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by riley harrison

We realize a small percentage of our potential. Our greatest limitations are self inflicted. William James, psychologist and philosopher, said “The greatest revolution is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” Someone else said  “All the truly important battles are waged within one’s self.”

If we are willing to accept this premise and work on changing attitudes that limit, the rest will take care of itself. You want to move beyond merely fixing problems to seeing and creating possibilities. Motivation, persuasion, confidence, self-esteem, decision making and creativity are skills that you can learn. Our limitations are not in what is possible but what we think is possible. Learn to model excellence.

We need to change the way we think and our own self image of ourselves. Why is self esteem so important? The more you like yourself, the less you fear failure. The more you like yourself the easier it becomes to take risks. The more you like yourself the easier it is to step out of your comfort zone. The more you like yourself the easier it becomes to handle criticism. The more you like yourself the less urgency you feel in making yourself understood. The more you like yourself, the greater your capacity for appreciation. Self esteem is the art of discovering who you really are and expressing it in the world.

If we believe we are limited, we will act accordingly and lead a limited life. You can never out perform your self image. If we keep repeating the same thoughts, feelings and actions, the results will be predictable. The results will be the same because nothing has changed. If nothing changes nothing changes. So why struggle to realize your potential? What exactly is wrong with becoming a couch potato? Albert Schweitzer put it this way “You should realize your soul suffers if you live superficially”. A purposeless life isn’t a happy life.

You have to commit to be willing to change and alter your very comfortable, well known routine of existence. Change can be hard. It’s not easy to do what needs to be done. We often pretend that we don’t know what needs to be done. Often we do know what needs to be do; we lack the courage rather than the insight.. Change never happens as fast as we like; it’s an uneven process that has its’ successes and victories but also setbacks and disappointments.  But what is the alternative – to remain stuck, to not have dreams, to continue in patterns that depress rather than excite you? The beauty of change and being on the right road is that small changes result in great satisfaction. Think of the immense satisfaction you receive when you acknowledge a fear or barrier in your life and you take action that helps you go forward and do effective battle with that fear. Change and action might be scary but they will lead to better and more positive feelings about yourself. Success is winning the daily battles with your issues in life. You will then reflect back on your progress and realize that you have made major progress and have won major victories.

The comfort zone is the real enemy to human potential. We develop habits and well worn ruts that become the path that we travel on through life. Instead of altering the path, we use our energies to determine how to make the path more comfortable and lose sight of the fact that if the path isn’t going in the right direction, we have consigned ourselves to a destiny of underachievement, mediocrity and acceptance of the status quo. People will continue to work at the same job, associate with the same people, drive the same route to work, engage in the same leisure activities, watch the same TV show, read the same books.

Understand the connection between self esteem and confidence then practice behavior that boosts your confidence. Confidence does not arrive full grown; it grows with experience.

Thoughts and memories have a pattern to them. If you do what you have always done you will get what you have always gotten. It is way too easy to settle into a pattern. What you are comfortable with is not necessarily what is good for you. You must break the mind set of instant gratification and be willing to persevere for a time without visible progress. Who you are has been formulated by a lifetime of habits and thoughts. Do not expect overnight change. Real change is neither easy or quick. I enjoy reading inspirational stories. However many success stories focus solely on the success and fail to discuss or skim over the hard times leaving you with the false impression that when you encounter hard times you must be doing something wrong. As Rodney Dangerfield said it took me 20 years to become as overnight success. Read about Maya Angelu struggles early in her life before success was achieved. The true story is sometimes so much more helpful than the myth. Noel Coward said  “Thousands of people have talent. I might as well congratulate you for having eyes in your head. The one and only thing that counts is ‘Do you have staying power?’”





{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

sean crawford May 29, 2011 at 3:37 pm

A wise older friend once said he saw me as “willing,” a compliment that I am still coming to understand.

