You’re Not Meant To Play Small
“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” — Confucius
There comes a point in a person’s life when their childhood dreams evaporate into a void, overtaken by the demands of everyday life.
If this describes you, there’s a tendency to play small instead of reaching for something more.
I experienced this early in my career where my problems consumed me to the extent it became part of my identity. You feel like a boxer pushed onto the ropes and your only form of defence is to retreat until you find the motivation to recover. Many successful people have been in this situation including J. K. Rowling, so it is nothing to be ashamed of.
Performance psychologist Stan Beecham writes in Elite Minds: Creating the Competitive Advantage: “Beliefs control biology, biology controls behaviour, and behaviour determines success.”
On some level, you know you’re not meant to play small. Part of you recognises your potential, but something stops you from achieving it. People struggle for years before finally realising the pain and disappointment is not worth it, at which point they give up. However, I encourage you not to not act impulsively and consider whether giving up is your only choice. Often, there are other options that may involve pivoting in a different direction to achieve your goals.
Research experiments on animals have observed that when their food sources are restricted, they stop scouring for food and give up. Their fatalist brain believes food is in short supply and they accept this outcome. We all do this and give up when pushed to our limits. Though, we develop our greatest personal growth if we stay the distance.
“Feel your urges, and push them back at least twice before giving in,” writes Peter Hollins in The Science of Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone: How to Live Fearlessly, Seize Opportunity, and Make Each Day Memorable.
You are only as strong as the level of your personal growth. To equate this in terms of a fitness metaphor, you are only capable of lifting weights proportional to the physical training you have undergone. If you train often, chances are you are you will lift heavier owing to your conditioning and dedicated training.
Your mental and emotional resiliency functions in the same respect, in so far as life’s challenges help you to develop resiliency.
Those Who Are Resilient Stay In The Game Longer
“On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
Challenges and setbacks are not meant to defeat you, but promote you. However, I realise after many years of defeats, it can crush your spirit and it is easier to give up than risk further setbacks and disappointments.
To be honest, I don’t have the answers. I can’t tell you what the right course of action is; only you will know. However, it’s important not to be discouraged by failure when pursuing a goal or a dream, since failure itself means different things to different people.
“Growth comes at the point of resistance; we learn by pushing ourselves to the outer reaches of our abilities,” explains authors Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness in Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success.
To a person with a fixed mindset failure is a blow to their self-esteem, yet to a person with a growth mindset, it’s an opportunity to improve and find new ways to overcome their obstacles. Same failure, yet different responses.
Who is right and who is wrong?
Each person has a different mindset that decides their outcome. Those who are resilient stay in the game longer and draw on their inner means to succeed.
I’ve coached clients who gave up after many years toiling away at their respective goal or dream. It was at that point their biggest breakthrough came. Perhaps all those years of perseverance finally paid off. It was the 19th Century’s minister Henry Ward Beecher who once said: “One’s best success comes after their greatest disappointments.”
No one knows what the future holds, so your only guide is whether you can endure repeated defeats and disappointments and still pursue your dream.
Consider the advice from the American academic and psychologist Angela Duckworth who writes in Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance: “Many of us, it seems, quit what we start far too early and far too often. Even more than the effort a gritty person puts in on a single day, what matters is that they wake up the next day, and the next, ready to get on that treadmill and keep going.”
I know one thing for certain: don’t settle for less than what you’re capable of, but strive for something bigger.
Some of you reading this might identify with this message because it resonates with you on a deeper level. For others, at the end of their tether the message might be nothing more than a trivial pep talk.
What I wish to convey irrespective of where you are in your journey is: NEVER settle for less. If you settle for less, you will receive less than you deserve and convince yourself you are justified to receive it.
Develop A Powerful Vision Of What You Want
“Your problem is to bridge the gap which exists between where you are now and the goal you intend to reach.” — Earl Nightingale
I recall a passage my father often used growing up: “Don’t tell me your problems unless you’ve spent weeks trying to solve them yourself.” That advice has echoed in my mind for decades and became my motivator. Don’t leave it to others or outside circumstances to motivate you because you will be let down every time. It must come from within you.
Gnaw away at your problems until you solve them or find a solution. Problems are not stop signs, they are advising you that more work is required to overcome them. Most times, problems help you gain a skill or develop the resources to succeed later.
“The best form of confidence is the confidence that comes from achievement,” states author Larry Weidel in Serial Winner: 5 Actions to Create Your Cycle of Success.
So embrace your challenges and develop the grit to push past them instead of retreat in resignation.
Where are you settling in your life right now?
Could you be you playing for bigger stakes than you are?
Are you willing to play bigger even if it means repeated failures and setbacks?
You should ask yourself these questions to decide whether you’re willing to put yourself on the line or settle for less. And that’s fine if you’re content to receive less, as long as you’re not regretful later.
If you have not achieved the success you deserve and are considering giving up, will you regret it in a few years or decades from now?
Only you can answer that, but you should carve out time to discover your motivation for pursuing your goals.
It’s a fact, if you don’t know what you want you’ll get what life hands you and it may not be in your best interest, affirms author Larry Weidel: “Winners know that if you don’t figure out what you want, you’ll get whatever life hands you.”
The key is to develop a powerful vision of what you want and hold that image in your mind. Nurture it daily and give it life by taking purposeful action towards it.
Vision + desire + dedication + patience + daily action leads to astonishing success. Are you willing to commit to this way of life or jump ship at the first sign of failure?
I’m amused when I read questions written by millennials on Quora who ask how they can become rich and famous or the next Elon Musk. Success is a fickle and long game with highs and lows. Similarly, there are no assurances even if you’re an overnight sensation, to sustain it for long, particularly if you don’t have the mental and emotional means to endure it.
Brendon Burchard states in High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way: “Be more intentional about who you want to become. Have vision beyond your current circumstances. Imagine your best future self, and start acting like that person today.”
This means you must rely on the one true constant in your favour: your personal development. The more you grow, the more you gain in terms of financial resources, status, success — simple. If you leave it to outside conditions to dictate your circumstances, you are rolling the dice on your future.
So become intentional on what you want out of life.
Commit to it.
Nurture your dreams.
Focus on your development and if you want to give up, know what’s involved before you take the plunge.
Because I assure you, someone out there right now is working harder than you, reading more books, sleeping less and sacrificing all they have to realise their dreams and it may contest with yours.
Don’t leave your dreams to chance.