearly in an interview with a sportswriter. Gladwell stated that many athletes did not give one hundred percent simply because if they failed, they could use their lack of investment as an excuse. When you invest all of yourself in something and it fails, you have nowhere to turn. That feeling that if you put every part of yourself into something and you don’t come through scares the daylights out of most people. Most of us feel far more comfortable living at a much smaller fraction of our abilities so we can still hold onto the daydream that we would have succeeded had we truly invested ourselves in it.
Overcoming this fear of failure so we can unleash the full force of our resources involves abandoning those daydreams of the future and thrusting ourselves into reality. Most of us live halfway in the real world and halfway in their imagination of the world. While the ability to imagine is one of the most powerful gifts of mankind, it can also be a curse. Because we are afraid failure might arise we devote less than our potential so we can preserve our daydream. Unfortunately, the daydream doesn’t exist. Courage is a decision to live in the real world. Courage is a decision not to focus on the could’s or should’s of our daydreams and focus on reality. Courage is recognizing that the only thing that matters is whether or not we do something, not whether we could have.
Of course this is all easier said than done. Fear, our animalistic response to stimulus guides our actions even when we try to consciously oppose it. Many people have such gripping subconscious fears that overriding them takes tremendous effort. If fear is debilitating your capacity, the first step to regaining it is simply to become aware of its cost on your life. Many people try to rationalize their fears. They try to make their fears seem logical so that they can feel like intelligent human beings. The first step to removing your fears is to admit they have no logical basis. If you commit one hundred percent of your resources towards getting in shape and you fail, how is that any worse than doing nothing at all. In any case you will have learned from the experience so the failure has moved you forward. As soon as you understand that your fear has no logical basis you allow yourself to begin to face it.
Once you’ve broken your rationalization of fear, your fear of investing all of yourself in something, you can begin to overcome the emotion itself. This is simply a process of conditioning and steady increments. Gradually breaking down the illusion of pain your fears have created can allow you to move forward. Start using a little more of your capacity in steady increments and the irrational fears will lose their grip.
If this is such a simple process, then why don’t most people face their fears? The reason is rather simple. Admitting that an irrational fear is controlling your life is very difficult to face. It makes you feel weak and helpless. So, instead, most people decide to rationalize their fears and live forever in their shadows. I believe strongly that if you’ve found the path that has brought you to read these words then you have already decided not to be one of these people. You have made the decision to grow and face life even if that means some pain.
Courage is the first step to utilizing your full capacity. Start by breaking down the rationalizations you have made for your fears. Remove the legs that support fears that are completely illogical. Next, systematically condition yourself to take on more and more of your fears until you shred the illusion they project. Don’t accept the price fear is charging you for your life.
Few people I know are regularly doing something that absolutely excites and inspires them. When talking with these people you get the perception that they view life as endless drudgery speckled with brief escapes of joy or entertainment. I hold myself to a much higher standard. I believe every single moment of our lives needs to be moments filled with appreciation, enjoyment and passion. I believe that the fundamental reason for growth and improvement is simply to inject more fulfillment, passion and enthusiasm into those moments. Most people live at such a low percentage of their capacity because most of their time is spent doing things that doesn’t inspire them.
Drive and motivation comes from simply finding something grand enough to inspire you at the highest level of your being. With a strong drive and motivation living at your full capacity is far easier. How can you install more passion and drive into your own life? I believe it must start by raising the standards you find acceptable for your life. Define your standards. Don’t settle for less joy and passion than you could be experiencing.
The next real step to injecting more passion and drive into your life is to recognize that you are ultimately in control of your own life and destiny. Most of us have been raised to perform in a certain way, do certain things and live by certain rules. The only rules you need to follow are your own. Freedom is the secret to your own drive and passion. Don’t live by other peoples rules and expectations for your life. Ultimately you are the only person in control and responsible for your own destiny. Stand up and claim it.
I believe my life began to change the moment I was exposed to the possibilities for my life. I feel horrible for people who believe they are trapped in circumstances beyond their control. Worse I feel horrible for people who have settled for a dull and boring life because they don’t know the possibilities of living a life in full color, a life of passion and drive. You can live a life of far more enjoyment, passion and drive than you realize if you just decide to. I believe in you.
The next step to building your own drive is to start doing and using more of your capacity. Just as using more of your capacity breaks down the illusions of fear, it builds momentum into your future. Motivation builds momentum which creates more motivation. Don’t wait to get started and start today. As Zig Ziglar says, “Motivation follows action, not the other way around.”
