How to exceed your limits
I learnt one lesson from my mother when I was a young boy, growing in the village.Our compound was full of trees which provided a haven for small birds. They enjoyed chirping and hopping on the trees and flowers. Throwing stones at them became my pastime. Then, at my request, my mother bought me a catapult for shooting them. Nearly on daily basis after school, I spent time hunting the birds, which appeared to have got familiar with my face.
For a long time, I did not succeed in hitting any of the birds. But one day, it happened. I aimed carefully at one of them that was perching on a low twig and hit it by the side. The little bird simply looked at me, nodded, and flew away.
I was very unhappy that I could not kill the bird and when my mother returned from the market I narrated to her what happened. She laughed and told me that I aimed at the bird right but did not stretch my catapult enough to release the stone with force. “Next time, stretch it well and you will kill the bird”, she counselled.
I have since discovered that stretching is a principle of life. In fact, life is all about stretching. There is nothing you can achieve without stretching. The more you stretch the better you perform and become.
When I was in secondary school, Physics was not my favourite subject but my uncle insisted that I must study and pass it in order to take any science course in higher institution. I had no choice but to tackle and pass it at HSC and GCE A Level. Before that time, I preferred to stay within my comfort zone of Chemistry and Biology. But stretching in Physics helped me to gain admission to study Pharmacy.
In his book, “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth”, John Maxwell said, “Rubber bands are useful only when they are stretched.” Many people use only a small fraction of their ability and rarely strive to reach their full potential.
Some people are willing to settle for average in life. Such people can never excel in whatever they do. W. Somerset Maugham said, “Only a mediocre person is always at his best.” Edmund Gaudet added, “To be average is to be forgotten once you pass from this life. The successful are remembered for their contributions; the failures are remembered because they tried; but the “average,” the silent majority, are just forgotten. To be average is to commit the greatest crime one can against one’s self, humanity, and one’s God. The saddest epitaph is this: “Here lies Mr Average – here lies the remains of what might have been, except for his belief that he was only “average.”
Do not settle for the status quo. It leads to mediocrity and ultimate dissatisfaction. There must be changes for the better. Being in your comfort zone may make you feel good but, ultimately, you will be unhappy.
A question one should be asking always is, “Is this the best I can do? Is this the farthest I can go? These are questions winners and champions ask themselves. If your answer is yes then you immediately place a limit on your potential. The truth is, you never reach that limit except the one you impose on yourself. No person has been known to reach his limit. You can always stretch further.
At the annual national conference of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) held last November in Abeokuta, I told my colleagues that I had attended the PSN annual conferences for 40 years (1973 to 2013) without interruption. Although that was definitely a record attendance, the question is, is it the highest someone can ever achieve? The answer is no. By stretching myself I can attend more conferences.
Stretching requires effort, discipline, perseverance and courage. It takes little or no effort to maintain your position. But to move, you have to break the force of inertia. For an aeroplane to take off, a lot of energy is required. You put your car on gear one in order to start moving. It is the same as leaving your comfort zone. You must gather enough momentum to get out of your comfort zone.
For the past 35 years I have been contributing some editorial materials in Pharmanews. Sometimes I ask why I should stretch myself writing, even when it is not convenient. The temptation is to skip one or two editions. If I do that I will save some time and use it for other things. But I know that it is like stopping midway in stretching your catapult or rubber band. When you stop, it tries to return to the original position and will require more energy to start again. Whatever you thought was gain would turn to loss eventually when you stop stretching