Cutting Off Your True Potential

Updated: Aug 15, 2019

There is an apartment complex in my parent's suburban town that has a landscaping predicament. Someone planted a row of oak trees along the sidewalk. It wasn't a problem until 20 years later. Because someone also planted power lines along the sidewalk. Now the trees are growing a little too close for comfort.

I don't know what would happen if a branch actually touched the wires. In the apartments a wife would call to her husband.

"Honey, your toast is burning."

To which the husband, probably shaving, would pause and say to the mirror, "What toast?"

At which point the lovely tree outside their window would explode in a splinter-blast like the White House on Independence Day.

So, what is the solution?

"A little off the top."

Apparently, it is called crown reduction. AKA cut the top half of the tree off.

We've all seen this before- and it’s a bit of an eyesore for pretentious people obsessed with aesthetics. The kind of thing that keeps me up at night.

It's unbalanced. The big healthy trunk, so full of potential. The lowest branches growing wide, unaware that they are also the highest branches. And then the stump at the top. Like a decapitated neck.

Well it occurred to me that I've had the same feeling of lost potential when looking at myself. I've been in jobs where I stayed long enough to dig my roots down deep. My trunk got thick with the safety and security of the income. But with every year that passed I would wonder, "Why do I feel stuck?"

What I failed to realize was that I was being chopped off at the top. I wasn’t growing upward. I wasn’t branching out. I wasn’t expanding or reaching for new heights.

You follow my metaphor, right?

“Well, sure,” you might say, “but what the hell is the tree supposed to do in this situation?”

Easy! Uproot the tree.

Spend lots of time, money and energy digging yourself out from where you are now and moving to a different place where there isn’t a ceiling enforced by chainsaw.

But that requires risk and costs so much that you default to overwhelm and settle for getting “directionally pruned.”

We settle for the pay. We settle for the time frame the power company gives us for promotion. Our roots are just too deep.

But here is where you and I differ from the tree:

The power lines are imaginary.

They are not real. They may seem real. But they are not.

The power lines are limiting beliefs. The kind of thoughts that tell you “no.” You can’t do something. The brave thing your soul wants to do-- well a limiting belief will tell you that you are too old, inexperienced, unskilled and not-good-enough to do it.

In the past someone maybe a parent, or a teacher, took out their pruning shears and snipped a bit off the top of your tree. And they had authority, so you believed them. “They are right, I have no business growing in that direction.”

And overtime you begin cutting yourself off. You grow out in a direction that isn’t your path because someone told you there are dangerous power lines where you wanted to grow.

Well I’ve got news for you.

There are no power lines up there. And if your soul feels that dissatisfaction, that longing to grow higher in the direction of your desire, listen to it.

You don’t need to uproot yourself. Begin by getting quiet. Listen to your intuition and find out what you actually want to do.

The power company you thought had total dominion over you does not.

Watch the thoughts that pop into your head when you land on one of your soul’s desires.

“I don't have any podcasting experience.”

“I don't have a voice for podcasting?”

“No one wants to listen to me.”

Catch those thoughts for what they are: imaginary power lines. Over time you’ll begin to see they aren’t real or true. And each time you’ll be a tiny bit slower to yank the chainsaw out from the holster. You don’t have to chop off that branch before it grows. Give yourself an inch of growth. See how it feels.

Watch those limiting beliefs. Realize they are imaginary. Choose to grow an inch instead of self-prune.

The power lines are gone. Where are you going to grow?

Illustration by Alec Ogg

#potential #limitingbeliefs

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