In 2017, “possibilities are endless” they say. Just one example of a laundry list of cliches that will come at us this month. I say, “true, but so what?” Where’s the meat and potatoes to go with that little starter statement that will show someone how to change their mindset to believe that anything is possible or how to activate a possibility when it’s presented? I’m always left wondering “how” to fulfill those flippant statements that can spark fleeting moments of inspirations but ultimately leave me empty and wanting to know more. Most of us have heard them all at some point in time repackaged over the years in a trendy fashion but rarely offer the source of information necessary to take the statement into action. In a world of ever-increasing soundbites, tweets and picture post-its, if we are not thoughtful in how we offer these out to the world, we will leave the next generations empty, more uninformed and lacking critical wisdom.
On the first day of 2017, why would I choose this topic above all others as my first post of the year? On a cold winter day back in 1978, I recall the statement vividly, “She’s not living up to her potential. She has so much potential.” That was the feedback given by my grade school teacher that I will never forget. This statement haunted me and what I find fascinating is that I didn’t ask this simple question, “So, Mrs. Hively, what does that mean and how do I start living up to my potential?” Kids do not typically ask these types of questions. I wanted to know, but I didn’t have the courage or the understanding to ask. Therefore, I spent the rest of my time in school not living up to my full potential. I’m not bitter with my teacher in any way. I’m not sure if she had the tools to help me get on a path that would challenge me to grow into my full potential. So, the empty statement is given, and I believed the statement. My interpretation was that there must be something wrong with me vs. realizing the opportunity to grow. Several years later I met Joe during a business meeting, and he recognized the same thing as Mrs. Hively except he said it this way, “Teresa, you have so much potential. I would like to introduce you to my business network and help you grow in your career.” Wow, now that’s a much more positive way at looking at my potential, huh? And he offered his time, knowledge and encouragement to see this statement through. He delivered the meat and potatoes! I was delighted to hear this, and from that point forward, Joe mentored me and my career began to flourish. I’ve been blessed with a few amazing mentors like Joe along the way who had the insight, courage, desire, and knowledge to back up that starter statement back in 1978.
My point and challenge are to be thoughtful about what we decide to put in someone’s mind this year. Think about the statement that you share with someone especially our youth. The youth will not ask us to elaborate so ask them the questions instead of giving them a cliche type statement without the meat and potatoes. Those are the ingredients required for a savory stew. My recommendation is to turn the statement into a question, for example; “Do you know what it looks like to let go and let God? May I share with you what that looks like for your life?” or “I believe that you have so much untapped potential and I would love to help you unlock it.” Wow, what a difference from the unintentional negative statement from my early years?
My challenge to myself is to be extremely thoughtful about every word that I share, both verbally and written. And if I don’t have the knowledge or the source of information to back up the advice or statements that I would like to share, I’m helping the world more by staying quiet.
From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:20-21