You must raise your eyes to see the sky
Tuesday June 3, 2003 Grand Junction Free Press Page 10
(c) Copyright 2003, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall, All Rights Reserved
Axiom: To grow, we need to find out limits... then go beyond them.
By Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall
There is an old adage that says, "I bargained with life for a penny, and life would pay me no more..."
What are you willing to settle for? A penny? A nickel? A dime? A dollar? A million dollars? Or is there something so important you would not sell it for any price?
Many working Americans believe there is something more precious. It is called creativity. It is called the ability to positively impact your world. It is knowing you matter. It is the satisfaction of leaving the world a better place than you found it.
The most pressing obligation anyone has in life is to find his or her limits. The only way to do that is to test your capabilities. How? By going beyond them.
When we do not achieve what we are capable of, we are never really happy. We always feel like there was something we left undone.
People who do not understand this principle are the first to say, "I tried, but it wasn't in the cards." Or, "Everyone else seems to be lucky... a little brown cloud follows me around and rains on my parade."
Opportunity does present itself. The question is have you developed the capacity to take advantage of it when it does?
Most people want opportunity to come before they prepare. It does not work that way. To be ready, we must know what we want and prepare to get it. We must know our limits -- do what we can and must do today -- but go beyond the limits and expand our horizons.
How many times have you heard someone say, "If I only knew then what I know now!" Had they developed their capacity at the pace they were capable of, they would have known then what they know now.
The future holds for us those things for which we prepare ourselves today. People who do only those things required of them each day get stuck in a rut.
Knowledge is gained in much the same way as muscles when lifting weights. The person who starts lifting 50 pounds today reaches a level where that is no longer sufficient to increase muscle mass.
Yesterday's exercise with 50 pounds sustains gains made until today, but it will not add more muscle. Weight lifters who want to develop muscle must move beyond today's tolerance. They must life 100 pounds, then 125, then 150.
The same is true of the quest for experience and knowledge to the person who wants to succeed.
Before you can go beyond your limits, you must know what they are. That means learning your capacity to achieve. If you have the potential to lift 300 pounds but stop at 150 (because you started at 50 pounds, after all), you are operating at only 50 percent capacity.
If people could be seen as containers, it would be easy to draw an analogy between them and their potential. No two people are alike. Each, like a snowflake, is unique. Each person has a different capacity to work, live, love, and be creative.
If people were containers some would look like small juice glasses, holding 4 ounces. Others would look like 8-ounce water glasses. Some others might look like 16-ounce iced-tea glasses. Some might resemble half-gallon jugs.
The person born with the potential to hold 8 ounces must fill that 8 ounces of knowledge and achievement to reach their potential for productivity in life.
When we reach our full potential, fulfillment follows.
By the way, fulfillment -- synonymous with achievement -- should not be confused with gratification -- synonymous with enjoyment.
People born with the potential to hold 16 ounces must fill the 16 ounces to reach full potential, achieve success and become fulfilled.
The size of each person's potential is not nearly so important as whether all of the potential is developed.
A person with a 4-ounce potential who develops all 4 ounces will be much happier, much more successful (and fulfilled) than the individual with a 16-ounce potential but develops only half of it.
The 4-ounce person has lived up to his or her full potential.
The 16-ounce person who developed only 8 ounces is only halfway there. No one in the world may know which people have a 16-ounce capacity, but the 16-ounce person knows. Each of us knows if we achieve at capacity.
Happiness and fulfillment eludes those who do not use their capacity to live. There is always a feeling of "I feel like I could have done something more." Too, we need to remember that the greater the capacity to succeed, the greater the capacity to fail.
Too often, success is viewed as accomplishing an objective rather than achieving our potential. I view success as achieving potential. There are some rules along the way -- like living your life in truth and with integrity.
People who achieve only a portion of their capacities are usually frustrated. They know their potential even if they deny themselves the fulfillment to achieve.
People often refuse to develop the discipline required to reach capacity. In short, they are lazy. Or their security drive kicks in and they don't want to rock a boat by showing leadership qualities.
There are many reasons to seek gratification -- a happiness of the moment -- rather than fulfillment -- the satisfaction of achievement at full capacity.
An unhealthy need to be secure is probably the biggest reason most people make so little effort to find their limits -- to happily push themselves forward. It takes commitment, discipline, and a continuous, lifelong learning curve.
Nothing stands still in nature. If we do not move forward, we move back.
I have often said that I learn little from talking with people who believe as I do. I learn from people who disagree with me. Either I expand my beliefs or become more firmly set in them -- depending on the quality of logic in the discussion.
Those who study such things say Leonardo da Vinci was the most productive human being to ever live. Yet on his deathbed, he wept and told the King of France (who attended him at his death) that his greatest sin was in not utilizing all of the talents and energies God had given him.
Leonardo obviously had a gallon capacity and came very close to filling it. Even so, when he died he could see moments when he took the night off when he could have been creating.
What is your limit... or, capacity? Have you disciplined yourself to develop all of it? Or have you settled for less than you are capable of achieving? Are you striking a good bargain with life? Or a bad one?
We all define success differently. To me, it is not defined as accomplishing "things" or earning large amounts of money. There is little doubt money makes the fulfillment of achievement more enjoyable. There is little doubt that money gained without achievement gains only momentary gratification that may be replaced tomorrow with disillusion and disappointment.
I feel sorry for people who inherit fortunes. They will never know their capacities because they will never be tested. I think they must always wonder: "If I hadn't inherited all this money, would I have been capable of earning it for myself?" They will always doubt themselves and their own worth.
Through achievement comes purpose. Without purpose and some degree of fulfillment of it, I think success has no meaning... it does not exist.
There are dangers we face along the way. Perhaps the greatest one comes after we attain a modicum of success.
The more comfortable our lifestyles, the more difficult it is to force ourselves to continue to learn.
We are told to be meek and we shall inherit the earth. I have pondered long and hard on the meaning of "meekness." I have decided it means keeping an open mind.
Many successful people comment about how they were tempted to pride, thinking they knew more than they really did. They were tempted to stop learning.
"It was the most difficult thing I've ever done," people say of continuing to challenge themselves after "filling their glass" to capacity. "I was tempted to think I knew it all."
What successful people learn is that to maintain their status, they must keep finding their limits, keep going beyond them. To do so, they must keep an open mind. They understand those limits must be found in many areas, not just those which put bucks in a bank account. They seek balance in the physical and worldly, the spiritual, the mental and the emotional.
It is impossible within the span of one lifetime to find our limits in all of these areas. One never need worry about running out of limits to seek and surpass.