Fulfilling Potential

I came to a point where I realised I wanted to improve on the life I’m currently living. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy my life, or like myself. But I realised I wasn’t living to my full potential. The catalyst to me being this self-reflective was that I went through a difficult time off the back of a break up and my job not going as well as I wanted it to. So I faced a problem. How do I live a life I’m very proud of?

I’ve always been very analytical so I set about trying to solve this problem. I began reading books and watching tonnes of videos around self-help and improvement (something that has always fascinated me), as well as taking advice from those I looked up to and trying it for myself. So I’ll share with you what I’ve learnt, as well as the journey that I’m currently on, with the hope that you could find it interesting and maybe it can lead to positive changes in your life as well.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow created something called a hierarchy of human needs, it starts with basic needs such as food, shelter and security and makes its way up to something he refers to as self-actualisation. He describes this as ‘the person’s desire for self-fulfilment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially.’ What this means is our ability to become all we are capable of becoming and fulfil our life’s potential. It is the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy and is something I believe we should all aspire to and it summarises rather well the place I want to get to.

This process required me to have a good, honest look at myself.

I began thinking about what my best self looks like. About what experiences and feelings I could have. About how I could behave and what I could do. I thought about what I could attract into my life and what I could be achieving. This came originally from thinking back to times when I’ve felt fulfilled, when I’ve been truly happy. Then assessing these times and understanding what it would be like to experience more of that in my life, both in quantity and quality. For me, the times that I looked back on that I enjoyed the most were times when I experienced great things, while making strong and deep connections with amazing people, as well as pushing myself to succeed in fields that I really cared about. With my values in mind, I constructed a vision of what a self-actualised life could look like, what it would feel like to be at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy.

What your self-actualised self looks like, is based on who you are as a person and what values you deeply hold true. It is a hugely personal thing and is not based on others or their opinions of you. It is a place of real pride in yourself, but also one of euphoria, joy, warmth and comfort.

So I had the destination, now I needed to figure out how to get there.

Imagine you’re going on a climbing expedition. Now, it would be ridiculous if you decided to pack 70kgs worth of bricks in your climbing bag because this would weigh you down and make the journey, needlessly, so much harder! This is what my next step was. Cutting out the things in my life that would make the journey to fulfilling my potential more difficult than it needs to be (chucking out my metaphorical bricks if you will). We’re talking bad habits, things I do that I’m not proud of. People I devote a lot of time to that aren’t giving me the satisfaction in return. Thought processes that simply aren’t helpful (see blog no.1 for an insight into this). These things will often give me short term highs but distract me from what was really going on in my life. They certainly aren’t easy fixes but through some self-exploration I was able to identify them, and I’m still, and will still be for a while, trying to cut them out.

A good next step I found in my research, is setting micro goals to keep me going in the right direction. These were based around quitting those bad habits and also making some positive changes in my life. These are things that I knew I should have been doing for a long time, but never had the courage or reason to do them – this blog being one of them. Good habits and behaviours, which I could stick to on a weekly / daily basis.

The micro goals are things that keep me on the right path. They are simple, achievable and work towards cultivating a better self. One of the great things about having a purpose and a greater goal is that it’ll give you huge motivation for sticking to the smaller goals you set yourself. Friedrich Nietzsche said ‘He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.’ Meaning, if we have a powerful, emotional reason to do something, the motivation for doing it becomes natural.

Having begun this journey I started to see huge benefits to wellbeing and confidence, some of which were unexpected. Firstly by cutting out bad habits and cultivating new ones I was promoting a healthier, happier lifestyle, which increased my general state of mind. But also by merely having a purpose and a direction I was working towards, I gave my life meaning, which gives huge motivation and improvements to wellbeing, similar to what people gain from having faith in a god.

Many ties can be made between someone on the journey of self-improvement and someone who has strong religious beliefs, just in this case I’m going on a journey to be the best person I can be in the eyes of myself, rather than in the eyes of God. Both still require great faith and have similar outcomes.

Working towards a life with more substance has seen boosts in my confidence. As I move towards good behaviours, I found a huge pride in what I was doing and I’m also getting positive feedback form those I care about. Which is a great confidence booster and reinforced the constructive changes.

To conclude, this large, almost spiritual step I’ve taken took a huge amount of self-exploration, honesty, faith and hard work. But I’m really feeling the benefits from it. I’ve never felt these levels of pride and confidence and having a direction and purpose, which is true and honest to my core beliefs has had a remarkable effect on my feelings and how I operate. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever decided to do. This in no way means I am or are trying to become some kind of super man who never feels negativity, it just means the place I’m working from to deal with that negativity is much more resilient and grounded. I’d recommend this to anyone.

Please do reach out to me if you have any questions / thoughts.

I am vs I feel

I’ve been identifying too much with my emotions.

Quite a deep introduction. But hear me out…

I feel like I let my emotions define me. I can wake up in the morning and for whatever reason not feel too good about things. I would wake up and say to myself, today I am frustrated/upset/angry/anxious. Then I identify with those emotions and ultimately become them. Then throughout the day, that is me. What a waste right?!

I want to share a small trick I stumbled across that really helped me feel better, and really reduce the power of my emotions, and stop overthinking and identifying with them. I’ve called it ‘I am vs I feel’ and is the art of disassociating.

It starts with a reframe.

I’m a strong believer that you are who you are. There’s nothing you can do to change that. Yes you can grow and develop and mature, but no matter what situation you are in or what emotions you are feeling, you are still the same person. You are you.

So, instead of identifying with emotions and letting them define you by saying to yourself, today ‘I am frustrated’. Say instead, right now ‘I feel frustration’. Accept the emotion is there, but don’t let it become you. I am Jacob Harvey, that is me, and sometimes I feel frustration, that’s fine! But that doesn’t mean I am a frustrated person. The power of you never goes anywhere, but you can very easily let the You be blurred by emotion.

Try it now. If you’re jealous about something don’t say ‘I am jealous’ say ‘I’m feeling jealousy’. Don’t say ‘I am angry’ say ‘I’m feeling anger’. Don’t say ‘I am sad’ say ‘I’m feeling sadness’. Think of a negative emotion you are feeling now or have felt recently and apply this concept and see how it makes you feel.

When I applied this to my feelings it almost immediately reduced the power of them, it makes them feel temporary. Now they weren’t consuming my every thought I could get some perspective and think more rationally about them and get along with my day to day life.

Keep the emotions in the box they deserve to be in, don’t let them consume you and don’t let them become you. As said above you are who you are, emotions don’t change that.

We are never going to be able to cure negative thoughts and feelings, but what we can do is try our best to work with them. In the words of author Mark Manson ‘Accept them, defuse them and act despite them’.

The great thing about changing from ‘I am frustrated’ to ‘I feel frustrated’ is that it helps to observe that emotion in a healthier way. You’re still going to feel negative emotions and think negative thoughts, but that really shouldn’t change who you are. Using the I am vs I feel concept makes our emotions seem short term, and it disassociates us from them and therefor allows us to feel happier and not let those annoying emotion things ruin a whole day/week/life time. I’m not saying it’s a onetime cure, but it’s a good start to get some perspective on how you’re feeling, and a great step to dealing with emotions in a happier and healthier way.