Braver than you Believe

Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. -A. A. Milne

by Philosiblog on 18 January 2012

Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. (Christopher Robbin to Pooh) – A. A. Milne

Sometimes, profound wisdom can come from children’s books.

What does that mean?
This quote, being spoken by a fictional character, might seem a little less weighty than might otherwise be expected, but I still find it quite interesting. This quote is urging us to remember, even as the reader, that we truly are braver, stronger and smarter than we might admit, even to ourselves.

In our crazy, work-a-day world, we adults often forget this little bit of advice. We become timid, more afraid of what we have to lose than what we might gain. We become subservient, forgetting our inner strength. We become dull and habit-bound, forgetting our intelligence and our resourcefulness. We forget our true selves, or allow them to become so distant as to be mere stories, dreams, or faded memories. We are admonished by the quote to always remember.

Why is living up to your true potential important?  
We often give ourselves less credit then we deserve. Imagine that your life is presently operating at 100% on bravery, strength, and smarts. Now take it down to 50% of that, or less. How timid, lack-luster, and dull would your life be? That’s probably not the way you want to live, is it?

In addition to being a pale shadow of your true self, living a sub-standard life also cheats your friends, family, acquaintances and the rest of the world of all that you could be. What if Galileo, Newton, or Einstein hadn’t remembered that they were smart? The good news is they did remember, and the world is different for their efforts. What form of greatness do you have hidden within you?

Where can I apply this in my life?
Consider how close to the limit you are in your everyday life? How often do you use all your bravery? Your strength? Your brains? Now I don’t expect you to run flat-out all the time, but it would be quite a loss to run your life at 10%, wouldn’t you agree?

Think back over the past week, month or year, and try to find a couple instances when you know you didn’t live up to your true potential. Do this for the three categories listed in the quote, and as many other ways as you might divide your life and how you operate.

How do you feel when you think about those times? I hope there isn’t too much pain, but I do hope that there is at least some regret for not having been able to do as much as you could have. Grab some paper and write a few of these events down. Include your thoughts on how it made you feel to do less than you could.

Now think about what might have happened differently if you had been able to operate at your full potential? How much better would that have been? Take a moment and write down how things might have gone if you had been able to do a little better, a lot better, and at your absolute best. Also write down what costs, if any, you might have had if you had been able to call on more of your potential.

For me, I was recently involved in a fender-bender. Someone, in an extreme hurry, tried to pass me on the right in a hilly, no passing zone. Then came the inevitable: oncoming traffic. They came across the front of my car before clearing me and ended up spinning out and sliding into the ditch. I then target-fixated to the oncoming traffic, and nearly collected another car.

Obviously, I wasn’t doing as well as I should have. I should have been smarter. Besides slowing more rapidly to allow the other person to get around me sooner, I really blew it when I target-fixated. Fortunately, only the vehicles were damaged, but it could have been much worse. However it also could have been much better.

It’s hard to practice these things at 100%. Hard to practice brave. Hard to practice strength of spirit or mind. It’s hard to practice smart. You need a real challenge to make sure everything is working 100%, but that means real risk. That said, we still can, and should, practice on the little things every day.

Look through your list and try to come up with ideas that will allow you to work on these aspects of your life. Every little bit helps. Then decide to practice these things every day, and make sure you start right away.

While we sometimes believe we are too old for Winnie the Pooh books, there is much to be learned from the Bear of Very Little Brain, and from his friends. However, I believe that is precisely when we need their wisdom the most.

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