In Mark Nepo's book, 7,000 Ways to Listen, he says that humans are the only species on Earth given the choice of whether to bloom into our highest potential or not. A flower can't help but push up through the darkness to open into the sunshine, to reach the fullness of their beauty without having to debate the topic or wonder whether they should.
Most of us humans, with choice, as we're given the free will to bloom into our highest potential, most of us stay down in the dirt, wondering whether it's worth the effort to grow and bloom and feel the sunshine on our faces.
For me to bloom into my highest potential, I only have to write everyday -- something I love doing anyway. (For you, it might be something else. Think about what it might be as you read this.) Yet, I complicate the living bajeezus out of this one simple act of sitting down to write every day. Instead, I research and read self-help books and spirituality texts and I brood and worry and I distract myself with Doritos. Your distractions might be different.
The point is, we all know of one activity, that if we just made just a little bit of time to do it every day, it would probably transform our lives in ways we can't possibly imagine. It could bring us from seeds in the dirt into the full bloom of our potential, of living a life beyond our wildest dreams. Yet we lay in the dirt, debating the merits of blooming.
Why do we do this?
If I would just write every day...this for me is blooming. For you, again, it might be something else. If we do this one thing, all the other stuff will come: book sales, an agent, a publisher, a book tour, speaking engagements. I know this to be true.
Why Do We Fight Blooming Into Our Full Potential?
1. We are looking for proof before we do the work. A flower doesn't ask if blooming -- if pushing up out of the dirt -- is worth the trouble. It just does it.
But as humans, we wonder, "What if we do all the work and we're awarded all the accolades and the material benefits, and yet we still feel empty inside?" We will. But that's a different issue that's separate from living into our potential; solving the problem of feeling empty and not-whole begins with gratitude for your life, right now, as it is.
If you don't appreciate what you already have, exactly as it is, then MORE solves absolutely nothing. So of course you wonder, "Why bother doing the work?" Because you know deep down that MORE won't fill you.
However, when we learn to appreciate how much each of us already has, when we take the blinders off and get present to how great life is right now, then all of the awesomeness that comes from doing the work feels like the excitement of an Oprah giveaway!
2. What if I do the work, and I fail? Imagine a seed asking this question. Maybe there's a rock blocking the seed's passage to open air and it will have to grow a long shoot to get around the rock before it can burst through the soil. And maybe the flower succeeds at blooming, but there's a drought and the bloom can't be sustained and the flower will die. But even with all of this hanging over the seed's head, it germinates and the flower still comes.
As humans, we use this kind of thinking to wheedle out of fulfilling our destiny. What if I bloom, but hit a wall eventually? So what? At least you bloomed. At least you made it out of the dirt and enjoyed the sun on your face before the drought hit. Imagine the alternative: you stay in the dirt, and then you die.
3. What if people don't like me? Some people think carnations are cheap, dandelions are weeds, and roses are overplayed. Some people love mums or marigolds while others wouldn't spend a cent on them. None of these opinions factor into a flower's decision to bloom.
Yet people practically die with shame at the mere thought of putting their voices out there in world. "What if people think I'm stupid?" Who gives a sh** about their sh**** opinions, first of all. But secondly, the people who are drawn to your type of flower can only find you if you bloom.
4. I have the urge to bloom into a flower, but my parents told me that circus animals make more money. Imagine a flower seed saying this. It's hilarious, right? But that flower's parents were smart; their only job is to ensure the survival of their offspring and "circus animal" might be the hot occupation du jour -- an easy way to make a living -- the flower's natural instincts, talents, and strengths be damned.
Circus animals must perform tasks they might not feel like doing on command almost every day of the week, but circus animals get fed. They are virtually guaranteed not to struggle for the natural resources they need to survive. What flower parent wouldn't be proud...okay so the analogy breaks down at some point.
Are you following this analogy and what it's done for humans? Where we go wrong might surprise you.
The problem isn't that we become circus animals; it's great to attract wealth and physical comfort via the material gains of a profession. The problem is that we forget that we're flowers. We get caught up in the lights and the applause, and we forget that in our quiet downtime, in those dark moments before the lights come up, we need to cultivate the right conditions to bloom. We need to allow ourselves the time to come into our own, despite the flashing lights and the need to earn money and the external pressures of job and family.
It might be cool with you -- and heck, I did the circus gig for years -- I was fed very well, and I don't take that for granted. My years in captivity at CNBC and AOL and Discovery allowed me to eventually become a freelance circus animal and I now make my living as an SEO consultant and a managing editor. I got that training by being held captive in a bright, flashy, fulltime circus for 15 years. And I'm still turning tricks for money, for which I'm unfathomably appreciative. Being grateful for my employment is part of my gratitude practice.
I can however -- and we can all do this, no matter our station in life, from circus animal to living free in the wild -- we can rise before the sun and we can BLOOM. We can do whatever it is that needs to be done in order to burst out of the soil. We can write, we can meditate, we can apply for our dream job, or we can just do whatever it is we yearn to do.
For me, it's writing. So today I write. What are you going to do?