By Kevin Howell
The greatest obstacle to reaching my full potential, to living my dreams, and to maximizing every ounce of talent, skill, and blessing I’ve been given is that 5-foot-5, 31-year-old black guy I see every morning in the mirror (yes, he’s that short).
He doesn’t look very imposing, and he seems pleasant enough, well, minus the morning breathe. I’ve known him for a while now — been studying him all my life. I think I’ve figured out his tactics. It’s not that he hates me. It’s not that he doesn’t agree with my dreams, doesn’t see the potential for greatness, or doesn’t realize the privileges that I’ve been afforded. He knows all that and is cool with it. He just doesn’t want me to go through the process to get there. Part of it is his laziness, and part of it is his fear. But I think the larger issue is his addiction. He’s addicted to comfort. He’s addicted to happiness. He’s addicted to peace. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with these virtues because we all desire them and have a right to have them in our lives. But these virtues aren’t the prize of life; they aren’t the most important aspects.
Far more important than my happiness is my purpose, my reason for being on earth. Of course the two are intrinsically intertwined, and that’s how we can often get confused in our pursuits. We go for the job, the place, or the path where we’ll be happy. But happiness is not an indicator you’re on the right path. In fact it can be the warning you’re on the wrong one.
Anything worth pursuing will be uncomfortable. It will have some pain, struggle, and a hell of a lot of discomfort. Naturally, I dislike that. The guy in the mirror reminds me of that. At different stages on this journey we’ll have comfort, but to settle at those spots will be detrimental to reaching our potential. But he believes otherwise.
Unfortunately, he’s been able to persuade me for the better part of our existence. From athletics to academics to my profession to spiritual development, I have settled for good enough when excellence was within my grasp. The fear of the unknown, the hesitance to sacrifice, the avoidance of harder work, and risk of rejection has held me back. I know those obstacles are just part of the process that will perfect me, but the guy in the mirror gets the best of me. He lulls me into apathy by exalting comfort. He persuades me with procrastination: “Don’t worry, you can do that later. … You’ll change eventually, no need to press the issue now. You have plenty of time.” But day by day, life passes by with little growth, little progress.
Comfort is very appealing, but it’s actually a cancer. It sucks the life and passion right out of us. It blurs our vision, making it appear as though we’re in the right place, when in reality we’ve settled in the metropolis of mediocrity. We don’t even notice because most people around us live the same way — average. And we’re OK with that. But I’m starting to get unsettled here. My comfort zone is getting uncomfortable for my soul. The pain of staying the same is eclipsing the pain it takes to change.
In essence, I’m having a reawakening. I’m seeing my potential, and it’s so appealing that I’m willing to go after it regardless of what I have to go through. The prize is starting to outshine the pain it takes to obtain it. And that guy in the mirror? He’s still there, fighting the change. But this new passion burning within is starting to consume him.