I like your start of paragraph five, “you have to commit to be willing to change and alter you…” I like your gentle promise of paragraph two, “If you are willing to accept this premise and work on changing attitudes that limit, the rest will take care of itself.”

I have just finished a growth experience of creating and teaching a five month leadership course to five staff at work. (I was asked to do so) Part of my growth now will be “taking in” that the course really worked for them. I already have five volunteers lined up to be students in the fall, after the snow flies… Riley, I look forward to having us go around the room reading your essay out loud!
sean crawford recently posted..Khadr the Kid meets The Code of the WestMy Profile


riley harrison May 30, 2011 at 10:25 am

Thank you so much. I’m honored that you feel this blog is worthy enough to be shared with your students. Hope they enjoy.


Evan May 29, 2011 at 11:47 pm

I do think most of us are capable of far more than we know.

I’m not sure about not outrunning our self-image. Sometimes we can surprise ourselves I think.

Also once we get beyond individuals then other dynamics of organisation get involved – the rest doesn’t just look after itself.


riley harrison May 30, 2011 at 10:29 am

Hi Evan,
“I’m not sure about not outrunning our self-image”. I suppose, in some instances, there could be other factors, but that’s not how I would bet.


Daniel M. Wood May 30, 2011 at 8:23 am

Hey Riley,

Being motivated isn’t harder than it has to be. If you set a goal and work persistently towards it, if the goal is worthwhile you will be motivated.

It takes a focus and it takes courage.

When you do, you break through limitations and start producing and accomplishing your dreams.
Daniel M. Wood recently posted..Podcast Episode 7- The Power of YOUMy Profile


riley harrison May 30, 2011 at 10:33 am

Hi Daniel,
Well I know you are motivated and will have success. Good luck Daniel.


Anthony from chicken coops May 30, 2011 at 11:11 am

Its been evident in many cases that many of us have been leading quite a miserable life because of underestimating ourselves and lack of confidence. Confidence is something that has to be unleashed if we want to live a life full of joys and achievements.
Anthony@chicken coops recently posted..How to Build a Chicken House – What Not to DoMy Profile


riley harrison May 30, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Hi Anthony,
Confidence really makes a difference doesn’t it. Thanks for stopping by.


Terry Conti May 30, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Hi Riley,

Too many people stay in their comfort zone and deal with life and condition themselves not to move or excel because of it may be too hard or they say to themselves what it I fail?

People don’t realize by thinking this way that they are immobilizing them selves. If you don’t do the best you can to break through the barrier of the way things are you must a accept the way things are instead of complaining.

You’ll be better off, otherwise go for it and make a change. Having the right mind set, knowing you’re pushing, kicking and punching your way through to make things better is great for self esteem. As I always say doing something is better than doing nothing.

Terry Conti
Terry Conti recently posted..Setting Direction For Your GoalsMy Profile


riley harrison May 30, 2011 at 7:15 pm

“doing something is better than doing nothing.” I’m with you on that – big believer in action even when tinged with uncertainty.


Derek Potocki from SmartGoals May 30, 2011 at 10:33 pm

“…false impression that when you encounter hard times you must be doing something wrong”
You’ve got that nailed Riley. Perhaps if we don’t experience hard times, we are doing something wrong? Maybe we should be more in the trenches, not in parks and turkish baths? Maybe it is about discomfort rather than comfort? So we can learn and grow?
Fantastic post Riley, as always. Keep us on our toes, man:)
Derek Potocki @SmartGoals recently posted..Be CarefulMy Profile


Dia May 31, 2011 at 12:21 am

Hi Riley,

Nice post! I love what William James said, “greatest revolution is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” This is so true. We have to change ourselves internally first before we can see our outer world changes. I wish that I knew this a long time ago, but hey at least I know it now. ;) Thanks for sharing Riley
Dia recently posted..Natural anxiety curesMy Profile


riley harrison June 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

Hello Dia,
Yes, William James is one of my favorites. He battled life long depression but that didn’t stop him from making a wonderful contribution to the world.


