Unlock your fullest potential

There are epiphanies that we suddenly realize as we grow old. If we are to compare ourselves from who we were a year ago, five years ago, and ten years ago, we’d notice that we changed a lot because of our experiences. I find this constant process of discovery as an interesting journey. You have these expectations about who you are and who you will be and yet you surprise yourself that you have turned out different. As we tread these changes, I think the consistent theme in these different phases of our lives is, we can be at peace with where we are when we are making sure that we fully unlock every version of ourselves, and hopefully before our last breath, we can say that “I have exhausted everything, I did everything that I possibly could.” There will be no regrets nor what ifs.

The next question is, “How do you unlock your fullest potential?” I can only speak based on how I approach life and what I have learned overall, and that is by breaking it in to tiny, actionable steps. 

1. Make an irrevocable decision about the life that you want.
       When you know where you are going, there will be less mental burden about the decisions you’ll be making. Decide what kind of life you want, without any sort of guilt. Do you want to be a millionaire? Do you want to travel all over the world? Do you want to live a simple life on a hill or in the middle of a forest? Ask yourself this question everyday, “What do I really want?” and listen to your gut’s honest answer. Write it down. To be honest, I feel sad whenever I meet someone who is just wasting precious Earth time wandering aimlessly. We all have moments of uncertainties, but at some point, you have to choose your path. Ten years from now, what does a beautiful life look like to you. Make it as detailed as possible and then that’s it, that’s the life you want.

2. Schedule it. 
      If it’s not scheduled, it’s not getting done. This is just honest advice. If you keep on saying that I want to be financially successful, or have a family, or a car, and you’re just sitting there on the couch and praying to be abundant, I hate to break it to you, but it’s not happening. You have to put it in your calendar and make time for each step that will take you closer to the kind of life that you truly want. Start small. Take those baby steps which might seem insignificant at the moment. You’ll see that those tiny actions will accumulate and result to something great, something that only sheer hard work could ever do.

3. Eliminate anything that brings you down. 
      Are you spending so much time on social media? Do you have thought patterns or belief systems that aren’t helping you rise? Well then it’s time to let go of them. Turn your phone off when you have to focus and just concentrate on whatever task is at hand. Stay in the moment you are in. If it’s not making you a happier and better person, then let go of it. It could be a bad habit, or a dragging relationship, or even people who disguise themselves as friends. Choose your energy. Make sure that even if you plummet in to negativity a few times, you still take steps to keep yourself on a higher energy vibe.

4. Ask for help. 
      You are not an island. You belong to a species of organisms who need socializing. The news, COVID, financial setbacks, illnesses, they all are heavy to carry alone. The thing is, you don’t have to face every single one of them on your own. Ask for help. Be brave to humbly seek assistance whenever you need it. I can’t tell you how this simple step changed everything for me. I used to be the person who wants to prove that she doesn’t need any help from anyone. It’s pathological. This attitude has allowed me to be strong, independent, brave and extremely self-reliant, but it also made me a loner and somehow it closed my doors to opportunities and relationships that could have been good for me. Be self-reliant, but when you need help, please ask for it. 

5. Surround yourself with people who want to see you win. 
      Be careful who you spend most of your time with. If you just gossip, drink, or watch TV with your friends, I hate to break it to you, but you are not with the right people. If you want to become successful, you have to make sure that you are in an environment that will allow you to grow at the level that you want to. Talk about goals and how you are achieving them. Discuss ideas, passion, and creativity. Generate that energy of relentlessness. Assess if the people you are with want to see you win. Filipino culture taught us to value family, but sometimes extended family members can cause too much toxicity. You will get opinions you didn’t ask for or unwanted visits and demands. If that’s the case, stop complaining, save up, and move out. If they are not helping you, just get out of that negative space. You can’t possibly grow in a soil that isn’t capable of providing the nutrients that you need to achieve your highest potential.

6. Expect setbacks. 
      This is not a world of unicorns and rainbows. But I guess you already know that. Following your passion or chasing a dream can be equated to going through loopholes with fire on its outlines. It’s like running on a track with lanes with shards of glass or burning coal. It’s kind of morbid but there will be times when you will want to give up because it’s hard and painful. Circumstances will get out of control just when you think everything is okay. Expect setbacks, my love. There will be highs and lows but just hold on to hope. Keep the faith and know that nothing is permanent, even trials.

7. Have a go-to person. 
      To say that we have that one best friend is false in my opinion. I have a friend that I confide in depending on what I am going through. I hope you have these people. They will give you honest advice and a listening and non-judgmental ear. Having real friends is very comforting. They get you back to your senses when you are getting off track. They will patiently hold your hand when you are still healing. How do you have these people? Be a friend. Be a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on for others, and when it’s your turn to be punched by the world, someone will always be there for you.

8. Come back stronger. 
      When setbacks happen and you feel like you can’t take another blow anymore, rest. Allow your body and your mind the time and space for recovery. Stop pushing when you know within yourself that you are mentally and physically exhausted. This time frame varies for every person. When you are already rested, roll up your sleeves and with courage, start again. You have learned the lessons, and now it’s time to use that wisdom in getting back up. Know that you are strong because you have gotten through the unthinkable. Nothing is impossible for someone who doesn’t have the phrase “give up” in their vocabulary. 

9. Give. 
      Having a generous heart will allow abundance to flow in your life. I have proven this repeatedly. Whenever I feel like there isn’t enough money or when I am scared, I give. It may be my time, or any form of help that I could give. Surprisingly, abundance follows when your heart is not guarded by the scarcity wall. Volunteer for an advocacy you believe in. Serve. Just give not because you want something in return but do it because it feels good to make others feel better.

