Above, Beneath & Beside: Achieving Your Optimal Potential
Growth is often associated with close relationships. The people we relate to easily are ‘beside’ us such as intimate friends, family, perhaps co-workers in the same profession, and even neighbors of the same status. They’re doing life on the same level that we are. We have similar goals, similar achievements, and similar lifestyles. With this being said, we tend to gravitate to individuals who are like us. The old adage, ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ is absolutely true, and we are known by the company we keep. These are the people with whom we have life in common, and sharing it happens naturally. We are definitely most comfortable with these individuals, but do they actually inspire growth? The answer is: Minimally. They more accurately represent a plateau of stability for us at the level we’ve already achieved.
How Growth is Achieved
Growth is actually stimulated by relationships that are different than we are. The more differences there are, the more we are challenged. The more we are challenged, the more we grow – provided we understand the purpose of the relationship and respond appropriately. These relationships are often outside our immediate circle. They are not as comfortable or easily formed, and they require a greater patience and depth as we commit to learn the individuals with whom we interact. Patience is a virtue which shows respect. When we are willing learn someone instead of casting immediate judgment upon them, this shows great respect. Giving the benefit of the doubt can also be termed as grace. Not everyone is like us. Not everyone has had the opportunities we’ve had. Not everyone is privileged. People are the way they are for a reason – including you. Let’s take the time to learn them, appreciate them, and meet them where they are. We all have room to grow. We can either be individuals who nurture growth in others with grace, or we can snuff them out and cheat them of that nurture. Provided people want to learn, grant them the opportunity. Both parties have a responsibility.
So, this growth comes in three primary ways: with those beside us, those above us, and those beneath us. This follows the pattern that there is always a superior and a subordinate of sorts. To be a balanced and healthy individual we should always be part of this trilogy:
• We need those who walk beside us (those we do life with who are on our level. These keep us accountable)
• We need those who are above us (these are mentors ; the individuals in our lives who take us higher by challenging and teaching us)
• We need those are beneath us (we need to mentor others in meeting them where they are and lifting them higher by challenging and teaching them)
Regardless of who you are, what you do, or what role you play you will always have a superior and subordinate in your life. You merely need to identify them. Trust me, they are there. Begin looking for opportunities to learn as well as serve – and you will GROW.
Levels of Growth and Maturity
Those beside us are walking the same path we’re walking. The individuals above us are our superiors. They lead, guide, mentor and support. They have walked our paths long before we have yet to traverse them for ourselves, and their wisdom is invaluable. Those beneath us are in need of our skills, support, mentoring and encouragement so they may achieve the success as we enjoy.
We are all at different levels, and regardless of our level of success or maturity, we will always be in continual need of mentoring and support. That process is lifelong. It never stops. Our growth depends upon it. For growth to occur we need to be humble, moldable, and teachable. Therefore, every single one of us should seek opportunities to bend low toward those who are still climbing the proverbial steps behind us; and look up to those who have achieved heights we have yet to attain.
To achieve your optimal potential, you need to pursue growth. Move beyond those beside you. Growth is achieved by seeking opportunity in life with those who are above and beneath you.
Looking Up to Those Above You
This keeps us humble. It teaches us a healthy interdependence by which we learn and continue to grow. We cannot achieve our goals alone. None of us are an island unto ourselves. We need people in our lives who can mentor, teach, guide and support us with their wisdom and expertise. These are our successors. They’re already where we want to be. They have attained our goal and maintained that level of achievement. These are the people who train us, test and hone our skills, and provide the guidance we need when we fail and make mistakes. They are the candid beings who see us for who we are in all our glorious strengths as well as our frail weaknesses. And they turn our weaknesses into strengths.
An excellent leader will always seek your optimal potential. They will perfect your strengths, and turn your weaknesses into trophies of courage. An excellent leader will never be intimidated by the success of their subordinate; rather they rejoice in it and receive great satisfaction in being part of that individual’s success story. That is what they live for. When you succeed – they succeed as well. It’s a joint partnership. Through these leaders, leaders are born, and the legacy lives on.
As we grow and graduate throughout our lives, we need mentorship and guidance if we’re going to be successful. With each new level attained, there is even greater responsibility. If we are not open to mentorship at any given time, we cut ourselves off from wisdom, and our greatest potential may never be reached. We set ourselves up to fail. Accountability is the greatest safeguard against pride, and it’s the greatest anchor against wayward error.
When people in our lives take notice of our strengths and bring us encouragement in our weaknesses, we need respond with gratitude. Begin taking notes: these are some of the marks of an excellent leader. An excellent leader will always bring out the best in you by challenging your weaknesses, supporting you in your goals, and honing your strengths. Seek mentorship when you need it. Ask for help. Pursue guidance. Those who have traversed the path ahead of you have wisdom to share that can shave years off your journey, saving you precious time and grief in the process. We’d be fools to neglect their wisdom if they are offering it, or if it is available.
Where are you going in life? What is it you want to achieve? Boldly seek out those who are above you, and be willing to learn from them.
Bending Low to Those Beneath You
In no way is this intended to sound demeaning or degrading. It’s not. In fact, it’s a high honor. We are all beneath someone, and we all have superiors. Consider your successes and achievements and how you can help or encourage someone else toward the same. You’re not where you are for nothing. Consider who cheered you on, taught you the necessary skills, and helped support you to get you where you are today. Now it’s your turn to do the cheering, teaching and supporting. What are your skills, unique experiences, or expertise? Consider why you’ve gone through some of the things you have experienced. Could it be for the sake of someone else, their sanity, or survival?
As much as we need encouragement, we need to encourage. As much as we need guidance, we need to guide. As much as we need to be helped, we need to help. We need to consider stooping low, bending down, and become willing to be that guide, leader, mentor and support for someone else who needs us, for that individual who is striving to make it. You have a very special and unique set of skills, a lifetime of personal experiences, and a wealth of wisdom in areas you may not even realize, simply because your well has not yet been tapped.
Who are you willing to let tap your well? We need to be willing to pour into the lives of others. Consider what you are able to do for someone that could make their lives different, better, greater, or more influential. Help them graduate to the next level. Help push them over that edge. It’s in the simple things that we lead others every day. Sometimes it’s merely a word of wisdom. At other times its an investment of time and energy that is a process. Sometimes it’s a word of encouragement or warning that keeps them on track. Consider your opportunities. I would venture to say they are more numerous and varied than you may recognize. When we are touched by the insufficiency, weakness, need, and struggle of others we grow and are strengthened as well.
There is no greater satisfaction than seeing a life changed because of what you’ve given and done. In valuing others, your life becomes valuable.
I am a firm believer that we all need people walking beside us who are on our level, walking the same path, in tandem, with what we are called to do. That synchronicity and unity keeps us on track. It provides stability. However, strangely enough these are not the people who bring the greatest growth into our lives. If we’re going to grow and develop as God planned, we need to be willing to stoop down toward those beneath us, and look up to those who are above us. The opportunities are endless.
This relational dynamic creates a wonderful balance that helps us achieve our optimal potential. In bending low we are touched with the needs of others, and we are kept humble. We learn to serve. We are reminded of where we came from, and the blessing is passed on.
As we look up, we are humbled as well, being reminded of how far we truly have to go, how much we have yet to learn, and a new vision for the possibilities ahead of us is suddenly clearer and rekindled.
In each of these, we are challenged and strengthened.
Don’t get too comfortable with those who are merely beside you, or you will eventually stagnate. If you want to truly grow and reach your potential you must bend toward those beneath you, and look up to those above you. It’s a dynamic and integral balance making you all the richer and wiser.
Cheers & Shalom,