Jane June 27, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Gosh, I wish I would have had that information eariler!


riley harrison June 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Well Jane better late than never. Good luck


Carolyn@The Wonder of Tech May 31, 2011 at 12:46 am

Hi Riley, Yet another post on a fascinating subject! Self-esteem is a very interesting topic for me. My personal philosophy is that lack of self-esteem is the root of all evil. If you are fortunate enough to encounter someone who is at peace with themselves, you will recognize the serenity and grace with which they live their lives.

I agree with Evan. People do surpass their self-image and that’s what raises their self-esteem. You just have to try. Even when you fail you can learn from your mistakes and do better next time.

Thanks for your wonderful blog!
Carolyn@The Wonder of Tech recently posted..RunPee- Your Must-Have Movie Companion!My Profile


Lori Gosselin June 1, 2011 at 12:21 am

I too was loving the part on self-esteem (especially the third paragraph Riley) and I love what you said here Carolyn: “If you are fortunate enough to encounter someone who is at peace with themselves, you will recognize the serenity and grace with which they live their lives.” Now I’m trying to think: have I met someone like that? Is Riley like that? ARE YOU LIKE THAT RILEY!?

I love the quote by Noel Coward!

I have a feeling you are! What about you Carolyn – surpassing your self-image. You’re all giving me lots to think about!
Lori Gosselin recently posted..How Do You Handle PraiseMy Profile


riley harrison June 1, 2011 at 10:39 am

“ARE YOU LIKE THAT RILEY!?” I showed this to Kathy this morning and she snorted coffee out of her nose. I am somewhat at peace with who I am but unfortunately serenity and grace elude me.


Carolyn June 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Hi Lori, I try, I really do. I think I’m more at peace with myself than most others, though I have a tough time forgiving myself of my many foibles. I’m much better at accepting others for who they are and appreciating all the good they have to offer. Especially fellow bloggers! ;-)
Carolyn recently posted..WWDC- A Slice of Apple’s FutureMy Profile


riley harrison June 1, 2011 at 10:28 am

Hi Carolyn,
To me self image (how you see yourself) is based on self esteem.There might be exceptions to this but most of the time it holds true.


Galen Pearl June 1, 2011 at 1:05 am

Hey! Just gave you an award, if you are interested in that sort of thing! Check out my current post for info. You’ll have to go to the blogs that gave it to me to get the button.
Galen Pearl recently posted..MerciMy Profile


riley harrison June 1, 2011 at 10:43 am

Hi Galen,
I’m not above needing recognition, so thank you very much for the mention. I will be right over and pick up my button.


Vitaly Tennant June 1, 2011 at 3:28 am

Hey Riley, this is a wonderful post. You are right, it is very easy to set into a pattern and lock yourself in. Only our creative vibrations and positive thought patterns can truly lead us to to lives that we ultimately want to have.
Vitaly Tennant recently posted..Corporate America Destroys PassionMy Profile


riley harrison June 1, 2011 at 10:12 am

Hi Vitaly,
You are correct. Thanks for your input.


Katie Goode from Be Extraordinary Today June 1, 2011 at 2:54 pm

“The comfort zone is the real enemy to human potential.” So true.
I don’t remember where I heard it, but something that has stuck with me for years is: “Change occurs when it’s too uncomfortable not to change.”

(One of my clients was really inspired by this post to push past her limits.)
Thanks Riley!
Katie Goode @Be Extraordinary Today recently posted..See it! Say it! Do it!My Profile


Riley Harrison June 2, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Well thanks Katie for sharing. It always feel good (as I’m sure you know) when you can inspire someone to change.
Riley Harrison recently posted..WHY DO YOU LEAD A LIMITED LIFEMy Profile


Justin from Mazzastick June 2, 2011 at 11:48 am

Hey Riley,
I resonated with what you said about self-esteem and how much risk that we are willing to take. I can see that if you have a great self-image then taking risks and possible failures will not be a problem.

