“To be what we are, to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”
A newspaper editor once told Walt Disney he’d never be a cartoonist. A teacher told Thomas Edison’s mother that he was too slow to learn and that she should take him out of school. Doctors told Wilma Rudolph’s family she’d never walk, let alone run.
All around us, there are people ready and willing — even eager — to set our limits for us. They want us to know in no uncertain terms just how far we can’t go in their not-so-humble opinions. Often these naysayers wear the mantle of authority in their fields, which is supposed to make their opinions especially weighty and worth listening to.
But here’s the rub: None of these people can measure courage or heart or persistence. Many of them have given up on their own dreams in their own lives and they’d much prefer that all of us would join them rather than speed past them.
But the number one naysayer, the one we really have to watch out for, is our self. As Pogo famously said, “We’ve met the enemy and it is us.” Too often when it comes to pushing forward to “become what we are capable of becoming,” we stop short. Instead of pulling or blasting ourselves out of our comfort zone, we stay there. But the only way we can fully tap our potential is by pushing the limits of who we think we are every day. We have to “risk going too far” in order to discover just how far we can go — that makes sense, doesn’t it? And yet it’s easier said than done.
Sometimes it helps to push those limits gently, but consistently. Some suggestions: Write a half a page or so beyond where you usually stop — push yourself. Come up with three or five creative ways to pump up a character who seems flat and lifeless — push yourself. Do that research you’ve been putting off and then take what you’ve learned and distill it into a few hard-hitting paragraphs — push yourself. Find the name of that agent you heard about who might just be perfect for your project — and call him or her, instead of just emailing like everyone else. Have your pitch ready to pitch — push yourself.
Life in the fast lane can be hectic and uncertain, but living within our comfort zones isn’t going to get us where we want to go. So let’s stretch, and grow, learn — and write on!