arrow pointing up toward the sky

There’s a saying that’s common. You’ve probably heard it:

The sky’s the limit.

It’s said to encourage someone, to inspire him or her to aim as high as possible. The irony is, the saying itself is limiting in a subtle way. I’m sure it’s expressed with good intentions, but suppose the recipient dreams of becoming an astronaut, wants to be the first to set foot on Mars? Would the phrase be relevant then? Would it inspire?

I’d like to believe the saying appeared before man learned to fly, because then it does invoke a sense of no-limit dreaming for the people of that era, that anything was possible. If, however, it originated after man first flew through the sky, then the phrase’s meaning loses some luster since it was coined in a time when we knew flight was possible, but apparently only believed the sky was as high as we’d ever get.

But regardless of its origination, at some point in time it etched itself into society’s collective phrase-book, passing from generation to generation without a second-thought given to the fact that it doesn’t make sense anymore when used today. We simply accept it as a positive phrase without considering its true meaning.

So what does this have to do with you?

Everything.

There is something you were meant to do. Don’t ask me what it is because only you know. Perhaps it’s not apparent now, but one day, if you listen to the part of you that knows what is right for you—that inner compass—you’ll discover it.

But, after that enlightening moment when we finally determine our mission in life, obstacles start to mount. External barriers rise to challenge us. As formidable as these obstructions seem, none are as monumental as the ones in our heads, those feelings we know as doubt.

However, like the phrase that’s been handed down through the generations, without consideration for its original meaning, self-doubts are passed the same way. To reach our grand potential, we must recognize that doubt is a seed usually planted by someone else. It may feel as if it’s ours, when it whispers within our head using our voice, but if you look hard enough at your past, you will find a time when someone slipped that foreign seed into the fertile ground of your young mind.

It may have been a well-meaning parent, or a not-so-well-meaning teacher. It could have been a person who didn’t want to see you hurt, mistakenly believing the universe would crush your dream. But the universe doesn’t crush dreams, people do. And mostly, they crush dreams because people in their lives crushed their dreams years ago.

It’s time we as a society break the cycle of doubt. Two ways come to mind and they both start with the person in the mirror.

First, we must conquer our own doubts. Seeds of doubt only grow when we water them with mental energy, when we give them focus. Resolve to pull the focus away from the doubt and direct it toward the steps to reach your dream. The doubt, losing nutrients needed to grow, will wither and disappear. But even if the doubt has grown into a gnarled dark mass within, we are, and will always be, bigger than that doubt. We can rip that doubt out by its roots. The next time a doubt trips you in pursuit of your dreams, see yourself tear it out from within, roots and all. Then, mentally watch yourself sling it far behind where it will affect you no more.

But it’s not enough to tend to our own doubts. We must also become vigilant that we don’t pass them to our children, our friends, or even those that first handed them to us. Everyone you meet with an honorable dream deserves encouragement. It’s not up to us to decide if the dream is attainable. It’s our job as humans to help others believe in themselves. That person you inspire to act may one day create a cure for a disease that would have cut your life short in the future. Or she may be the first to set foot on Mars, a stepping stone to the stars that opens other worlds for your children’s children. We as humans never lose when we help someone else succeed.

So the next time someone tries to discourage you from your dream, or you feel the urge to talk some sense into others regarding their dreams, remember that the sky is NOT the limit. And, it never was.

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