Heart disease and cancer are two of the world's biggest killer diseases right now.
Yet there's another disease that also exists, so pervasive that many of us don't even realise that we have it. Unfulfilled potential.
Here's one of my favourite quotes by the motivational speaker Les Brown:
“The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry our their dream.”
Unfulfilled potential in abundance. A frightening thought.
Every day, millions upon millions of us wake up, go through the same motions each day, then come home, go to sleep, and wake up to the repeat the same old story. Living our own version of Groundhog Day. And yet, we know that something needs to change. We want it, we feel it. And yet we do nothing about it.
What are we waiting for?
There are a number of reasons why human beings are especially good at remaining in their heads, and don’t move forward. Unfortunately, us INFPs & INFJs can be really good at this ourselves.
Here are the main reasons for that, and how we can counteract them.
1. We don't know where to start
We want to get healthier, but don't know where to start. We are no longer enjoying the work that we are doing, but we don't know where to start when it comes to a change.
Confession: I was unhappy in my recruitment job for a while (over a year), and really unhappy for several months, before I took any actual action towards moving away from it.
We want to know exactly what to do, something to strike us like a eureka moment... and this never comes, so we don't change.
Solution: just.start.somewhere. Seriously. Just start. Start tiny. So ridiculously tiny that it barely feels like you’re starting. But you are. Do it :)
2. There are too many choices
There are so many options out there. Bloggers making a living from all sorts of weird-and-wonderful blogs, nomads travelling the world and somehow seemingly making a living from it, some folks working a "day job" and attending to their passion projects (whatever those are) in the evening. Barry Schwartz talks about the 'paradox of choice' in his TED Talk.
With so much information available to us in seconds, there are always more websites, books, podcasts available to us. To this day, I still have to be conscious of ever-consuming more and more information (I'm curious and love to learn), to the detriment of overwhelming my inner Jedi. You may have heard of the phrase 'analysis paralysis'.
This is what happened to me during the period of my life that I describe further down in this article. I became increasingly inside my own head, consuming more and more information and feeling more desperate to find "the answer", but ultimately becoming more confused and isolated in the process.
Solution: Give yourself a deadline to look at your options open, and the move forward with it. Otherwise, you run the risk of 'procrasti-learning' (“ooh but I’m doing some more search”) and never getting on with it. Don’t be that person!
3. We give ourselves all manner of excuses
"There's not enough time in the day."
"I don't have the skills."
"It's too late for me."
"I should be grateful."
"This is a first-world problem, I have no right to feel like this."
And perhaps the worst one of all... "I am not capable."
We are amazingly good at coming up with excuses as to why *not* to do something. Excuses, excuses, excuses.
Solution: Feed yourself with positive words. Honestly, write them down on a piece of paper. And then repeat them back to yourself, out loud. At morning, or at night, are both great times for you to do this.
4. Self-doubt gets the better of us
We doubt ourselves, our abilities, our capabilities, our worth. Everyone around us we see examples of "more impressive" people doing the things we want to be doing, seemingly possessing some inherent God-given gifts which we don't have. We feel inferior, like imposters, imagining to be what it's like to be like those folks we admire - but feel a million miles from.
In other words, we are really hard on ourselves, and doubt ourselves in spade-fuls.
Solution: See the above solution. Kind words are needed here. Treat yourself like you would a friend; imagine you’re talking to yourself in the 3rd person. Also, get yourself a copy of the 5 Minute Journal. It will change your life in subtle-yet-powerful ways you didn’t even realise were possible.
5. We feel comfortable and safe
As messed up as this is, whilst we may be anywhere from unsatisfied to seriously unhappy, we have become accustomed to the reality in which we find ourselves in. We know what it's like, how it feels, that we can 'cope' with it and get through each day - no matter how dissatisfying and far-from-ideal it is. We know what's what, and what to expect from this current life we are living.
"Minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled, ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort." - Charles Dickens
"Anything that disturbs your comfort factor is good for you." - Tony La Russa
Making any change is unknown, unfamiliar, uncertain. Scary. For our minds and our bodies. So we stay in our safe little cost spaces, even if we're getting pricked by all sorts of thorns on the walls.
Solution: I admit, I like my comfort. Too much, or a prolonged period of, 'the unknown' isn’t so great for me. But, comfort can be a killer. I’ve told myself I want to improve at cooking for a long, time. Living at home, I’m comfortable. I intend to move into my own place at some point in the coming months; i.e. I’ll be uncomfortable, and this is when I’ll have to pull it out of the bag, and learn or put up with same boring, basic meals for the rest of my life.
Similarly, I want to learn a martial art. I feel a bit scared and nervous about the physicality of it (e.g. getting hit/hurt), but I know this will be so good for me. I need to push through this and book a class.
Don’t go overboard with too much discomfort all at once, but keep yourself growing. A little bit of the unknown is good for you, as you normally come out of the other side more resilient and better-equipped.
6. We are terrified of failing
From childhood, we have been conditioned to view failure as a really bad thing. Getting something wrong, earning a bad grade = no good. Many of us go through much of our early lives having this belief reinforced by teachers, parents and society at large. We are mollycoddled and never experience failure or setbacks until we're older and out in the wide world on our own. And when it happens, it hits us hard. As introverts and sensitive souls, failure hits us harder than most anyway. And we definitely don't want it experience it again. We take it personally. As if it's the end of the world. When actually, it's nothing like that. And it often costs us more not doing anything, than it would if we tried and things didn’t go as we expected. There is learning, feedback + growth that comes from the doing.
Being seeing to fail in front of friends and loved ones is also a big no-no. One I personally relate to a lot.
Solution: Like a lot of these things, our fears (of failure) come down to a mixture of nature and nurture. We absorb a lot of this stuff from the parenting we experienced during our formative years.
Slowly, but surely, get used to putting yourself out there, as terrifying as it first feels. Take the small risk, keep feeding yourself those positive words. JUst keep putting on foot in front of the other. Even if you fail, you’ll learn and grow from the experience itself. The more you act and are at ‘risk’ of failing, the less scary failure will be.
And perhaps the worst one of all...
7. We are concerned by how we look to others - and living the lives they want & expects us to live
Wow, this is a big one. When I quit my job to study to do a Masters and go on a career-changers' course and got started on a business, I was so acutely aware that what I was doing was waaaay off from the norm, from what was expected from me and my background and culture. Not only did it feel like a burden from treading this path in the first place, but I piled even more pressure on myself to make something happen and be seen to "succeed". At the time, I knew I didn't want to go back to sales in the City but I had zero clue what I wanted to do with my life, and so this was a period of life which was really, really difficult.
I was also worried, paranoid even, that everyone I knew - from acquaintances I had on social medial through to friends and family - were constantly spying on me to see how I was getting on. And so if I failed, it would be in front of everyone else's eyes and laughs and knowing "told you so" looks. Wow, it's amazing what the mind can come up with.
My big fear was that I would look really stupid for leaving this job in the first place and be seen to be some stupid, immature, layabout. For this very reason, I have to be very careful on social media to this day, for my own wellbeing and sanity.
But you know what... the above aren't limited to just us introvert Jedi's, they affected anyone and everyone. Let's not compare our insides to what we see of others on their surface.
Solution: Honestly, go your own way. Sometimes during your mid-twenties to mid-thirties, or maybe a little later, you’ll notice you start to care less. You’ll discover more about yourself and what YOU want, and then it’s up to you to live by that, and not let others around you dictate things for you. Your life is your own. Embrace who you are, what you want to do, who you want to be with, how you spend your time… even if others, heck, even if most people don’t approve.
It’s your divine right to live your life as you wish.
I hereby give you permission to go ahead and do exactly that.