Psychologists performed an experiment where they put a pane of glass in the middle of an aquarium full of water. They then added two fish to the tank. One fish was the natural predator of the other. They put the predator on one side of the glass and the prey on the other. What happened next speaks volumes about the power of the mind.

When the glass was first inserted, the predator would swim quickly towards its prey and then…WHAM it would bang into the glass. After doing this several times, the predator realized it couldn’t catch the little fish. The little fish could swim inches from the mouth of its predator, and the larger fish would do nothing because it realized that every time it tried to catch the small fish, it hurt.

Then the scientists removed the glass from the aquarium so that the fish were free to swim wherever they wished. That’s where things got interesting. The smaller fish began swimming all over the tank often passing directly in front of the larger fish, but the large fish did nothing. Thinking the wall was still there, and not wanting to get hurt, it just floated around doing nothing.

Think about how powerful that is. That fish was hungry, the food was swimming within inches of its mouth, and the fish did nothing! Why? Two reasons: fear of pain and power of perception.

To Avoid Pain
The predator fish is similar to many of us. It was afraid of being hurt. In fact, it was so afraid of pain that its desire to avoid pain outweighed its desire to eat! That’s a pretty serious fear. Fear may not stop us from eating, at least not all of the time, but all too often it stops us from going after what we want.

The fact is no matter how great an opportunity may be if the fear of pain is great enough we’ll pass up the opportunity. It’s a natural reflex. Just think of a baby who touches a hot stove. Do they need to be told to take their hand off the burner once they touch it? Of course not. They take their hand away instantly because it hurts.

It’s a natural instinct to protect us from hurting ourselves and thank God we have it, but when it comes to achieving our potential, our instinct to avoid pain can be very limiting. That’s why in order to achieve what we want, we have to find a way to deal with our fear of pain.

The Power of Perspective
The other reason the big fish wasn’t able to eat its prey was perception. The predator’s perception that the obstacle was still there, even though the glass had been removed, was all it took to prevent the fish from catching its prey.

It doesn’t matter how perfect the conditions are for success, if you perceive that you can’t succeed, you won’t. Our dreams can even walk right past us, and we won’t do a thing. Perception is 9/10 of reality. So if our perception tells us there is an obstacle in our way, it doesn’t really matter if the obstacle is there or not.

So if you feel negatively about yourself, your life situation, or your abilities; work on it. Read books on being positive. Make a list of good things that have happened or are happening in your life. Make a conscious effort to look for the opportunities in your life that may be “swimming” past you at this very moment.

Action Item
You have the ability to do anything. Yes there are limits to what people can do, but few of us reach them because our perception is even more limiting than our abilities. The good news is that your perception is much easier to improve than your abilities. That’s why the biggest favour you can do for yourself is to realize your incredible potential.

Marianne Williamson, a personal development author, sums it up best,

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us most.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

This week I want you to make this, or some other quote or idea with a similar message, your mantra. Use it as a daily affirmation.

I promise you that after even a day of doing this faithfully, you will feel more confident. If you continue it for the week, you will begin to look at your life and your potential in broader terms and your perception will change. When that happens, and only when that happens, can you begin to realize your full potential.

Author's Bio: 

Mark is a motivational/inspirational speaker, a double-lung and heart transplant recipient, and a marathon runner. He uses his experiences on his journey from “Hospital Bed to Marathon Man” to inspire others to “Live Life from the Heart”. If you know someone who would benefit from hearing Mark’s message, contact him at or visit his web site at Mark Black Speaks for information about his powerful presentations.