I have no doubt whatsoever that most people live whether physically, intellectually, or morally, in a very restricted circle of their own potential being. They make use of a very small portion of their possible consciousness…. Much like the man who, out of his whole body organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger…. We all have reservoirs of life to draw upon, of which we do not dream!” William James
What a powerful, startling statement! William James was a keen, life-long observer of behavior who’s widely known as the father of American psychology. And here he is saying we are all using only a fraction of our strengths. Let’s unpack his views:
Most people have far more physical and mental capabilities than they use. We’ve all had moments when we’ve stretched way beyond what we believed we could do and pushed ourselves harder and farther to accomplish a goal. We all know what it feels like to do more and be more. And yet, most of the time, we seem to shy away from stretching ourselves too far.
Most people live in “a very restricted circle of their own being.” “Your dreams always lie outside of your comfort zone,” a wise friend once told me. How true I’ve found this to be! And yet, all too often, I’m content to stay in that comfortable, low-demand place where everything’s familiar. When I do this, I’m restricting myself and imposing self-limitations that stop me from doing what I’m really capable of doing and getting what I really want. Have you found this to be true for you?
Most people “make use of a very small portion of their possible consciousness.” We have so much more mental capacity than we use – we’ve all proven this to ourselves time and time again. We all know what it feels like to wrap our minds around something difficult – to chase down an elusive idea or come up with a better one, to push ourselves to complete a writing task and find that we have a second wind and great ideas are waiting for us beyond what we feel our limit is. Why don’t we do this more often. Why are we content with being sedans when we are really race cars?
“We all have reservoirs of life to draw upon, of which we do not dream.” What a marvelous promise just waiting to be fulfilled by each and every one of us! Our “reservoirs of life” are unbounded, undreamt of, just waiting for us to draw upon them to accomplish wonderful, magical feats. Dreams, memories, observations, inner knowing are all available to us, yet how often do we tap into them for inspiration?
What a joyful enterprise lies before us: to draw more deeply every day from that undreamt of reservoir we each have and that is ours alone. Write on!
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