In the movie ‘Pinocchio’, which was Disney’s adaptation of the book, towards the end of the movie, Pinocchio is faced with a tough decision where he must save his father from the belly of the whale. This situation is one that most of us face on our path towards unlocking our potential. While several embodiments of the ‘belly of the whale’ story have been found throughout history, one of the most profound lessons we can take away, comes from Pinocchio’s story.
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If you look closely, you will realize that the characters in Pinocchio’s story are metaphorical representation of your life. The father in the story represents your potential that is locked; waiting to be tapped…and you are Pinocchio.
It is a common understanding that setting a goal and laying out a definitive plan to reach your goal does wonders for you. Laying out a path and setting goals not just help you be successful, but brings about a sense of positive emotion and fulfillment. This is why you see most leaders in any particular domain set goals and then be determined to achieve those goals.
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Setting an objective keeps our sight on our target, that is, instead of doing other things that are unproductive, we are focused on our intention of reaching our goals. The better the goal, the more fulfilling and rich our experience is. This is why we often aim at being the best version of ourselves and develop the vision.
Setting goals in not the difficult part. It is the execution that is difficult. Hardly a few see their goals through in life. Why do so many digress or give up so abruptly?
The reason is our comfort zone. The comfort zone is one of the biggest killers of dreams and hopes. Everyone wants to achieve their goals, but very few want to leave their comfort zones. On our path to achieving our goals, there will be times when we will be required to stretch ourselves, do things that we fear and even face challenging situations. You may have to accomplish certain things along the way such as speak to an audience, travel far and wide or do something else that we have always feared to do. But unless we are willing to overcome them, the goals will never be realized.
Most people shut down at the first sight of a challenge and take the easy route. This is when our brain’s fight or flight response kicks in and we give up; and so, the goals remain just that. Goals. Unrealized and unfulfilled.
The moment you have to stretch yourself to accomplish something is your moment of biggest opportunity. What you want to do is identify what you have been avoiding and voluntarily confront it. Break down the goals into smaller tasks and take steps towards it. What this will do is make you braver with each task completed. A former Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court has rightly said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
Just like a hard work out at the gym stretches the muscles and the micro tears in the tissues lead to growth, pushing yourself to achieve something will lead you to heights that you have never experienced before. Various thought leaders have spoken about this at various points in history. However, this is not just a philosophy anymore; there is now biological evidence behind it. Exposing yourself to new experiences and situation creates new codes and new neural pathways in the body. It physically changes your brain and the genetic code. The untapped potential of the mind and the genes is unlocked. A lot of potential you locked in the untapped resources and these unlocked genes builds newer parts of you. Just like a workout, as you take on heavier loads, more of you gets unlocked.
Pain often sets in when we are trying to accomplish certain things. This pain comes from unrealized potential. When we think of what an ideal achievement or an ideal goal should look like, it often discourages us and this is the precursor to the onset of pain.
It has to be understood that there is no ideal. What is ideal to you might not be to someone else. Ideal is an illusion that your mind makes up. On this journey, it is important not to compare ourselves or our progress with that of others. This is because everyone has a unique journey and experience. By making such comparisons, we undermine our efforts. Our aim should be to keep progressing, no matter how slowly we are doing it. Water your own grass because the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence; it is greener where you water it. That is all that matters rather than comparing it with what it should be like. The trick is to unlock all the potential with achievable increments, without a comparison with an illusory ideal.
All the potential is locked within you genetically, but it will come out only if you challenge and stress yourself to perform. If you push yourself, you will eventually fire into motion like an engine that comes to life after decades of being dormant.
Your job as Pinocchio is to save your father, that is, your potential…from the whale of the comfort zone.
In the movie, Pinocchio dies saving his father in the story, but the fairy brings him back to life. This does not mean that anybody is going to die in a literal sense. But it does imply that by pushing past your comfort zone, you will be unlocking newer versions of yourself everyday that will replace your old self. This Universe is like a fairy and it rewards courage, determination and will. If you are willing to push past any hurdles with a definite goal in mind, the Universe will open doors for you where you once only saw walls.
Take the leap of faith and start today. Who knows what the fairy will give you for saving your father.