10. Surrender. 

For me, life is 50% what happens to you and 50% of it will come from your actions. We can do so much with our precious 50%. When I wake up every morning, I do my best to keep things in order and accomplish the tasks that I need to do so that my dreams will come into fruition. But I also know that there will be circumstances and forces which are out of my control, and so when I pray I surrender that 50%. “No matter how this day goes, I will do my best and the Universe will do the rest for me.” It was hard for a control freak like me to utter the word “surrender.” However, I sleep better ever since I accepted that things will get out of control, schedules will get ruined, annoying people will pop up, but how I perceive these circumstances and my legwork is all that matters. Surrender your dream and each moment and eventually you’ll get there. 

Let’s talk about spirituality

It doesn’t really matter what religion you choose, it’s about where your heart finds peace.

For some weird reason, probably genetics, I have this habit of asking endless questions. I was never the ever obedient child. I must always know why am I being asked to do something before I actually do it, or why shoud I believe in a cause before joining a certain movement or believing in a specific idea. Sometimes I think, I probably was a scientist when I popped out of my mother’s womb. One of those things that I have kept on seeking answers about was religion.

There’s this curiosity that I tend to gravitate to about the concept of religion. I was raised as Catholic but all I understood about it back then was I have to go to church on Sundays or else I’ll go to hell or my sins will not be forgiven. That was a scary concept but that was how a child’s brain works. I actually find it funny that I used to think that way. I even had anxiety if I don’t attend Sunday service because I honestly thought that I’ll be brought to the underworld.

There are these rituals that we do inside the church. We sit, kneel, bow, memorize and recite prayers. We light a candle and wipe the image of saints with a handkerchief. Sundays were also fun because after mass our family would eat somewhere or visit my grandparents’ house. That was how shallow my understanding was. However, at an early age, I felt a sense of peace inside the church. Even now as an adut, I like the ambiance of it. I feel fascinated with how its environment can bring such calm.

Then I began asking questions, but for some reason, no one could answer them, or at least give me a hypothesis that I am satisfied with. When I pray, my overthinking mind asks me, “Girl, do you even know who you are talking to?” I couldn’t really grasp the idea of believing in God because I really don’t get it, I don’t see, feel, touch, or hear it. The first step I did was to try and understand the religon that I was in. I sang in the church choir every Sunday, I volunteer to be the one of the readers during mass service in our school. I also prayed and talked to the God that everyone was talking about.

I did all those because I was told that I should pray all the time because God makes the wish of good girls come true. I memorized the prayers, and even became the president of a school club that gives importance to God. Even though I still couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of God, going to church after classes brought a peace in me. I poured everything to the God that I imagined whenever I was in the church, a father figure with a beard and emanating light wherever he goes. I told God about our problems at home and the big choices that I had to make. I still don’t get it at that time, but believing that somewhere out there, someone is listening is a good feeling, and it brought me peace.

I went to college, and I tried to be the same prayerful girl. However, that was the time when my beliefs were not aligned with what the priests in the churces I go to were saying. For instance, I am a firm advocate of reproductive health bill, because of personally knowing women who are suffering because of having children even when they are not yet ready, and the child suffers too (Exhibit A: Yours Truly). As a woman I got really offended with some of the remarks of the priest and no matter what church I go to, the topic was the same. I have then gotten tired of going to church.

My aunt then invited me to a Born Again Christian Church, which was cool and fun. I met a lot of friends, and to be honest I enjoyed it because of the music. I started reading the Bible too. I loved Christian songs, and I was also given the chance to be part of the music ministry. But there are still preachings that I did not like at all, especially when I heard one pastor say that when you are gay, it’s like your soul is being burned while you are still alive. I knew at that moment that being in church is not for me.

I still remained open to religion, I became a church hopper. I was like a scientist who’s trying to understand these different religions in a systematic way. I also grew up with a Buddhist bestfriend and my college bestfriend was a Baptist. Then I taught in a catholic university, which probably influenced my brief comeback to the Catholic church. However, everything became clear when I went abroad and spent a lot of time alone.

I surprisingly found peace in not knowing the answers. Meditation, writing, and life experiences became my teachers. I finally accepted that it’s okay to not understand, because no one ever will. I started focusing on doing the things that make my heart feel safe instead of finding answers to my endless questions. I started learning from my experiences, and reflecting on them on a regular basis. I started to see religion as a path, that if used wisely, will lead you to enlightenment. Making an effort to be curious and present in every moment taught me a lot, and changed me into a wiser person. It doesn’t really matter what religion you choose, it’s about where your heart finds peace.

After some time, I understood what the preachers are talking about. I found the love that is unlimited, the peace of God that is within. There is no right or wrong religion after all. No matter where you go, any institution would have their flaws, because humans are running them. It is up to me to listen to what I need and learn even from people that I don’t agree with. Instead of judging and identifying the teachings as either good or bad, I choose to remain curious and non-judgemental. This is growth after all.

At present, I still don’t attend Sunday mass, but I like visiting churches. I love the peace that such a quiet place brings, may it be a church or a Buddhist temple. Wherever my heart is at ease, that’s where I go. It’s a different spiritual journey for all of us. What can I say so far is, spirituality, and the constant practice of reflection and growth keeps us grounded. It has personally given me the foundation that I absolutely need.

Does seeking end here, because I’m at peace? Definitely not. I am now comfortably praying to God everyday, about my thoughts and feelings, the things I’m grateful for. This time, I don’t have an idea what God looks like, but I find peace, in the feeling that I am being guided by a power that is greater than me, and one which is beyond a human being’s understanding. I hope more people would continuously engage with their own spiritual path. Your heart gets lighter, and your mind, wiser.