One of the most difficult questions I ask my students is: What do you want? You might be surprised how many of us draw a blank in the face of this question. Many of us have been desensitized to understanding the importance of our own wants and needs. We’ve been taught that our heart’s desire is selfish. We’ve been told that the best we can hope for is to survive life unscathed, with a little money in the bank account and fair health on our side.
But there's so much more that's possible. “Like what?” you ask? Try anything. You're capable of anything you can imagine. Your imagination is your greatest tool. This might make you feel giddy inside. But then, an age-old resistance might rear it’s head.
“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” says your internal voice.
It’s important to know that this voice originates in fear, fear of change. It doesn't mean to undermine you and keep you stuck, but that’s what ends up happening if you allow it to run the show. It's designed to protect you, to keep you from risking anything that might result in psychological pain, such as embarrassment or rejection.
But what’s worse? Staying trapped in fear, or risking momentary failure?
The universe wants you to grow, evolve and be yourself at your highest potential. So it will keep giving you the opportunity to practice. And if your current circumstances aren’t yet the embodiment of your highest potential, then guess what? Change is coming. You can’t hide from it. You might try, but it will be an exercise in futility.
What if you decided to stop resisting life? What if you decided to identify exactly what it is that makes your heart sing, then you pursued a life dedicated to that?
“How?” you may ask.
It’s simple. One word. Yes, it’s cliché. Yes, it’s hippie-dippy, but that’s OK. It’s one word. The most powerful word. The "L" word. It’s love. Here are three love-based ways to realize your highest potential.
1. Do what you love.
When you close your eyes and visualize your ideal life, what do you love about it? What are you doing? Sometimes we get trapped in the cycle of responsibility and we forget what we are truly capable of. I know. I spent more than a decade in a corporate career that didn't bring me joy, but did teach me many valuable lessons in the long run. I wanted to be a yoga teacher. But I didn’t think I could pay the bills doing what I love. I was wrong.
It’s not easy. I have to market myself shamelessly; I change trash cans and plunge toilets; I spend hours texting fellow teachers and students making sure the schedule is tucked away and everyone is thriving and happy. But I love it. I love writing and teaching yoga and leading retreats and lighting people’s fire from within. Yes, I've made some sacrifices from a material aspect. But I love what I do. I never dread my work. I rarely long for a day off. More often, I have to discipline myself to stop working.
What is it in your life that gets you excited like that? What do you have to discipline yourself not to do? Therein lies the answer ...
2. Be someone you love.
When I lived in Austin, there was a quote etched into the cement of a sidewalk in my neighborhood that served as great inspiration for me. It said, "Be the love you are looking for." Be the love. We're here to be love. In fact, all the great spiritual masters have taught this lesson. It’s our only purpose. Be love. At all times, we're moving in either the direction of fear or love.
Move toward love. Choose to be someone who you'd want to talk to at a cocktail party. Create a life that exhilarates you. Start with a baby step and know you're already on your path. Trust that it will happen in due time, and that the perfect lesson to actualize your highest potential is happening right now. In this moment. How are you showing up in this moment? What is your attitude like? Where are you being unkind? Have you forgiven everyone you need to forgive? Let go of the fear, anger, regret, or sorrow so you can move toward love.
3. Speak love.
Be aware of your words. Your words indicate your thoughts. Your thoughts have a significant impact on your reality. When you begin to infiltrate your language with words from your heart center, words like "nurturing," "compassionate," "kind," "joyful," "loving," "caring," you begin to assimilate these very words into your energetic being. And you begin to adopt their characteristics. At times, in my yogic teaching career, I've been given the feedback that my voice sounds too harsh, like a drill sergeant. Whenever I hear myself slip into this mode while teaching, I begin to speak words of love. I encourage my students to breathe in a nurturing way, to ladle themselves with compassion and care, and to invoke kindness.
Immediately, the room shifts. We all breathe more deeply, there are smiles in the eyes of the students all around, and everyone simply feels better. Speak of love, in love, out of love and about love. You might be surprised at the effect.
When we embody love, we radiate our cosmic spotlight. It’s that simple. And that state is our highest potential.