You Probably Don’t Know—Yet—How Strong You Are
It is a remarkable quality of human beings that our strength is only visible when required. The human mind and soul isn’t like the human body. We don’t, of course, develop emotional muscles that telegraph to others (or reflect back to ourselves) how powerful we might be amidst adversity. The evidence for that only comes during hardship. But, having listened now to thousands of life stories and been privileged to work to optimize so many, I am convinced that vast reservoirs of strength remain untapped in countless individuals—very likely, including you.
Each individual’s resume of personal power only gets written as life challenges that person. The greater the challenges, the bolder the print on the resume. Those are the entries that end up defining who we really are and stand as evidence, after we leave this earth, as to who we really were.
It is natural that human beings don’t invite pain and suffering upon themselves. But many of us place ourselves in harm’s way, willingly, whether fully understanding the enormity of the risks, or not. That’s true of anyone who serves in the military. It’s true of firefighters and police officers and paramedics and doctors and nurses. It’s true of those who stand up, against resistance, for what they believe in.
Yet, aren’t we all in harm’s way? And aren’t we all, therefore, writing lines of our Pain2Power resume’s, day after day, year after year? Of course, we are. When we have children and expose yourself to letting them go forth into this unpredictable, sometimes cruel world, you’re putting yourself in harm’s way. When you invite a dog into your life, knowing full well that you are likely to grieve its loss, you are putting yourself in harm’s way. When you tell someone you love him or her and risk that love being unrequited, or only temporarily shared, you put yourself in harm’s way.
You probably don’t know yet how strong you are yet, even though you will find out. Life tests all of us—again, and again. No one completes the journey unscathed or unscarred. So it is worth realizing that, underneath it all, tested or not, you are made of strong stuff—of steel. Because if you suspect it, even before you know it, you can achieve remarkable things, stand for what you believe in, resist giving in to temptation or timidity and meet your greatest destiny head on.
You don’t need to wonder about your strength any more than you need to wonder whether your heart is beating at this moment. But if you take your pulse, your heartbeat is suddenly at the front of your mind. And if you simply remind yourself that you can carry all manner of metaphorical weight on your shoulders, then you are, in some measure, already Atlas.
No, when you look in the mirror, the muscles of your heart and mind won’t jump out at you.
But . . . look closer. Look yourself in the eyes. That’s where you’ll begin to see how strong you are. Think about whether, if push came to shove, you would stand in the way of harm befalling someone you love. Think about whether, if push came to shove, you would choose to keep on existing, even if you lost your worldly possessions. Think about whether, if your business were to be on the brink of failure, you would work yourself to the bone to save it. Think about whether, if push came to shove, you would defend what freedoms we have left in America, even if it cost you your life. Think about whether you would donate a kidney to save one of your relatives. Think about whether you would donate both your kidneys to save two of your kids.
Of course, you would. Otherwise, you’d never be reading what I just wrote, all the way to the end.
Dr. Keith Ablow