Our minds sure like patterns and do not enjoy having them interrupted. When I begin to notice that I am in a pattern loop, I begin to change my focus and intentions to add new things and maybe alter or change old patterns.
Justin @Mazzastick recently posted..Stop Being Grounded Already – Why Staying in the Salad Bowl Isn’t Such a Smart MoveMy Profile


riley harrison June 2, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Hi Justin,
Yep patterns don’t give up easily but changing focus will do the trick. Thanks Justin.


Adrienne June 3, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Wow Riley, you hit the nail on the head with this post.

I had a friend (we ended our friendship this past Feb) who has very low self-esteem. Time and time and time again she would ask my advice on what I would do regarding a situation she was in. My response was always I can’t answer that because I would have never been in that situation in the first place. I love myself so I’m willing to do the uncomfortable things because it only moves me closer to where I intend to be. While all she does is stay in her neat little bubble and gripe about her poor pitiful situation. Can you see why our friendship ended?

Change is uncomfortable at times but without it, we’ll never move past where we are right now. I have been doing a lot of “stepping outside my box” lately and doing things I’ve been afraid of doing in the past. Once I did a few of these I was just so proud of myself and it was an exhilarating feeling. I look back and think why the heck I didn’t do that sooner.

I do love that saying though, “if you continue to do what you’ve always done you’ll continue to get what you’ve always gotten”. Amen to that my friend.

Thanks Riley, loved this post.

Adrienne recently posted..Why The Heck Are You Really HereMy Profile


riley harrison June 3, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Hi Adrienne,
Glad to hear that you are stepping out of your comfort zone more often because that’s what you are going to find success, vitality and real enjoyment in life. Hope things are going well; I know you are a hard worker and will give it your best shot. Wish you the best. I’m rooting for you.


raverture from wedding favors June 9, 2011 at 5:33 am

Hi Riley,

Your article is very inspiring! It is true that once you read a true to life story and witnessed its success, you will be inspired to go out of your box and do your best to achieve your very goal in life. I know that you will be experiencing a lot of hardships and pitfalls, nevertheless, they will set as your courage to face all them. And in the future, you can share your incredible story to the readers and all of the people in the world that nothing is impossible if you just believe in yourself. :)


riley harrison June 9, 2011 at 11:55 am

Hi raverture,
Believing in yourself is key. Thanks for dropping by and wish you the best.


Rob Collins June 9, 2011 at 6:49 am

Hi Riley. This is my first visit to your blog, courtesy of Tim Brownson’s mention. I’m impressed. In the last month, my self-improvement activities have fallen by the wayside. I started settling back into my comfort zone again. But you’re right, it’s like living in the shadows. Hopefully your post will give me the kick up the backside to pick things up again. Thanks!


riley harrison June 9, 2011 at 11:14 am

Hi Rob,
Well welcome and I hope my blog helps you. Thanks for stopping by


Ira from Chicago Home Remodeling June 9, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I just got this from a friend on facebook. I read it and I am so inspired. Thank you so much. I am so happy that I bumped into this.


riley harrison June 9, 2011 at 9:57 pm

You are certainly welcome


Scott McCurdy from vehicle tracking October 4, 2011 at 7:33 am


This is a perfect motivational article! You are right. The limitation only exists in our minds. If we take that out and think of limitless potentials and capabilities, we will be surprised of the things we can accomplish. It’s really sad to think that majority of the people are limiting themselves, not knowing what is beyond the limit. Thanks for the great post!


Bradley from How to Build a Chicken Coop June 6, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Howdy! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell
you I truly enjoy reading through your blog posts. Can you recommend any
other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same topics?
Thank you!
Bradley@How to Build a Chicken Coop recently posted..How to Build a Chicken CoopMy Profile


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