The greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we can become

Larry attended a free lecture given by an internationally acclaimed spiritual teacher. The visitor from India spoke about the unlimited potential of man. Larry was feeling both excited and disappointed. Excited by his potential, but disappointed because he didn’t know how to tap it. At the end of the lecture, the guru asked everyone to line up and come before him for a second or two. “I can read your hearts,” he explained, “and will answer the question that is troubling you the most.” Once again Larry was excited. Is he going to teach me how to release my potential, he wondered. Within minutes, Larry found himself before the guru. The wise man placed his hand on Larry’s head, drew him near, and whispered, “Move on!”

Move on? Before Larry could ask for an explanation, the guru was already whispering to the next person. Larry would have to figure out the meaning of “Move on” for himself. Haunted by the message, two weeks later Larry told his boss, the Warehouse Manager, that he changed his mind and was willing to do overtime. This meant less time for partying, but more money that could be saved. Within six months he was attending night school and studying computer networking. Shortly after graduation (June, 1986) he received a job in his new field. He was now earning three times more than he did in his previous job, without doing overtime!

By January, 1988, Larry couldn’t believe his good fortune. He now had an impressive apartment, a caring and supportive girlfriend, and a job that he loved. Things couldn’t be better! But the guru’s message resurfaced in his mind. Wait a minute, he thought, the guru didn’t tell me to STOP after getting a good job; he just told me to MOVE ON. Inspired, Larry decided that within six months, he would move on by opening his own company.

By June of 1990, Larry and his wife, Sheila, had two bright children, a small but successful company, and were planning to move into a new home within three months. In 1993, Larry once again remembered the guru’s message. No need to stop, he mused; why not share my expertise and help others start their own businesses? So, Larry established a new franchise. He and his franchisees are now flourishing. In fact, his company was written up in Success Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Newsweek. Next week, he attends his fifth annual franchise convention, where he and his staff will greet, encourage, and train his more than twenty franchisees. Please note there is no end to this story because there is no end to one’s potential. Larry will continue to MOVE ON.

We were meant to fly in a boundless sky, to endlessly move on. I’m sure you agree with Henry Ford who said, “There is no man living who isn’t capable of doing more than he thinks he can do.” Why is it that Larry and others like him are moving on while many of us can’t get off the launching pad? What’s holding us back? Well, it’s hard to fly with weights chained to our legs. The weights are our addictions, attachments, and bad habits. For example, before meeting the guru, Larry was more interested in partying than working or studying. If we are to succeed, we must follow his example and sever the chains, break the habits that are holding us back.

Why do these bad habits linger despite our rational mind? The problem is we don’t stop and think often enough. Instead of behaving with thoughtful insight, we act automatically. We gravitate toward pleasure (such as partying) and avoid what we imagine to be painful or uncomfortable (work or study). How do we break the habits that are preventing us from moving on? You may find the following two-step plan effective.

1) Get a pencil and a pad of paper. Write down what will happen to you in six months, one year, five years, and ten years if you continue the bad habit (for example, partying). Carefully consider all the ways your bad habit will have a negative impact on your life; write everything down.

2) Now write down everything that will happen to you in six months, one year, five years, and ten years if you replace the bad habit with a good habit (for example working hard and studying). Write down as much detail as possible.

If you do this carefully, a remarkable thing happens. You will discover that what you first found attractive (partying) is now ugly and what you first found undesirable (work and study) is now attractive. You see, the exercise forces you to shift your focus from short-term pleasures to the long-term consequences. The next time you are tempted to party, you will remember the negative long-term impact and want to change your behavior. You will discover that some of the most powerful tools for change are pencil and paper and awareness of the results of your actions.

Marilyn Ferguson summed it up nicely when she said, “Your past is not your potential. In any hour you can choose to liberate the future.” Grab a pencil, pad of paper, and a hacksaw. Let’s cut those chains that are holding us back!