Facing life and its realities is tough. There’s no getting around the fact that not everything is peaches and cream all the time. Sometimes you’ll experience pain, suffering, or loss. But often, that same pain is what will make you grow into a greater person. A person who can handle more, achieve more, and help more people.
As you grow, you’ll experience these growing pains. And if you want to unlock your full potential, you’re going to have to confront some brutal truths about life. Here are a few harsh truths you’ll have to accept if you want to unlock your potential and become the person you were meant to be.
The bigger your aspirations — the more you’ll be criticised
Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse was rejected by bankers over 300 times before one finally said yes. Albert Einstein faced fierce criticism for his theories of special and general relativity when he first published them. The Beatles were turned down by four record labels, one even telling them that “guitar groups are on the way out” and “the Beatles have no future in show business.”
The list of successful people who faced extreme backlash for their aspirations and ideas goes on and on: Oprah Winfrey, JK Rowling, Van Gogh, Lady Gaga…throughout history, those who aspire to great heights or don’t fit within the prescribed mold are criticised more than anyone else. If you want to accomplish something big, something outside the “ordinary”, you will experience similar resistance from those around you. And the bigger your aspirations are? The more criticism that will come your way.
However, once you accept that criticism is a natural outcome of dreaming big, you’ll have an easier time brushing it aside — it’s just a part of the process!
Time goes quicker than you think — guard it like you guard your life
Your time is one of your most precious resources, and you can’t know when it will run out. That means you have to allocate your time wisely. If you don’t, someone else will allocate it for you and use your time to fuel their own goals and ambitions.
Take time to evaluate what really matters to you, then carve out time in your life for those things. Only say yes to things that fill you up. Say no to the things that don’t serve you. By saying no to more things, you’re actually saying yes to more of what makes you happy and fulfilled.
As Steve Jobs said,
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
Just because you put time, money, or effort into something doesn’t mean you should keep investing in it
In economics, the sunk-cost fallacy describes the tendency for people to hold onto an investment because they’ve put money into it, even if there will be no more rewards or benefits reaped from the investment in the future.
Let’s say you buy a $50 ticket to a concert, but on the day of the concert, you realize you’re sick and you would only get worse if you went. You should stay home, because the money you spent on the ticket is already gone and you’ll have a negative outcome if you go. However, lots of people would still go to the concert because of a perceived loss. This is the sunk cost fallacy at work.
But it doesn’t just have to do with money. Time you spent on a relationship or effort you put into a project can be affected by the sunk cost fallacy. Sometimes it’s better to cut your losses, rather than continue to put time, money, or energy into them, thereby losing even more.
Make sure you’re not holding onto things that are better left behind.
Rounds of applause are rare — most of your work will go unnoticed
If you’re working to achieve something big because you want the attention it will bring, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. First of all, that’s not a great motivator to keep you going when things get tough (and they will). Second, getting lots of attention for your work is a rarity. Even if you do get a “round of applause,” so to speak, it won’t be all the time, and you’ll probably endure a similar amount of criticism.
Enjoy praise when it comes, but don’t expect it. In Dale Carnegie’s words:
“The person who seeks all their applause from outside has their happiness in another’s keeping.”
Stop blaming others and take full responsibility for your situation
It’s so easy to blame others. To blame the economy for your finances. To blame society for your happiness. To blame your parents or your upbringing or the school you went to as a kid. You can blame your boss or your coworker. You can blame the town where you live or your friends or literally anything at all. But blaming any of those things doesn’t change your life.
You can’t change the past or the world you live in. The only person you have responsibility over is yourself, and once you take responsibility for yourself and your life, you’ll start to realize how much work there is still to do. So instead of complaining about how unfair life is, and wasting your energy, put that energy towards yourself.
As the Dalai Lama once said:
“When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.”
You’re going to die
You’re life has an expiration date. You can try prolonging that expiration date by taking care of your body and mind, but one day it will be over.
But thinking about your death isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can lend some much-needed urgency to your current situation. Are you unhappy in your job? Is your relationship draining you? Are you stuck somewhere you never wanted to be? There is only one time to do what you know needs to be done – right now. Facing your inevitable death can give you the push you need to make sure you’re living the life you want to be living.
If unlocking your potential were easy, everyone would do it.
Unfortunately, it means facing some uncomfortable realities. It means coming to terms with things you might not like. And it means forging ahead anyway.
But facing these harsh truths doesn’t have to be totally painful. From an unlikely source, this quote offers some insight: in the children’s book, Mickey and the Gargoyle, Northern Adams writes that:
“Contrary to popular opinion or the escapist trends of society, false hope is in no way better than a harsh truth. A harsh truth is painful to accept, but there’s healing at the end. False hope, on the other hand, is a very dangerous thing that offers no reward. Not immediately, nor with the passage of time. It never pays off.”