Most people would eagerly admit that they want to reach their full potential. That process often starts at the beginning of a new year when we wipe the slate clean and start with a fresh set of goals. But if we’re not careful, we’ll carry our old way of thinking into our new ambitions for the future. Not until we change how we think can we unlock the door to our future.
I would suggest that your biggest problem is not your biggest problem. Lack of money, education, opportunity, influence, time, or ability are not your biggest problems. How you think, and how I think, is our biggest problem. How we think defines who we are. Poverty of the mind always precedes poverty of our circumstances.
One of the biggest things that sabotages our thinking is what I call “i3 Thinking.” i3 Thinking is inferiority, inadequacy, and insecurity. These three ugly monsters so easily imprison our lives.
- Inferiority – Inferiority sells us a lie that everybody is better than us. We say to ourselves, “If I had more money, more connections, or more talent, then I would (fill in the blank).” Then we point at someone we consider superior to ourselves and say, “Pick her!” We benchmark ourselves against the people who we think are “the most qualified.” We look at people like Mother Teresa and say, “If I was like her, then I could make a difference too.” But how quickly we forget Mother Teresa’s words: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Inferiority focuses on everybody else’s superiority rather than on our personal responsibility.
- Inadequacy – Inadequacy is the first cousin to inferiority. While inferiority makes the measure of success too high, inadequacy makes the assessment of one’s self too low. Inferiority says, “They’re too good for me.” Inadequacy says, “I’m too bad for them.” While inferiority focuses on everybody else’s superiority, inadequacy focuses on my insufficiency.
- Insecurity – The third thinking barrier is driven by an attitude of fear. Insecurity focuses on the what-ifs and the what-might’s. We use excuses like “What if I fail?” or “What if I look foolish?” or “What if I let someone down?”
Even the Apostle Paul faced feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, and insecurity? Here’s a guy who wrote much of the New Testament, but when those feelings knocked on the door of his life, he simply chose not to open the door. For example, in 2 Corinthians we read about “false prophets” who were going around teaching and deceiving believers in the early church. What did Paul say?
For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. (2 Corinthians 11:4-6)
Inferiority tried to take hold of Paul’s thinking, but he refused to give it authority in his life. Consider also the modern-day story of Johnnetta McSwain. Johnetta struggled with inferiority, inadequacy, and insecurity more than most people. She was born to a single mom who didn’t want her, abused by her uncles, dropped out of school when she was in the 11th grade, and lived on the streets. She had two sons born out of wedlock and she would shoplift so she could dress in designer clothes.
But something changed on Johnnetta’s 30th birthday. She said, “That day I woke up and realized I had absolutely nothing to celebrate–no money, no full-time job, no home, no husband, and no clue, not even the will to do better…At last, I knew it was time to make some changes.”
And change she did. After two attempts she passed the test to get her GED. Driven by the thought that she had a chance to be anyone that she wanted to be, Johnnetta moved to Atlanta and enrolled in Kennesaw State University. She said, “I realized I didn’t have to be smart, I just had to be determined, motivated, and focused. This came with a high price tage for me. I had to exchange my thinking. I had to think like a smart person.”
Johnnetta’s situation eventually changed. She graduated, then completed her Master’s, and now she’s working on her doctorate. But I want you to notice something critical to Johnnetta’s success. Before she could change her circumstances, she had to change her thinking. Inferiority, inadequacy, and insecurity had to be given an eviction notice. Step-by-step she had to choose to think differently.
If you are ever going to reach your full potential, it starts with your thinking. You have to throw away i3 Thinking (inferiority, inadequacy, and insecurity). Even though it feels like a giant magnet constantly pulling you to return to your old way of thinking, you have to make deliberate and disciplined choices everyday to step in a new direction. Zig Ziglar captured it best when he said:
“It’s impossible to consistently behave in a manner inconsistent with how we see ourselves. We can do very few things in a positive way if we feel negative about ourselves.”
Question: How are you overcoming inferiority, inadequacy, and insecurity in your life?