Let’s play a game. The game has three red pieces and four blue pieces. You can move red pieces backwards and forwards and you can move the blue pieces side to side. They are arranged on a big grid. When you move a blue piece next to a red piece it becomes a red piece. If you move a red piece next to a blue piece it becomes blue. Ready to play? Great.
What? You don’t understand how to play? I don’t understand, I explained all the rules of the game to you. Oh? You want to know how you win the game? Why do you need to know that? You know all the rules, surely you don’t need a purpose for the game?
Of course this example is entirely ridiculous. Nobody would play a game where there wasn’t a clearly defined purpose for the program. You can also intuitively understand why having rules for a game with no objective is pointless. Unfortunately most people live their lives in exactly the way I describe here. They have a whole bunch of rules for how they and everyone else around them must play the game of life and they are completely without purpose or objective. So they wander around without any true aim because they have absolutely no idea why they are doing it.
When you mention purpose to someone without one they instinctively become very uncomfortable. They might start to explain why they believe life has no meaning, that we live and then we die. If they aren’t completely nihilistic these people might say that they don’t know what the purpose of life is. I point this out because I used to be one of these people. I used to live without a purpose in life and I can assure you the difference this decision makes is tremendous.
The truth is you need a purpose for your life regardless of whether you believe in a higher power, or have no idea what the meaning of life is. You can’t ever expect to successfully play a game unless you know what the purpose is. Similarly, you can’t live life effectively unless you have a purpose. Without a purpose you wander around aimlessly in life. You might occasionally dabble in different experiences and pursuits but none of them have any significance or meaning to you. Worse, you have a very hard time standing true to your values and beliefs and other people easily manipulate you into their way of thinking.
I personally don’t believe that purpose is something instilled in us or something that we have to go search for. I believe purpose simply a decision. Purpose is simply deciding what the meaning you are going to assign to how you live your life. Purpose is decision for how you are going to make all decisions in the future. Without purpose you have no context to make any decision in your life at all. How can you possibly life to full capacity without purpose. Without purpose, how can you possibly know what full capacity even is?
If you haven’t made the decision of your purpose then you need to stop whatever you are doing and make that decision immediately. There is nothing more important than the decision of your purpose. Nothing can have any context or meaning without specifically deciding the reason and context for how and why you are going to live your life. Don’t tell me you don’t have time or that you are busy. Unless a speeding train is going to hit you in the next five seconds unless you move, I can’t think of a single excuse for why you should put off finding your purpose.
What is my purpose? My purpose is simple, to grow and help others grow. Nothing special or grandiose about it. You don’t need a ten page document listing your purpose in an elaborate mission statement. You just need a rough idea for how and why you are going to live your life. I personally believe that the simplicity of this message is critical. A really complicated purpose will likely leave out details of how you are going to live your life, whereas a simple one is more likely to be completely inclusive.
Your purpose doesn’t have to be original and unique either. I arrived at that wording for my basic purpose a fair time ago and I was surprised to hear Steve Pavlina echo identically the same words for his basic purpose a few weeks ago. Don’t worry about being unique in your purpose. You will be unique in how you live your life, but being different shouldn’t be a guiding force in your purpose. Just go with what feels right to you. You will know you’ve found your purpose when it the words resonate with you.
How can you start finding your purpose? Just start writing! Write stuff down, cross it out and write some more. Think back to the times when you were filled with the most courage and passion. Think back to times you felt most fulfilled. Utilize your memories of the past and desires of the future to shape your purpose. All I can offer is a few keys for creating your own purpose statement:
- Happiness is not a purpose. This is a subtle point. Happiness is a part of everyone single persons purpose (whether they realize it or not) but it can’t be the entire thing. As I’ve said before, happiness is a slippery quality that comes only when we don’t directly chase it. Pursuing a higher meaning will likely create far more happiness than pursuing it directly.
- It must involve other people. You have to include other people in your purpose. We are all connected and true fulfillment only comes when you are connected with others.
- It must involve yourself. A purpose without you describes someone else’s life. You need other people but that includes yourself!
- It must be positive. Your purpose should make you feel joyous and inspired not bitter and angry.
- It must be something you do every day. In other words, your purpose is not a goal. You must be living your purpose every moment your alive. If you can only accomplish it at some later time, or worse, after your death, then go back and re-write it.
I’ve identified what I feel are the three major keys to living at full capacity for your life. For each person their obstacles for full capacity are different. The key to finding this full capacity is simply to identify and break down those obstacles. Don’t settle for anything less than you can be. Live at your fullest capacity.