a : to move or extend in different directions from a common point
b : to become or be different in character or form
“You’re capable of so much more.” Those words carry a sting that echoes long after they are spoken. I speak from the experience of having been the recipient on many occasions. Mostly they were intended as encouragement and a demonstration of someone’s belief in my ability to do better. But not always. Sometimes they were a way of expressing the disappointment and hurt my behaviour was creating. Regardless of the intention, they were wrong. I didn’t believe I was capable of more and I was dead right. I was where I was supposed to be and my thinking was preventing me from ever creating anything more.
Many people have been settling what they tell themselves is “good enough”. Things seem easier and more comfortable that way. Things could always be worse. Taking a risk and striving for more will probably end in failure. People who fail are failures and confirming you’re a failure would definitely make things worse. So you create a narrative where “good enough” is good enough. Great is for other, more special people.
Wondering if we’re wasting the gifts we’ve been given gnaws at us. Are the people we see on TV or read about on the internet really that different from us? Is it possible that we possess the same God-given ability to change the world on a profound scale? It’s a hell of a lot easier to tell ourselves we don’t. That way we don’t have to try and we don’t have to fail.
Part of the problem lies in how we frame the different future we want to create. We paint a picture of our Utopian vision and we close our eyes and imagine its real right now. Soon our thoughts turn to just how far away that beautiful dream is from where we are right now. The gap between the two is huge. There’s plenty of space to insert roadblocks and obstacles. Before long the hurdles we’ve created seem so numerous that we decide never to leap from the starting blocks. Focusing on everything that can go wrong is thinking in terms of scarcity.
We’re too scared to try because we’re too scared to fail. Before long we become too afraid to even dream because knowing we’ll never achieve them hurts too badly. All the while our ego is whispering to in our ear, “You’ll be good enough when you reach your goals – but not before”. We end up caught in a kind of purgatory from which we can’t escape. The pain we feel is our sense of self-worth slowly but inexorably diminishing.
Let me illustrate this paradox with a real world example. A new leader is promoted and reassigned to a struggling division of the company. He moves his family and is eager to take on this new opportunity. He quickly finds himself in far over his head. Over time his confidence is shattered and the stress begins to take a terrible toll on his health and his family. He feels lost. The only alternatives he can see are getting fired or taking another job at a significant pay cut. His utter humiliation would be the icing on the cake. So he stays and suffers in silence because he convinces himself this is the least bad option. Such is his view of the world. There seems to be no escape.
Cultivating vulnerability is the key that will decrypt this cipher. Vulnerability allows us to look in the mirror and be honest, and without judgment about who we see staring back at us. We all struggle and face challenges that knock us down. The strongest among us acknowledge this obvious reality. Those that pretend they don’t weaken themselves without ever understanding what’s happened to them. Struggle is a part of the human condition. Stop judging yourself when you do. Finally freeing ourselves from self-judgment frees us from worrying about the judgment of others.
The freedom you create will let you share your story with people and you’ll soon realize it was you who created the fears of being judged. People will respond to your openness by being open with you. You’ll draw people to you and form connections with them. Your vulnerability is a great service to humanity. As you help others so others will help you. The world is full of generous and kind people who are willing to help people trying to create good. You’ll see opportunities all around you where you once saw only scarcity.
There is so much abundance in making the most of this moment right now. All you need to do is show up. Help someone, smile, offer guidance or support, show empathy, read a book, give someone positive feedback, write a blog, hold the door open, kiss your partner, or hug your kids. It doesn’t matter. And when you falter? Get up. You’re human, just like the rest of us. Vulnerability says showing up and putting ourselves out there is what matters. Don’t get hung up on judging the outcome.
As you open your authentic self to the world you will start to create change. Your service to others will create a butterfly effect. You’ll start to believe that you already have all the power you need to make a difference in the world. Every single person you come into contact with in any way creates an opportunity to change the world for the better. Yours, theirs, both of yours or someone else’s. Everything you write, everything you say, every smile you exchange and every hand you extend changes the game. This is actually how it works. It’s not easy but it really is that simple.
What if the leader I mentioned earlier got over his fear and allowed himself to be vulnerable? What if he stood up and said “I need help”. What if he started a blog and wrote deeply and personally about his story. How many millions of other people are in the same situation yet feel utterly alone? How would they react to someone who had the courage to give them a voice? What could they create together to help other people in the same situation? What would he teach his kids if he talked to them about how he was feeling? What could he teach other parents? What could that create? It’s impossible to know but could it be worse than suffering alone?
Your path will diverge from the one you were one. By making the most of right now it will diverge in ways that are unexpected but vulnerability will help you be open to the unexpected. Many of your fears will never materialize which will unshackle you from that which was holding you back for so long. As you draw more people to you and create more together your trajectory will deviate further still. The best part? You’ll be finding new ways to help people at every step of your journey and it will feel wonderful. The divergence curve will continue to steepen over time.
You’ll look back and be amazed at how far you’ve come. But you’ll look forward and be more amazed all the places you can choose to go.