When I speak to students on motivational seminars in an attempt to inspire them to be successful students, I often start by asking them, “Who or what is your worst enemy?” Students would give a range of serious to funny answer to this question – but most often, majority of the students in the audience shout out the answer, “Myself!”
I affirm their answers by saying, “Yes! If there is anyone to blame for your success or failure, it is YOU.”
I have been my own worst enemy for most part of my life (it is like an up-and-down line graph – with the down states pre-dominating the data) for a long time. This has changed. I am listening to the audio book, THE SECRET and for the first time in my life, I see the opposite happening – more of the up states pre-dominating my days. I am more deliberate in what I say to myself; my internal dialogues have always been more pessimistic than it is optimistic. But now, I only feed my mind with optimistic internal dialogues. There is this feeling of liberation and satisfaction that I gain by simply being in-charge of my own emotions and thoughts, compared to before, when I tried to experience liberation and satisfaction by doing everything for the outward display alone. Now, I do what I really want to and need.
This comes to me as a surprise because I always thought that my achievements could bring forth happiness – but as it is the experience of Tal Ben Shahar (http://www.talbenshahar.com/) and the host of others, achievements are not the determinant of happiness. I completed my PhD very young, when I was only 26, wrote and published four books in two years, spoke and trained teachers, students, and parents, traveled around, became the one of the youngest research and statistical advisors for the graduate school of psychology in the biggest international university in Thailand, sat in various committees – all these did not give me happiness – I was still engaging in negative internal dialogues. Funny isn’t it?
I did this because while everyone else around me believed in my abilities and intelligence, I did not. I still carried with me the self-image I had formed about myself when I was a child – mostly through limiting self-talks. People saw me in action and they said, “Wow Roy, you have it all – you are so good in what you do!” – While listening to them, I tell myself – “No ways! Are you joking? I don’t know how I could speak/write/teach/etc. that well or do what I did… but I am not good enough!”
It is not until I learned to appreciate who I am and what I bring into this world – accept what I can and cannot give to myself and others around me – that I found the path to living a fulfilling life.
I have grown and matured a lot lately. Partly because of the many humbling experiences life took me through. They were not ‘train smashes’ but they were painful – but more importantly, they were lessons-of-life-and-wisdom-in-disguise; tailor-made especially for me to grow up and become who I am supposed to be.
I believe more strongly than ever that when we look at people, we must remember one thing – this is one thing that doesn’t change:
I must not see what someone has accomplished or is experiencing now (what the person has been and is). While these are important to a certain extent to understand the person, what’s more important is the potential that lies within the person (what the person might become).
This same principle explains why I was trusted with important tasks in my profession – because the leaders who hired me saw the potential and believed in the ‘me’ that I was becoming! That takes a lot of faith doesn’t it? Yes it does. But why is it possible for these leaders to do so? Because they have learned the important lesson that it is not achievements that give one happiness – but a sense of knowing who you are, what you want, and where you are headed.
I believe that it is only a self-actualized person who can help another individual to become self-actualized, and I am happy that I have in my life people who have reached this state and are willing to help me do the same.