We all know what it feels like when a light bulb finally goes off inside our heads or hearts. Sometimes we don’t even know the bulb is there, waiting for us to turn it on. For most of us, we turn on these lights, thereby experiencing what we call ‘ah-ha’ moments, only occasionally. For a few of us luckier ones, we experience these moments regularly throughout our lives. I want to share such a moment I recently had with the hopes that some of you will resonate with my experience.
I have always been comfortable being an average achiever. My comfort zone was being a solid C student. Throughout various professional endeavors I never really reached my full potential, with notable exceptions, because I didn’t apply myself. A weird sort of apathy would overcome me pulling me away from my real goal. Rather than fight this pull, I acquiesced, taking the low road of least resistance and settling for okay.
In personal relationships, being an extrovert, I tend to be open with most people right from our first meeting. This draws people in to a comfortable yet personal zone. Then suddenly I instinctively put up a wall, which few people go beyond. This wall pops up once an emotional bond emerges. I suddenly become an introvert.
Experiences throughout my childhood echoed this dynamic of extrovert and introvert. My early memories are mired in images of positive and negative reinforcement. This is how we grow into adulthood. In my case, I soon discovered that negative reinforcement (punishment) soon groomed me to excel to a certain level of competence quickly, but not to exceed another certain level just slightly higher. This balance was what I have fondly referred to as a Solid C. So firmly embedded was this thin spectrum that I am still stuck there.
But wait………….this is where the ah-ha moment comes in! I had never been aware of what is commonly referred to as a glass ceiling. I did not realize that I had the ability to break through this ceiling and propel myself to higher levels as I choose. I had not realized that what was holding me back was a simple fear of leaving the old trench. But even more basically, I had not known there was something I could actually put my finger on that would have triggered such a dynamic! As with all ah-ha moments, this awareness cannot and will not suddenly disappear. It stays with us forever and it feels wonderful each time we think of it.
If you find that you are stuck in a trench like I was, try looking up. Perhaps there’s glass ceiling there. Was there a time in your childhood when you did something to the very best of your ability, yet received negative reinforcement? I’ll give you an example. Remember when we learned to write in cursive during the second grade? I can picture the lineup of the alphabet in both lower and upper cases. Enter the letter ‘Q’, which can clearly resemble the numeral ‘2’ in some written styles. When I was explaining to my mother how excited I was to be learning about writing and how different some of the letters she scribed were different from the ones at school. I was puzzled (not being a smart ass – I had given that up years earlier) because my inquisitiveness was viewed by her as being argumentative. As a result my reward was to transcribe, in perfect penmanship, a full page per day from a book for the entire summer. This was going to teach me how to write and not to argue. I already knew how to write and I was incensed. Instantaneously my inquisitiveness was extinguished. Solid ‘C’ was born!
So powerful was this ‘I’ll show him’ lesson that I stopped reading all books and my assignments………….forever! I never read one single book in school, nor did I ever check a book out of the library, not even in college.
Thankfully I was blessed with a keen observational mind and I managed to get through school and gain an excellent education by paying careful attention in class. Never did I miss a class and I learned to express my thoughts well in writing, when absolutely necessary. What had happened was a glass ceiling had emerged. Once I became aware of what dynamic was involved here, I began to change things.
Throughout my life there were other key moments which surfaced from time to time to remind me of the events that elicited a cellular emotional response, which so clearly defined and maintained my status as Solid ‘C’.
I hope you all find deep within you the events that have limited you. To some people, this is a new concept. You may experience some fear about delving into your memories for these uncomfortable moments. This is natural and a sign of mental health. One might wonder what one needs to do next. Simply be aware of what has been limiting you from reaching for the stars. The Uni-verse will care of the rest. Follow your heart.
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Jay Remer, “The Etiquette Guy”, is a true foot soldier of civility. Through increased awareness, compassion, responsibility, and gratitude, the world can and will be a kinder gentler place to live.